Friday, May 22, 2015

Ernst – Greatness from Limited Expectations

by Greg Taylor, Finalist for the M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction

Like Alfred Vanderbilt, Ernst August was not the oldest son and therefore had no expectation to inherit his father’s fortune. Both Alfred and Ernst were, in fact, the third son of their parents. Both of them were also great lovers of horses. Alfred tried to revive the dwindling art of coaching and Ernst became an officer in the 1st Royal Bavarian Heavy Cavalry Regiment.

Ernst had chosen the 1st Royal Bavarian Regiment because it had tried to ride to the assistance of his grandfather, the last reigning King of Hanover, during the battle of Bad Langensalza. Ernst’s grandfather’s army won the battle but afterwards failed to meet up with the Bavarian allies. The Hanoverians were overcome by superior Prussian forces, and Prussia annexed Hanover under the careful guidance of Otto von Bismarck.

Otto von Bismarck

In 1714, George Louis of the House of Hanover ascended the throne of Great Britain as George I, and thereafter Hanover and Great Britain shared a single monarch. The Congress of Vienna of 1814 elevated Hanover to an independent kingdom and its Prince-Elector, George III of Great Britain, to King of Hanover. The new Kingdom of Hanover was the fourth-largest state in the German Confederation after Prussia, Austria and Bavaria.

Queen Victoria
When Queen Victoria succeeded to the British throne in 1837, Salic law prevented accession to the Hanoverian throne by a female while any male of the dynasty survived so Victoria’s Uncle Ernest Augustus, the eldest surviving son of George III, succeeded to the throne.

During the Austro-Prussian War, the Kingdom of Hanover attempted to maintain a neutral position but after Hanover mobilized in June 1866, Prussia invaded and soon the immense wealth of the House of Hanover was being used by Bismarck to finance his military adventures.

Herrenhausen Summer Palace

Franz Josef, Emperor of Austria and latterly King of Hungary, permitted three generations of the deposed Guelph family to live in comfortable exile in Gmunden. Ernst had an older brother, Crown Prince Georg, who was in line to inherit not only the deposed throne of Hanover but English titles as well including the Duke of Cumberland.

Ernst was skeptical that Hanover would be restored to his father or his older brother despite their royal relatives entreaties to the Kaiser. Ernst and his brother were, after all, first cousins to George V of Great Britain, Nicholas II of Russia, Christian X of Denmark, Haakon VII of Norway and Constantine I of Greece.

In Lusitania R.E.X, Ernst sees the potential behind the rocket theories of Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky when they are published in 1911. When he meets Alfred Vanderbilt at the regatta at Cowes and realises that Alfred shares his interest in Tsiolkovsky’s theories, he decides he should learn a bit more about Alfred Vanderbilt.

Ernst and Sissy
Ernst struggles with how he can harness Tsiolkovsky’s ideas about reaction explusion to restore his family’s lost throne and fortune. Ernst is an attractive, young man of twenty-four, possessed of the easy, confident manner of a young man aware of his own strength, youth and sexuality. Years in the saddle had given him strong, muscled legs and on his arrival to thank the Kaiser for honouring his dead older brother, Ernst immediately catches the attention of the Kaiser’s daughter. Their romance and remarkable imperial wedding in 1913 were described in a blog posted earlier this month that is a profile of Wally, a school friend of Princess Viktoria Louise who attended the imperial wedding in 1913.

When older brother Georg tragically died in an automobile accident, it fell upon Ernst to look after the family interests. In Lusitania R.E.X, Ernst does this by marrying the Kaiser’s daughter and pursuing the rocket technology of Tsiolkovsky. It is his pursuit of Tsiolkovsky’s theories that ultimately leads him into conflict with Alfred Vanderbilt, who is working with his comrades from the secret Yale society Skull and Bones to develop a prototype rocket.


Greg Taylor's passion for research has led him to develop first-hand relationships with the descendants of some of the characters in the book, including the Duke of Marlborough and Alfred G Vanderbilt III. He was drawn to the tale of Lusitania because he was fascinated by the cataclysm of elegant Edwardian society caused by the brutal warfare the industrial success of that society made possible. His passion for research and discovery has taken him to the numerous historical sites that appear in the book. Undergraduate studies in history at Williams College in Massachusetts and the University of Durham, England, are reflected in the book. Greg attended the School of Management at Yale University where he lived one block from The Tomb of Skull and Bones. London has been Greg's home since 2000 and he has divided his investment banking and asset management career between New York and London.




  1. I love the book and I enjoyed a bit more of the background.

  2. Thanks Linda - so glad you enjoyed it. I enjoyed doing the research and putting all the pieces together.


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