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A photograph from Royal Mob episode two, airing on Sky HISTORY

Royal Mob: Episode Guide

Image: Royal Mob

'Royal Mob' was the term Queen Victoria used to describe her huge, extended family, which comprised of 9 children, 42 grandchildren, and 87 great-grandchildren. Through the eyes of her four favourite granddaughters - the beautiful and strong-willed Hesse sisters - Royal Mob reveals the family rivalries that led to the outbreak of the First World War.

Across four episodes, the show tells the story of the princesses who carried the burden of dynastic survival on their shoulders, in a high-stakes world where power determined who would inherit a continent.

Interwoven with the drama is analysis from several historical experts to give context and ultimate credibility to what is being played out on screen.

Episode One: Four Sisters - Monday, 7 November

Our series opens with the wedding of Princess Victoria to Prince Louis of Battenberg in Darmstadt in 1884. Little do the happy couple know that the day will be blighted by scandal. Princess Victoria’s father Ludwig arrives and promptly announces he has secretly married his Russian mistress, infuriating the anti-Russian Queen, who angrily orders an annulment.

To make matters worse, Princess Victoria’s younger sister, Ella, has set her heart on marrying Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, the brother of Tsar Alexander II. Despite their grandmother’s concerns, Ella journeys to St Petersburg to marry her Russian duke and further enmesh the British royal family with their Russian counterparts. Queen Victoria does not attend, and neither does Cousin Willy, Prince of Prussia, who was jilted by Ella years previously.

The four sisters reunite at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. Only Heads of State and Crown Princes are invited but Willy, second in line to the German throne, is determined not to miss out and turns up anyway.

The Queen is furious, both at Willy’s impertinence but also when she learns that the third Hesse sister, Irene, is betrothed to Willy’s younger brother Henry, without her consent.

Episode Two: All Hail The Prince Of Wales - Monday, 14 November

In the advent of his father Fritz’s death in March 1888, Willy at last ascends the German throne and immediately tries to find evidence of his parents (his late father Fritz and his mother Vicky, Queen Victoria’s daughter) conspiring with Britain behind the backs of the German people.

Ella, meanwhile, now married to Tsar Alexander II’s brother, Grand Duke Sergei, is lonely in Russia and tries to convince her sister Alix to marry Sergei’s nephew, Nicolas Alexandrovich Romanov, heir to the Russian throne. Alix – having rejected Nicky initially, for fear of angering her grandmother – finally consents and yet another of Queen Victoria’s favourite four granddaughters is lost to the East.

Nicky marries Alix and quickly inherits the throne. In 1896, Alix is crowned Tsarina of Russia aged just 22 and joins her husband as the crowned heads of the world’s largest nation. The coronation celebrations are overshadowed by tragedy when over a thousand people are crushed in a stampede on Khodynka Field. Rather than suspend their celebrations, Nicky and Alix continue as if nothing untoward has happened.

Later that same year, Nicky and Alix are invited to Balmoral, to visit the Queen. Nicky is drawn into political discussions with Bertie, eager to secure a new Anglo-Russian alliance, whilst Queen Victoria takes Alix to one side to implore her to try and win the love and respect of her people, but Alix has fallen under the Romanov spell of their divine right to rule.

Episode Three: The Day We'd Always Dreaded - Monday, 21 November

As the nineteenth century nears its end, a royal family holiday on the Isle of Wight turns sour as a boat race between Bertie and Willy ends with the future King of England punching his nephew, the Kaiser, in the face. After his previous humiliation at the Queen’s Golden Jubilee a decade earlier, Willy learns he is not invited to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, even though he is now Emperor of Germany. His bitterness at the British hegemony in Europe only intensifies.

With the death of Queen Victoria a few years later, after the longest reign of any European monarch, Bertie, now King Edward VII, tours the continent, proving an unexpected hit and sealing several important trade and diplomatic alliances. Seeing his uncle’s triumph infuriates Willy even more and he tries in vain to seduce Nicky into a Russo-German alliance against Britain. Nicky’s rejection is the final straw.

In Russia, Alix finally gives birth to a male heir, only to discover that he suffers from the family curse - haemophilia - which only a lowly-born shaman, Grigori Rasputin, seems able to alleviate. As revolutionary fervour continues to grow in Russia, Ella’s husband Grand Duke Sergei is blown up in a brutal assassination plot, driving Ella into the arms of God.

Meanwhile, her sister Alix, courts ever greater unpopularity with the Russian people with her growing closeness to Rasputin. With the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Grand Duke Franz Ferdinand, the Kaiser’s closest ally, in June 1914, the world holds its breath as the cousins take sides.

Episode Four: The Greatest Criminal In History

Following Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, Willy pledges his support to Austria-Hungary whilst Nicky responds by pledging support to Serbia. As troops are mobilised and Willy declares war on Russia, the Hesse sisters are forced to take sides. Whilst Alix and Ella pledge themselves to Russia’s cause, Victoria is forced to Britain where her husband, Prince Louis, is First Lord of the Admiralty.

As Russia’s longtime ally, France is Willy’s immediate priority and as he prepares to attack through Belgium, a neutral country, the Asquith government in Britain declares war on Germany. The three cousins – George, Willy, and Nicky – once so close, are now at daggers drawn. In Britain, Victoria and Louis now renounce their German titles and change their surname from Battenberg to Mountbatten. At the same time, Cousin George changes his name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor.

Nicky, completely ill-equipped for war leadership, heads to the front to take charge of his armies to disastrous effect, whilst Alex and Rasputin are left in charge of Russia, flaunting their relationship, and abusing their authority. As the war turns in Germany’s favour, everyone blames the Tsar and his German wife.

Of the three royal families which went to war, only one will survive.