World War I and the Windsors
The First War or Great War (1914-18) had several causes. Germany was then ruled by William II. Britain had for many years enjoyed friendly relationships with Germany, but William II, in the earlier part of the century, had tried to extend hid influence over the Balkan States. This new state of affairs would have cut off Egypt and India. France and England therefore tried to eliminate any possible sources of conflict (the so-called entente cordiale, 1904); for the same reason, Anglo-Russian relations were much improved.
Germany tried unsuccessfully to break the "entente", and decided to challenge Britain in naval policy by the construction of big capital ships. In addition, Serbia, the strongest of the Balkan States, was extremely dangerous to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, owing to the risk that, on the death of the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph (aged over 80), the Empire might be disrupted. Both Austria and Germany considered war Serbia was inevitable. In June 1914, at Sarajevo, on Serbian territory, the heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, was murdered by Austrian subjects of Serbian irredentist sympathetic; this offered an opportunity for war. Austrian broke off relations ith Serbia and attacked at the end of July 1914. The Germans invaded Belgium, violating its neutrality, and England declared war on Germany, in the conviction that, if victorious, Germany would have the chance of European domination.
After the declaration of war, George V changed his German name of Hanover, assuming the purely English name of Windsor.
Soon war spread throughout the world: on one side were Germany and Austria-Hungary, joined by Turkey and Bulgaria; on the other Britain and the British Empire, Russia, France, Italy and the United States (from 1917).
The war lasted four years. The Germans failed to take the channel ports in 1914, and to capture Verdun in 1916; breaking the rules of war, they adopted a submarine strategy, and used prohibited poison gas. Germany has a temporary advantage when Russia collapsed in 1917, and the French offensive failed in April, while Italy was defeated by the Austrian at Caporetto in late autumn. The German illegalities at sea brought the USA into war the war; the American troops entered the war in late 1917, and fought in force particularly in 1918, when also England and France turned the balance in their favor, and Italy regained over Austria.
The United States gave the ultimate blow to the exhausted force of Germany. The armistice was signed on November 11th, 1918, and the peace treaty was signed at Versailles in June 1919. Along with the Versailles Treaty, a world-wide League of Nations was formed at Geneva to keep and avoid forever the savagery of another war.