If you want to savour the brutality of European history when Bismarck ruled and Queen Victoria reigned, this is your book. There is not an ounce of cosiness in it. Unlike Daphne Bennett in her Vicky, Andrew Sinclair always refers to his tragic heroine formally by her title of the moment: Princess Royal, Crown Princess, Empress Frederick. The style frogmarches us – noun, verb, noun, verb – to where the author wishes us to go. Which is into a nineteenth century Spyland, where Queen Victoria’s ‘Intelligence system’ wrestles with Bismarck’s for the mastery of Europe. The basis of her system was royal marriages; of his, Prussian palace officials.