One of the Great War’s consequences may have been the dethronement of the Romanovs, Habsburgs and Hohenzollerns but — as a new generation of scholars are attempting to show — court politics proved far more enduring. Although the costumes may have been cut from coarser cloth and the manners far cruder, the centres of power in totalitarian regimes continued to provide all the old opportunities for positional jostling that had been commonplace in the audience chambers and ante-rooms of the old dynasties.
In his recent book, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, Simon Sebag Montefiore proffered a fascinating whiff of the atmosphere surrounding Stalin and his associates. Now, with The Devil’s Disciples, Anthony Read gives an account of Hitler’s inner circle. Montefiore wrote that ‘Stalin and the Bolshevik magnates lived like the inhabitants of a tiny village or even an Oxbridge college — the courtyards and alleys of the Kremlin was a little community of friendships, ambitions, affairs and seething hatreds’. Anthony Read conveys a less intimate world where the lead characters were magnetically drawn to the F