The Red Prince, By Timothy Snyder

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The Independent Culture

Rich as goulash, this fascinating book tells the life of the Ukrainian aristocrat Wilhelm von Habsburg in scintillating detail. After becoming the nation's "royal Robin Hood" in 1920, his monarchic ambitions were stifled when Ukraine was absorbed by the USSR.

Wilhelm departed for Paris where his sexual adventurism (it was claimed he wore a dress for evening forays) led to a messy expulsion. After moving to Vienna, Wilhelm spied against Germany during the Second World War and Stalin afterwards. His betrayal in the divided capital is reminiscent of The Third Man.

Wilhelm was informed upon by a friend arrested for holding a noisy party and died from TB in a Soviet prison. Snyder concludes his roaring loco of a narrative by extolling the "imaginative and purposeful self-creation" of the Habsburgs.