Diane, the Bibliophile By The Sea, hosts one of my favorite memes, First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros. It's a great way to get a taste of a lot of different books by authors you may not have tried yet.
Here is the marvelous opening to Barbara Tuchman's Pulitzer-prize winning book, The Guns of August, which details the first stage of World War I. This paragraph describes the 1910 funeral of Edward VII, which brought together all the leaders of Europe and beyond who four years later unleashed their dogs of war.
So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun. After them came five heirs apparent, forty more imperial or royal highnesses, seven queens--four dowager and three regnant--and a scattering of special ambassadors from uncrowned countries. Together they represented seventy nations in the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last. The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history's clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.Tuchman is marvelous at describing the political and economic forces as well as the personalities of the leaders and their staffs. She is opinionated, biased, and makes her subject understandable and compelling.