Sunday, 13 February 2011

Otto Von Bismarck

NAME Otto Edward Leopold Von Bismarck also known as the Iron Chancellor.

WHAT FAMOUS FOR German Statesman.

BIRTH Otto was born in 1815 on his family estate at Schönhausen, a village on the Elbe, NW of Berlin.

FAMILY BACKGROUND Otto came from a family who belonged to the Prussian Junker (landowner) class. From his birth he held the title Graf (Count). Otto's father, Ferdinand Von Bismarck, was a landowner and a former Prussian military officer; his mother, Wilhelmine Mencken, originally belonged to a prosperous bourgeois family. Otto had several siblings, but only an elder brother (Bernhard) and a younger sister (Malvina) survived into adulthood.

CHILDHOOD A very mischievous child, as a youth Otto was an indefatigable duellist. He was known as the mad Junker.

EDUCATION Otto was more cosmopolitan and highly educated than was normal for men of his background, speaking and writing English, French and Russian. He was educated at the Friedrich Wilhelm and the Grauen Kloster Secondary schools. Thereafter, at the age of seventeen, he joined the Georg August University of Göttingen, where he spent only a year before enrolling in the Friedrich Wilhelm University of Berlin. Desirous of joining the civil service, he studied law and despite devoting little time to study, he passed his examinations in 1835.
His brain weighed 4lb 3oz.

CAREER RECORD 1836 Bismarck entered government service but could only obtain minor administrative positions in Aachen and Potsdam. As his work proved monotonous and uninteresting, he soon resigned as a civil servant.
1839 Upon his mother's death in 1839, Bismarck took over the management of his family's run-down estates at Schönhausen and restored their profitability.
1844 Had another go in the civil service but resigned after a month as he was unable to put up with his superiors.
1847 Entered Prussian parliament emerging as a rigid conservative. In the year of his marriage, Bismarck was chosen as a representative to the newly created Prussian legislature, the Vereinigter Landtag.
1851-59 Appointed Prussian representative to the Germanic Confederation, a league of the 39 German states at the Diet of Frankfurt.
1859-62 In St Petersburg as Prussian ambassador to Russia
1862 Offered a place in the Russian diplomatic service after the Czar misunderstood a comment about his likelihood of missing Saint Petersburg. Bismarck courteously declined the offer and instead was made sent to Paris to serve as ambassador to France. Returned to Berlin three months later and appointed Prime Minister and minister for foreign affairs
1871 Proclaims the German empire and becomes the first Chancellor.
1878 Presides over the international Congress of Berlin.
1890 When Kaiser Wilhelm II came to the throne in 1888 it was bad news Munchengladbach for Bismarck as Willy considered the Iron Chancellor's era to be over. In 1890 he forced him to resign over a quarrel about the rights of a minister to advise the emperor and the abolition of anti socialist legislation. He spent his last years in retirement looking after the family estates.

APPEARANCE Bismarck was ungainly, physically dominating, stern in expression, prematurely bald. Small hands and feet, clear and ruddy complexion, sparkling eyes, bushy eyebrows. He had a bushy upside v moustache.
He spoke with great vivacity, mellow and sonorous.
"Bismarck from the outlook of political actualities he was the greatest man of his century. I have never thought of him as merely the comic figure with three hairs on his bald head and a heavy football." Said Mussolini who himself was unable to part with a comb from an early age.

FASHION Bismarck liked to wear informal, simple Prussian country gentleman attire, with a soft hat, neckerchief, coat, trousers and double soiled boots. His formal uniform was that of a Prussian military officer.

CHARACTER Intelligent, perceptive, charming, straight forward, honest, stickler for formality, wily and calm. (Once in the Prussian Diet he was howled down. He calmly leant against the tribune, took out a newspaper from his pocket, read it and everything was calm.).

SENSE OF HUMOUR The original Herr Fun, when younger Otto got up to mischievous tricks such as releasing a fox out of a bag in a drawing room. Developed into a great wit and teller of anecdotes especially at the enormous dinners he threw.

RELATIONSHIPS Bismarck placed his civil service career in jeopardy after falling in love with an English heiress in Leicester and outstaying his leave trying to win her.
Bismarck married the noblewoman Johanna von Puttkamer (1824–1894) in 1847 on 28 July 1847 in Alt-Kolziglow, near Reinfeld. Their long and happy marriage produced three children, Herbert (b. 1849), Wilhelm (b. 1852) and Marie (b. 1847). Johanna was a shy, retiring and devout Lutheran. She helped iron out some of his madder tendencies.

MONEY AND FAME Bismarck established his popularity in Prussia by whipping up nationalistic fervour and advocating his blood and iron policy-military power to achieve prosperity.
He introduced a single currency and central bank plus national accident and health insurance.
Bismarck also introduced an innovative pension scheme by which all workers earning over 2,000 marks a year aged over 16 contributed equal amounts and it was payable when they reached 70.

FOOD AND DRINK In his younger days, gastronomy was Bismarck's ruling passion. Once he started attending the Diet his intake increased even more. In 1878 Bismarck presided over the division of Africa by the colonial powers at the Conference of Berlin while eating pickled herrings with both hands. By 1883 he was very bloated, over 17 stone, which made him ill and very bad tempered so for months he lived on a diet of herrings. By 1885 he was down to 14 stone. So the lesson that can be learnt from this is, if at first you don't recede diet, diet again.
A chronic insomnia sufferer, the Iron Chancellor would nightly devour caviar to give him a thirst for strong beer to help him to sleep. His favorite tipple was Black Velvet, a mixture of champagne and Guinness. He was also partial to burgundy wine.

LITERATURE Bismarck spent his final years gathering his memoirs Gedanken und Erinnerungen, or Thoughts and Memories. A work of questionable accuracy, in which the former Iron Chancellor increased the drama around every event and always presented himself favorably.



NATURE When Bismarck was Chancellor he had two Danish hounds called Tyras and Tyras 2, a gift from the emperor.

HOBBIES AND SPORTS Bismarck enjoyed country pursuits such as horse riding and hunting.

PHILOSOPHY & THEOLOGY Bismarck received a humanistic education and was a freethinker in his younger days. Around the age of thirty he had an intense friendship with Marie von Thadden, who was newly married to a friend of his. Under her influence, he became a Pietist Lutheran, and he later recorded that at Marie's deathbed (from typhoid) he prayed for the first time since his childhood. His Lutheran wife, who was Marie's cousin also helped him to discover the Christian faith.
As Chancellor, he cracked down on Catholics who resisted the power of the new economy. One of Bismarck’s ministers, Adalbert Falf, attacked Roman Catholic freedoms in the Kulturkampf (cultural struggle). It was an attempt to subordinate the Roman Catholic Church in Germany to the state and the laws arising from this prohibited all Catholic religious assemblies. Many members of Catholic religious orders were expelled, including the Jesuits, a thousand priests were imprisoned or exiled and a million Catholics were left without their sacraments.
Bismarck: "We Germans fear God and nothing else on earth and it is with the fear of God and nothing else that we have and cherish peace."

POLITICS The phrase ‘Dropping the Pilot’ meaning to dispense with a valued leader originated in Prussia in 1890 when a Punch cartoon showed Kaiser Wilhem II leaning over the side of the ship as Otto Bismarck dressed as a pilot walked down the steps to disembark.

SCANDAL Bismarck and King Wilhelm 1st had a love/hate relationship. They would have shouting matches which sometimes resulted in tears.

MILITARY RECORD Bismarck nearly enrolled in the British army in India whilst in England but he decided against it as he couldn't work out what the Indians had done to warrant what they had coming.
1862 Bismarck said in a 1862 speech in the Prussian chamber justifying an increase in taxes to pay for a larger army: "The great questions of our day cannot be solved by speeches and majority votes…but by iron and blood."
1864 Conquered the Danish duchies of Schleswig-Holstein.
1866 Defeated Austrian in the Seven Weeks War. Bismarck had engineered it himself to establish Prussia's position as leader of the German states. He told his general to treat the Austrians as "fellow countrymen homicidally if possible."
During the Battle of Sadowa in 1866, the King of Prussia exposed himself to danger from gunshot and refused to withdraw in spite of military advice. Bismarck (who was not any old iron) remained silent during arguments, but he gave the king’s horse a sharp unnoticed kick in the flank that caused the animal to go back. With victory at the Battle of Sadowa he warded off Austria and allowed Prussia to take an important place in the confederation of North Germany.
1870-71 The Franco- Prussian War was engineered by Bismarck by means of an alteration in the famous ems telegram. He tricked the French into this war by altering a telegram from the king of Prussia in which he struck out the king's conciliatory words so that the telegram sounded belligerent. As a result the French declared war.
1890 The idea that the age of 65 is officially "elderly" was originated by Bismarck when he wanted to get rid of some ageing army officers.
Bismarck: "As for England and Germany, I regard it as an impossibility that these two countries should ever be at war and as singularly unlikely that they should even quarrel. Seriously were that to happen however it might lead to a continental conflict."

HEALTH AND PHYSICAL FITNESS Bismarck carried a great scar from one of his youthful duels.
Bismsrck suffered from neuralgia, chronic insomnia, headaches, gall bladder problems and gluttony. His hypochondria led him to wrongly believe he'd had a stroke in 1880.
A pioneer of state socialism, Bismarck managed to get a social insurance system passed by the Reichstag, insuring against illness. Germany was the first European country to establish such a system of health insurance for its workers.

HOMES Bismarck's official residence was in Wilhelmstrasse. He spent his last years at Friedrichsruh, an estate near Hamburg given to Bismarck by the old emperor when he was appointed emperor. It was 20,000 acres comprising 4,000 farming and 16,000 woodland.

TRAVEL During his time as a minister in Paris, Bismarck spent as much time as possible in Biarritz as he greatly disliked the French capital city.

DEATH Died 1898 at Friedrichsruh, where he is entombed in the Bismarck-Mausoleum. He managed one final attack on Wilhelm II by having his tombstone inscribed with the epitaph "Here lies a true servant of the Emperor Wilhelm I".

APPEARANCES IN MEDIA Possibly the most famous cartoon of the 19th century was Tennell's drawing of Bismarck having been sacked by Kaiser Wilhelm entitled "Dropping the Pilot".
Curt Jurgens played Bismarck in several episodes of the 1974 BBC TV series Fall of Eagles.

ACHIEVEMENTS 1. Changed Germany from an unruly collection of states dominated by Prussia to a rich powerful country by provoking wars with Denmark, Austria and France. The ensuing patriotic fever united all the states and in 1871 Bismarck struck whilst the iron was hot and founded the new German empire.
2.1878 The Congress of Berlin with Bizzy and Dizzy (Disraeli). His role was the honest broker in recognising independent Romania, Serbia and Montenegro and creating an autonomous Bulgaria.
3. The first leader to introduce between insurance schemes for illness, work related accident and chronic invalidism. In 1889 he introduced pension schemes. A reformer without getting bogged down by too many irons in the fire. (sorry, that's the last of the 'iron' puns)
4. Bismarck, the state capital of North Dakota, is named after the famous Prussian.

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