Useful Notes: Otto von Bismarck

"Nicht durch Reden und Majoritätsbeschlüsse werden die großen Fragen der Zeit entschieden — das ist der große Fehler von 1848 und 1849 gewesen — sondern durch Eisen und Blut." translation 

Born to a land-owning Prussian family — his father was a nobleman, his mother came from a family of (commoner) scholars and public servants — in 1815, Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck is most famous for the role he played in creating the German Empire, his Blood and Iron speech, and for having been a Magnificent Bastard.

Bismarck had a long career in politics, starting as a deputy in his local district (Kreis), then as a member of diets of the provinces of Pomerania and Saxony, where he became known as an arch-conservative and discovered his passion for politics. He failed to be elected to the Prussian national assembly in 1848 but was elected to the second chamber of the legislature in 1849. In 1851 he was appointed Prussia's representative to the Bundestag (the legislative body of the German Federation), where he prevented a mobilization of the federal army to intervene in the Crimean War, from 1859 on he served as Prussian Ambassador to Russia and then France. In 1862 he was appointed Minister President of Prussia during the conflict between King Wilhelm I and the legislature over the reform of the army, and in 1871 Chancellor of the German Empire. It should be said, that while the Chancellor was supposed to be subservient to the Emperor, Bismarck tended to just do what he wanted. He really only kept his position for so long because he was ''just that good'' at running Germany, and was the only one skilled enough to maintain the complicated foreign policy he had set up. Unfortunately for Bismarck (and eventually Germany) Wilhelm II quickly got fed up with him having his own agenda, and got rid of him.

Tropes as portrayed in fiction:

  • Nice Hat: Often seen on photos and paintings wearing a Pickelhaube, but he usually wore a peaked cap. The floppy civilian hat he wore during his retirement also became iconic, at least in Germany.
  • Realpolitik: The Trope Codifier. He even said "Politics is the art of the possible."


Appears in the following works:

  • Sir John Tenniel's famous caricature "Dropping the Pilot" on the occasion of Bismarck's dismissal in 1890.
  • Dubslav von Stechlin, the main character in Theodor Fontane's Der Stechlin, physically resembles Bismarck and often jestingly compares himself to him, as they are both retired and living in provincial backwaters in the vicinity of a big city.
  • Played magnificently by Curd Jürgens in two episodes (The English Princess and The Honest Broker) of the 1974 BBC miniseries Fall Of Eagles.
  • A major character in the second Flashman book, where he masterfully manipulates Flashman into preenacting The Prisoner of Zenda.
  • In Gore Vidal's novel Lincoln, an informal conversation between Secretary of State William H. Seward and the Prussian minister in Washington, Friedrich Baron Gerolt, draws a somewhat disturbing parallel between the Great Emancipator and the Iron Chancellor.
  • Slightly misquoted in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Admiral Nechayev tells Picard "Diplomacy is the art of the possible." Bismarck actually said "Politics is the art of the possible."
  • He is the main leader of Germany since Civilization III.

Alternative Title(s):

Otto Von Bismarck