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"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war."
"There is a Providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children and the United States of America."
"People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election."
“ When you want to fool the world, tell the truth."
"I have seen three emperors in their nakedness, and the sight was not inspiring."
"Politics ruins the character."
"Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.
"When a man says he approves of something in principle, it means he hasn't the slightest intention of carrying it out in practice."
“I don’t like so many Frenchmen in our house who do not want to be there.” (On the annexation of Lorraine)
"I am bored. The great things are done. The German Reich is made." (After the German unification of 1871)
"A generation that has taken a beating is always followed by a generation that deals one." (On France)
"Some damned foolish thing in the Balkans," (Prediction on what would provoke the next war)
He was born at Schonhausen, near Berlin on 1 April 1815. He was a member of the Junker class that dominated the powerful state of Prussia. He attended Gottingen University where he drank heavily and fought twenty-five duels and was supposed to study law. He preferred English novels and was a fluent English speaker.
For a number of years he worked on the family estate where his hard-drinking was legendary. He married Johanna von Puttkamer in 1847. He was devoted to his three children, Marie, Herbert and Bill.
Politically he was regarded as a very conservative Junker opposed to any form of constitutional change. In 1851 he was appointed ambassador to the German Diet at Frankfurt. Here he made it clear that Prussia considered herself equal to Austria.
In 1859 he was sent as ambassador to St Petersburg, the Russian capital. In 1862 he was transferred to France. A crisis over the length of military service saw him appointed Minister President of Prussia in 1862. In later life he suffered from poor health. He smoked fourteen cigars a day, drank beer in the afternoon, kept tow large goblets – one for champagne and one for port – at hand during meals. He drank a bottle of champagne before he went to bed to help him sleep. After 1884 he was forced to curtail his consumption of alcohol.
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