House of Bismarck

House of Bismarck

von Bismarck coat of arms
Country Germany
Founded c. 1270
Founder Herebord von Bismarck
Current head Ferdinand, Prince of Bismarck

The House of Bismarck is a German noble family that rose to prominence in the 19th-century, largely through the achievements of the great statesman Otto von Bismarck. He was granted the hereditary title of Prince of Bismarck in 1871, a hereditary comital title in 1865 and a ducal title, Duke of Lauenburg, held only for his own lifetime. Several of Otto's descendants, notably his son Herbert, Prince of Bismarck, were also politicians.[1]

Otto von Bismarck (to the right) with the defeated Napoleon III of France

The family has its roots in the Altmark region, descending from one Herebord von Bismarck (d. 1280), the first verifiable holder of the name, mentioned about 1270 as an official (Schultheiß) at the city of Stendal in the Margraviate of Brandenburg. His descent from the nearby small town of Bismark is conceivable though not ascertained. His relative Nikolaus von Bismarck (d. 1377) was a councillor and a loyal supporter of the Wittelsbach margrave Louis I, over which he fell out with the revolting Stendal citizens and was compensated with the manor of Burgstall in 1345. By a 1562 agreement with the Hohenzollern margraves, the Bismarcks swapped Burgstall with Schönhausen, located east of the Elbe river and formerly part of the Archbishopric of Magdeburg, which also had been under Hohenzollern rule since 1513.

A Prussian Junker family, their most notable member Otto von Bismarck gained the comital title (Graf) of Bismarck-Schönhausen in 1865 and the hereditary princely status of a Fürst von Bismarck after the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Two ships of the German Imperial Navy (Kaiserliche Marine), as well as a battleship from the World War II-era, were named after Otto von Bismarck. Also named in his honour were the Bismarck Sea and Bismarck Archipelago (both near the former German colony of New Guinea), as well as several places in the United States, among them Bismarck, North Dakota, the state's capital.

Schönhausen line

Schönhausen Palace I (demolished in 1958)
Coat of arms of Otto, prince of Bismarck.


  1. Jacks, William (1899). The life of Prince Bismarck. James Maclehose and Sons.
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