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Bismarck is the correct spelling in German (its native language) of the surname, although it is not uncommon to see it written in English as Bismark. This is an error, although a town close to the ancestral origin of the Bismarck family is called Bismark (with no '-c-').

Users of AWE are most likely to come across two bearers of the name of historical importance, with some derivatives:

  • Otto von Bismarck (1815–98), the 'Iron Chancellor', who as Chancellor (~Prime Minister) of Prussia from 1862, and from 1867, in an early move towards German unification (without Austria), Bundeskanzler, or Chancellor, of the North German Confederation. Having fought wars against Denmark (over Schleswig-Holstein), Austria (1866) and France (the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871), Bismarck had managed the unification of Germany under Kaiser (~Emperor) Wilhelm I, whom he served as Reichskanzler (~ Imperial Chancellor) for the next 20 years. (In 1871, as well as being made German Chancellor, he was given the title of Fürst [~ Prince]). For his grip on the state, he was known as 'the Iron Chancellor', and did much to maintain peace in Europe by his diplomatic skills, and restraint of German expansion. On the death of Wilhelm I in 1888 (and his immediate heir, Friedrich III, within the year), Wilhelm II succeeded with an aspiration to build a German Empire with 'a place in the sun'. Bismarck's opposition to this, with other disagreements, led to his resignation in 1890, and retirement from politics. He died in 1898, leaving Wilhelm's ideology and personality to play a significant part in the start of 'the war to end all wars',` which he had sought to avoid and prevent. He remains one of the outstanding figures of late 19th century European history. The associated adjective is Bismarckian - preferably with the upper case 'B-' - and always with the '-c-'.
    • This Bismarck has given his name to the state capital of North Dakota, in the United States; to a form of pickled herring, eaten cold; and an alternative name for Black Velvet, a drink made of equal parts of champagne and Guiness which he enjoyed. He is also the eponym of
  • the German battleship - and battleship class - KMS Bismarck. She was launched in 1939 and commissioned in 1940. Germany's largest warship, she has attracted admiration for her design - a beautiful vessel, extremely powerful, very thereatening and deadly. She engaged in one campaign, operation Rheinübung, an attempt to break out into the Atlantic and harry British convoys. She was detected in the Denmark Strait between Iceland and Norway, and, after sinking HMS Hood, the pride of the Royal Navy, was hunted down by the British Home Fleet and sunk three days later. Her operational career lasted eight days.