Figure 1.--The image here shows a boy outfitted in his best velvet party suit about to be presented to Chancellor Bismarck, probably some time in the ealy 1890s. The boy is obviously a bit dubious about the encounter. His sister is trying to encourage him. The long hair and Little Lord Fauntleroy suit are interesting because it looks right out of Mrs. Burnett's bool "Little Lord Fauntleroy" that ignited the Fauntleroy craze. The illuustration was drawn by C.W. Allers. We beloeve that this a very acurate depiction of an actual event and boy's costume. Unlike some illustrators, who were often inventive, Allers very acurately drew the costumes of the day. Click on the image for a fuller discussion of the boy's suit.
Bismarck ruled a Prussia and Germamy's prime minister or chancellor for nearly 30 years, longer than anyone else. There were many state occassions and given the length of his service, images from those occassions provide a fascinating window into fashions, especially formal dress fashions, including how children were dressed. We have little information at this time, but hope to acquire more in the future. By the same token, informal scenes of Bismarck and his family at home also provides interesting fashion insights.
Bismarck ruled a Prussia and Germamy's prime minister or chancellor for nearly 30 years, longer than anyone else. There were many state occassions and given the length of his service, images from those occassions provide a fascinating window into fashions, especially formal dress fashions, including how children were dressed. We have little information at this time, but hope to acquire more in the future.
After Bismarck was dismissed in 1890, Kaiser Wilhelm boycotted Bismarck and German officails were did not dare even visit him least they be dismissed. Occassional there were thaws and once he was invited to the palace. On one occassion after formal pleasntrues the little princes were brought in and one account undicates that their "childish voices help to relieve the tention". [Ludwig, p. 607.] There is no indication as to how they were dressed.
The image here shows a boy outfitted in his best velvet party suit about to be presented to Bismarck some time about 1894. The boy is obviously a bit dubious about the encounter and his sister is encouraging him (figure 1). We can't be sure about the precise date. His sister's dress, for example, looks more like the 1890s than the 1870s to me, but I do nor pretend to be an expert in lady's dresses. The velvet suit and lace collar certianly looks like a Fauntleroy suit spin off which would date it after 1885. This is interesting because while we known that Fauntleroy suits were widely worn in America, England, and France in the late 19th century, we have little information on Germany. The date is unclear because in the source the drawing is included in a chapter of his life right after the Franco-Prussian war, but then I read that he often went to Bad Kissingen where he took time to talk and meet all kinds of people. [Allers and Kraemer] That was during the last years of his life. Bismarck died in 1898. The parents of this boy were possibly inspired by the Fauntleroy look of upper-class English boys. So the date of this illustration appears to be the 1890s.
By the same token, informal scenes of Bismarck and his family at home also provides interesting fashion insights. We note an interesting account at Friedrichsruh as visitors share in the uncerimonious domestic life, "Among stray tankards, ashtrays, and pictures, at tables with check covers, you sip all kinds of beverages. When it is quiet in the house, he writes his wife: 'Adelheid is reading Italian, Herbert is writing close by, Tyras is gnawing a huge bone, and the tea kettle is singing.' Tiedemann, who works there many weeks at a time, when he cmes gown toward noon usually finds that the only person about is the princess [meaning Bismarck's wife] 'who has already got up by this hour'. Bismarck appears towards one o'clock, and listens to Tiedemann's report while eating luncheon. After luncheon, he usually goes out riding for two or three housrs with his son or his daughter, racing or trotting, Tiedmann with a notebook ready at any momment, for often the most important amtters are settled during these rides. During the last half hour, they usually ride at a good pace. .... Dinner is at 6 o'clock. .... After dinner, a move was made to the big drawing room, where all gathered round the open fire. 'This was the most interesting hour of tghe day. There he disclosed his secret thoughts ... was inexhaustible in his recounting of his own past .... Towards nine he went to his study, and now, for me, the day's work began. By midnight everything had to be finished. At half past twelve, tea was served, and he would sit over it for an hour with the princess." [Ludwig, pp. 484-485.]
The Bismarck family appears to have been close to the Rantzau family. Bismarck's sister married into the family and became the Duchess von Rantzau-Bismarck. Apparently worked with Count Rantzau at the Foreign Office. We note some members of the family involved with German diplomacy in the 19th and 20th Century. Bismarck's daughter Marie married Count Kuno zu Rantzau in 1878. We do not yet have full details about this family. While we have few images of Bismarck's famikly at home, the available imagaes during a visit by the Rantzau family provide a good view of domestic life. Be sure click on the image to see the rest of the scene.
Allers, C.W. and Hans Kraemer. Unser Bismarck "Our Bismarck" (Union Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart, 1900).
Ludwig, Emil. Bismarck: The Story of a Fighter (Little, Brown, and Company, 1927).
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