The Freiherr of Finance
Germany’s new finance minister, Freiherr
zu Guttenberg & his wife, Freifrau
Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg does not have a snappy name. Perhaps that is why he is known in Bavaria as “the Rocking Baron”. Unusually for a man whose family tree stretches back to the 12th century, the 37-year-old aristocrat has charisma and a glittering political future. In February he became Germany’s youngest economics minister, and in Sunday’s elections he won the highest percentage of constituency votes of any candidate. He became the envy of fellow politicians by attracting thousands of people to his rallies, a phenomenon not witnessed since Helmut Kohl. The Windsors should take note. As the leading contenders drained the colour from their campaigns by trying to say as little as possible, the young baron triumphed by being himself — a mixture of fiscal conservatism and an even-handed personality unafraid to challenge orthodoxy. He opposed the proposed buyout of Opel by a consortium led by the Canadian spare parts maker Magna and the Russian bank Sberbank, but he got plaudits for standing up to Angela Merkel. Guts are in the family genes. His great-grand-uncle, the Catholic monarchist Karl Ludwig von Guttenberg, was tortured by the Gestapo and shot after the failed assassination attempt on Hitler. He revealed no names of the fellow plotters. Mr Guttenberg does not need a job. He gets more than he needs from his family estate in Bavaria. If duty impels him, German politics will be all the richer.
Unmentioned by this editorial is that Baron zu Guttenberg’s grandfather (his mother’s father) was the late German winemaker & Croatian politician the Count of Vukovar. From the Count, Baron zu Guttenberg is descended from the noble house of Eltz, who are responsible for one of my favourite castles in the whole world, Burg Eltz, which once graced the 500-deutschmark note.
At the ripe age of 70, the Count of Vukovar took up arms in defence of the town of Vukovar during the Yugoslav Wars of 1991. The Count was elected to the Croatian parliament the following year as an independent, and served in that body until 1999, when he retired from politics. Nonetheless, the Croatian parliament persuaded him to accept honourary membership of parliament in his own right, in which role he continued until his death in 2006.
The Baron’s wife, meanwhile, is Stephanie, Countess of Bismarck-Schönhausen, great-great-granddaughter of the “Iron Chancellor”, Otto von Bismarck. A portent of this economics minister’s future?