Albrecht von Roon

Albrecht Theodor Emil Graf von Roon[1][2] (30 April 1803 – 23 February 1879) was a Prussian soldier and statesman. As Minister of War from 1859 to 1873, Roon, along with Otto von Bismarck and Helmuth von Moltke, was a dominating figure in Prussia's government during the key decade of the 1860s, when a series of successful wars against Denmark, Austria and France led to German unification under Prussia's leadership. A moderate conservative and supporter of executive monarchy, he was an avid modernizer who worked to improve the efficiency of the army.

Albrecht Graf von Roon
Albrecht von Roon Günther BNF Gallica
Albrecht von Roon in the 1870s
Born30 April 1803
Pleushagen, Prussia, Holy Roman Empire
(present-day Pleśna, West Pomerania Voivodeship, Poland)
Died23 February 1879 (aged 75)
Berlin, Province of Brandenburg, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Service/branchPrussian Army
Years of service1821–1873


Roon was born at Pleushagen (now Pleśna), near Kolberg (now Kołobrzeg, Poland). His family was of Flemish origin and had settled in Pomerania. His father, an officer of the Prussian army, died in poverty during the French occupation of the Kingdom of Prussia (see Napoleonic Wars), and the young Roon was brought up by his maternal grandmother.[3]

Roon entered the corps of cadets at Kulm (now Chełmno, Poland) in 1816, from where he proceeded to the military school at Berlin in 1818, and in January 1821, he received a commission in the 14th (3rd Pomeranian) regiment quartered at Stargard in Pomerania. In 1824, he went through the three-year higher course of study at the General War School in Berlin (later called the Prussian Military Academy), where he improved his general education. Two years later, he was transferred to the 15th regiment at Minden.[3]


In 1826, he was appointed an instructor in the military cadet school at Berlin, where he devoted himself especially to the subject of military geography. He was a student of the noted geographer Carl Ritter who taught at the Berlin military school.[4] In 1832, Roon published the well-known Principles of Physical, National and Political Geography, in three volumes (Grundlage der Erd-, Völker- und Staaten-Kunde), which gained him a great reputation, and of which over 40,000 copies were sold in a few years. This work was followed in 1834 by Elements of Geography (Anfangsgrunde der Erdkunde), in 1837 by Military Geography of Europe (Militärische Landerbeschreibung von Europa), and in 1839 by The Iberian Peninsula (Die Iberische Halbinsel).[3]

Early military career

In 1832, Roon rejoined his regiment and was afterwards attached to the headquarters of General von Müffling's corps of observation at Krefeld, where he first became aware of the very inefficient state of the Prussian army. In 1833, he was appointed to the Topographical Bureau at Berlin. In 1835, he entered the General staff, and, in 1835, he was promoted captain and became instructor and examiner in the military academy at Berlin. In 1842, after an illness of two years brought on by overwork, he was promoted to major and attached to the staff of the VII Corps, in which post he was again impressed with the inefficiency of the organization of the army, and occupied himself with schemes for its reform.[3]

In 1844, as tutor to Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia, he attended the prince at Bonn University and in his European travels. In 1848, he was appointed chief of the staff of the VIII Corps at Koblenz. During the disturbances of that year he served under Prince William, later king and emperor, in the suppression of the insurrection at Baden and distinguished himself by his energy and bravery, receiving the 3rd class of the order of the Red Eagle in recognition of his services. While attached to the prince's staff at that time, he broached to him the subject of his schemes of army reform. In 1850, after the revelation of defective organization and efficiency that led to the humiliating Treaty of Olmütz, Roon was made a lieutenant-colonel and, in 1851, full colonel.[3]

Army reform

Promoted to major-general in 1856 and to lieutenant-general in 1859, Roon had held several commands since 1850, having been employed on important missions. Prince Wilhelm became regent in 1858 and, in 1859, appointed Roon a member of a commission to report on the reorganization of the army. During the Austro-Sardinian War, Roon was charged with the mobilization of a division. At the end of 1859, although he was only a junior lieutenant-general in the army, he succeeded Eduard von Bonin as war minister. In 1861 the ministry of marine was also entrusted to him.[3]

Supported by Edwin von Manteuffel and the new Prussian Chief of Staff, Helmuth von Moltke, Roon drew up plans to adapt Gerhard von Scharnhorst's system to Prussia's altered circumstances. Scharnhorst proposed an increase in universal military service to three years, with new regiments raised and a reduced role for the reserve (Landwehr), whose role in the War of Liberation (1813) was still celebrated in nationalist myth.

Roon, by contrast, believed that the Landwehr was both a politically and militarily false institution, limited in utility and lacking martial qualities. Roon's proposals for army reorganization met with strong opposition from the Prussian Landtag, which was dominated by the liberal German Progress Party, which wanted parliamentary control over the military budget. It took years of political fighting and the strong support of the new prime minister, Otto von Bismarck and Moltke, before Roon carried the day.

Roon, center, with Otto von Bismarck (left) and Helmuth Graf von Moltke (right). The three leaders of Prussia in the 1860s.

National hero

After the successful outcome of the Second Schleswig War of 1864, Roon went from being widely disliked in Prussia to a national hero in still-disunited Germany.

At the start of the Austro-Prussian War, Roon was promoted general of infantry. He was at the decisive victory at Königgrätz, under the command of Moltke. He received the Black Eagle at Nikolsburg on the road to Vienna. His army system was adopted after 1866 by the whole North German Confederation.[3] In later years, his army system was copied throughout continental Europe.

During the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71, Roon was in attendance on Prussian King Wilhelm I. The war was a great victory for Prussia and Roon's contribution to success was considerable. He was created a Graf (count) on 19 January 1871, just after Moltke. In January 1873, he succeeded Bismarck (who continued to be Imperial Chancellor) as Minister President of Prussia. Ill-health compelled him to resign later that year, handing the job back to Bismarck. Roon was promoted to field marshal on 1 January 1873.[3]

Roon died in Berlin on 23 February 1879. He was interred in the Roon family crypt at Schloss Krobnitz, west of Görlitz.


The armored cruiser SMS Roon, completed in 1906, was named for Albrecht von Roon.


His son published Denkwürdigkeiten aus dem Leben des Generalfeldmarschalls Kriegsministers Grafen Roon (Memorable experiences from the life of General Field Marshal and Minister of War Count Roon) (2 vols., Breslau, 1892), and Kriegsminister von Roon als Redner politisch und militärisch erläutert (Minister of War Roon's Political and Military Speeches Examined) (Breslau, 1895). His correspondence with his friend Professor Cl. Perthes, 1864–67, was also published at Breslau in 1895.[3]


  1. ^ Regarding personal names: Until 1919, Graf was a title, translated as Count, not a first or middle name. The female form is Gräfin. In Germany since 1919, it forms part of family names.
  2. ^ In German, Roon is pronounced with a long 'O' – "Rohn."
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Roon, Albrecht Theodor Emil, Count von". Encyclopædia Britannica. 23 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 706.
  4. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Roon, Albrecht Theodor Emil" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Eduard von Bonin
Prussian Minister of War
Succeeded by
Georg von Kameke
Preceded by
Prince Bismarck
Minister President of Prussia
Succeeded by
Prince Bismarck
1879 in Germany

Events from the year 1879 in Germany.

Angel of Peace

The Angel of Peace (German: Friedensengel) is a monument in the Munich suburb of Bogenhausen. The architects were Heinrich Düll, Georg Pezold und Max Heilmaier.

Bismarck Tower (Aachen)

The Aachen Bismarck Tower is one of 173 still-standing towers and columns (of the 240 originally built), which were constructed in the German Empire to commemorate the founder of the German state, Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898).

Eduard von Bonin

Eduard Wilhelm Ludwig von Bonin (7 March 1793 – 13 March 1865) was a Prussian general officer who served as Prussian Minister of War from 1852–54 and 1858-59.

Georg von Kameke

Arnold Karl Georg von Kameke (14 April 1817, in Pasewalk – 12 October 1893, in Berlin) was a Prussian General of the Infantry and Minister of War.

Kameke began his military career in 1834 in the 2nd military engineers section in Stettin. In 1836 he became an officer in the engineer corps and in 1850 was assigned to the General Staff, after being promoted to Captain. In 1861 he was made a Colonel and in 1863 Chief of Staff of the VIII. Armee-Korps. In 1865 he became a Major General and a short while later became Chief of Staff of the II. Armee-Korps.

He participated in the Austro-Prussian War as Chief of Staff of the II. Armee-Korps. In 1867 he was made head of the entire engineering corps; in 1868 he was made a Lieutenant General.

In the Franco-Prussian War Kameke commanded the 14. Infanteriedivision and fought in the Battle of Spicheren, the Battle of Borny-Colombey and the Battle of Gravelotte. After the surrender of the fortress of Metz he conquered Thionville, Montmédy and besieged Mézières. But before Méziéres fell he was called to Versailles on 23 December 1870 to lead the engineers' attack against Paris. On 18 February 1871 he was made head of the engineering corps and general inspector of the fortresses.

On 9 November 1873, Kameke succeeded Albrecht von Roon as Minister of War. On 22 March 1875 he was appointed General of the Infantry. On 3 March 1883 he retired from his posts and withdrew to his property, Hohenfelde near Kolberg in Pomerania.

Grunewald Tower

The Grunewald Tower or Grunewaldturm is a historical tower in the Grunewald forest of southwestern Berlin, Germany, built in 1897-99 according to plans designed by Franz Heinrich Schwechten.

Harro Magnussen

Harro Magnussen (14 May 1861, Hamm - 3 November 1908, Grunewald) was a German sculptor.

List of ironclad warships of Germany

Between the mid-1860s and the early 1880s, the Prussian and later Imperial German Navies purchased or built sixteen ironclad warships. In 1860, however, the Prussian Navy consisted solely of wooden, unarmored warships. The following year, Prince Adalbert and Albrecht von Roon wrote an expanded fleet plan that included four large ironclads and four smaller ironclads. Two of the latter were to be ordered from Britain immediately, as German shipyards were at the time incapable of building such vessels. The rival Danish fleet had three ironclads in service by the time the Second Schleswig War broke out in 1864; as a result, Prussia purchased the ironclads Arminius and Prinz Adalbert, then under construction in Britain and France, respectively. The British, sympathetic to the Danish cause, delayed delivery of both Arminius and Prinz Adalbert until after the combined Austro-Prussian victory. Both ships entered service by 1865.The Prussian Navy had acquired three more ships—Friedrich Carl, Kronprinz, and König Wilhelm—by the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. A fourth was ordered from Prussian shipbuilders, but would not be completed in time to see service during the war. In the aftermath of the war in 1871, the various Germanic states were unified under Prussian dominance as the German Empire; the Prussian Navy became the core of the Imperial Navy. The three turret ships of the Preussen class were built in Germany in the early 1870s, followed by two Kaiser-class vessels in the middle of the decade, the last capital ships ordered from foreign yards by Germany. A different strategic plan affected the next design, the four Sachsen-class ships. These vessels were intended to operate from fortified bases against a naval blockade, not on the high seas. The last ironclad built by Germany, Oldenburg, was originally to have been a fifth member of the Sachsen class, but dissatisfaction with those ships led to a new design. The German Navy temporarily ceased construction of capital ships in the 1880s, due to the poor performance of the Sachsen class and the rise of the Jeune École; instead, concentration was focused on creating a large force of torpedo boats for coastal defense.

Otto von Bismarck

Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg (Born von Bismarck-Schönhausen; German: Otto Eduard Leopold Fürst von Bismarck, Herzog zu Lauenburg; 1 April 1815 – 30 July 1898), known as Otto von Bismarck (German: [ˈɔtoː fɔn ˈbɪsmark] (listen)), was a conservative Prussian statesman who dominated German and European affairs from the 1860s until 1890 and was the first Chancellor of the German Empire between 1871 and 1890. In 1862, King Wilhelm I appointed him as Minister President of Prussia, a position he would hold until 1890, with the exception of a short break in 1873. He provoked three short, decisive wars against Denmark, Austria, and France. Following the victory against Austria, he abolished the supranational German Confederation and instead formed the North German Confederation as the first German national state in 1867, leading it as Federal Chancellor. This aligned the smaller North German states behind Prussia. Later receiving the support of the independent South German states in the Confederation's defeat of France, he formed the German Empire in 1871, unifying Germany with himself as Imperial Chancellor, while retaining control of Prussia at the same time. The new German nation excluded Austria, which had been Prussia's main opponent for predominance among the German states.

With Prussian dominance accomplished by 1871, Bismarck skillfully used balance of power diplomacy to maintain Germany's position in a Europe which, despite many disputes and war scares, remained at peace. For historian Eric Hobsbawm, it was Bismarck who "remained undisputed world champion at the game of multilateral diplomatic chess for almost twenty years after 1871, [and] devoted himself exclusively, and successfully, to maintaining peace between the powers". However, his annexation of Alsace-Lorraine gave new fuel to French nationalism and promoted Germanophobia in France. This helped set the stage for the First World War. Bismarck's diplomacy of realpolitik and powerful rule at home gained him the nickname the "Iron Chancellor". German unification and its rapid economic growth was the foundation to his foreign policy. He disliked colonialism but reluctantly built an overseas empire when it was demanded by both elite and mass opinion. Juggling a very complex interlocking series of conferences, negotiations and alliances, he used his diplomatic skills to maintain Germany's position and used the balance of power to keep Europe at peace in the 1870s and 1880s.

A master of complex politics at home, Bismarck created the first welfare state in the modern world, with the goal of gaining working class support that might otherwise go to his Socialist enemies. In the 1870s, he allied himself with the Liberals (who were low-tariff and anti-Catholic) and fought the Catholic Church in what was called the Kulturkampf ("culture struggle"). He lost that battle as the Catholics responded by forming a powerful Centre party and using universal male suffrage to gain a bloc of seats. Bismarck then reversed himself, ended the Kulturkampf, broke with the Liberals, imposed protective tariffs, and formed a political alliance with the Centre Party to fight the Socialists. A devout Lutheran, he was loyal to his king, who argued with Bismarck but in the end supported him against the advice of his wife and his heir. While the Reichstag, Germany's parliament, was elected by universal male suffrage, it did not have much control of government policy. Bismarck distrusted democracy and ruled through a strong, well-trained bureaucracy with power in the hands of a traditional Junker elite that consisted of the landed nobility in eastern Prussia. Under Wilhelm I, Bismarck largely controlled domestic and foreign affairs, until he was removed by the young Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1890, at the age of seventy-five.

Bismarck – a Junker himself – was strong-willed, outspoken and overbearing, but he could also be polite, charming and witty. Occasionally he displayed a violent temper, and he kept his power by melodramatically threatening resignation time and again, which cowed Wilhelm I. He possessed not only a long-term national and international vision but also the short-term ability to juggle complex developments. As the leader of what historians call "revolutionary conservatism", Bismarck became a hero to German nationalists; they built many monuments honoring the founder of the new Reich. Many historians praise him as a visionary who was instrumental in uniting Germany and, once that had been accomplished, kept the peace in Europe through adroit diplomacy.

Pleśna, West Pomeranian Voivodeship

Pleśna [ˈplɛɕna] (German: Pleushagen) is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Będzino, within Koszalin County, West Pomeranian Voivodeship, in north-western Poland.It is situated in the historic region of Farther Pomerania (Pomorze Tylne) near the Baltic coast, approximately 11 kilometres (7 mi) west of Będzino, 24 km (15 mi) west of Koszalin, and 123 km (76 mi) north-east of the regional capital Szczecin. The village has a population of 30.

The settlement was first mentioned in a 1334 deed, when the estates passed to the possessions held by the Prince-Bishops of Cammin. Before 1945 the area was part of Germany. Under Nazi administration, the place was temporarily renamed Roonshagen and became the site of a Luftwaffe proving ground. For the history of the region, see History of Pomerania.

Proclamation of the German Empire (paintings)

The Proclamation of the German Empire (18 January 1871) is the title of several historical paintings by the German painter Anton von Werner.

On 18 January 1871, Anton von Werner was present at the proclamation of the German Empire in Versailles in his capacity as a painter. In the following years, he produced several versions of the imperial proclamation at greater intervals, two of which were shown in prominent places in Berlin. Only a third version was preserved to Otto von Bismarck's last residence, Friedrichsruh, and is now open to the public. It is the most reproduced picture of the Imperial Proclamation.

Since the three paintings show strong differences, the images are of great documentary and historical dichotomy. Von Werner obviously adapted them to the wishes of his respective clients. The clothes worn by Bismarck in the first painting do not match with the other two paintings. Bismarck is wearing his white parade uniform in the second and third painting, which places him in the focus of the viewer. In fact, in Versailles, he was wearing a blue gun coat. In addition, he was holding the Order of Pour le Mérite on his white uniform, which he received in 1884. Minister of War Albrecht von Roon, who did not participate in the proclamation of Versailles, was also included in the third version. In the first, second, and third paintings, the Grand Duke of Baden summons the new emperor. The perspective makes it appear that the imperial proclamation was above all a work of the princes and of the military.

Von Werner began working on the picture as one of the most active and influential German artists.

Prussian Navy Department

The Prussian Navy Department (Marineministerium) (1861 to 1871) grew out of that established by the Frankfurt National Assembly (1848-1849) for its ‘Imperial Fleet' Reichsflotte. From 1866 it served additionally as the Navy Department of the North German Confederation.

In June, 1848 the Frankfurt National Assembly created the first Navy Department with businessman Arnold Duckwitz as Minister for Navy Affairs (Minister für Marineangelegenheiten). After the closure of the Frankfurt National Assembly in May 1849, Austrian Lieutenant Fieldmarshal August von Jochmus became Navy Minister of the revived German Confederation. With the end of the Provisional Central Power (Provisorische Zentralgewalt) of the Frankfurt National Assembly in December 1849, the first Naval Department dissolved and authority in naval matters again came under the sovereignty of individual members of the German Confederation. A Royal Naval Division (Königliche Marine-Abteilung ) was established in Berlin, as a department of the Prussian Minister of War, with Lieutenant Colonel von Wangenheim Bogun as head in the years 1848-1853. He administered the Prussian Navy under the Naval High Command (Oberkommando der Marine). Then, on 14 November 1853 by a Prussian royal cabinet order (König Kabinettsordre) the Naval Division was combined into an Admiralty Council (Admiralität), which would provide united command and administrative authority. From 1859 to 1860 Admiral Jan Schröder was chief of the Prussian Navy administration (Marineverwaltung).

In 1861 the Prussian government created a new Navy Department (Marineministerium). After Wilhelm I became King of Prussia the Admiralty of the Prussian Navy was on 16 April 1861 dissolved by cabinet order. The Naval High Command under Prince Adalbert of Prussia became independently and directly subordinate to the king. After the retirement of Admiral Jan Schröde the administration of the navy was under the new Navy Department (Marineministerium), which was under Prussian War Minister Albrecht von Roon until 1873. The Admiralty Council (Admiralitätsrat) was to co-ordinate naval affairs of the Navy Department and the Naval High Command, but could only make proposals.

The Navy Department was responsible for the Danzig (today Gdansk) shipyard, the depots in Geestemünde (today Bremerhaven), Kiel and Stralsund, the admiralty commissary (Admiralitätskommissariat) in Oldenburg and the base at Jade Bight (today Wilhelmshaven). The Naval High Command was responsible for the fleet. This dual organization did not work well. There was much unfruitful work and friction between the two organizations.

A possibility for change arose with the outbreak the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 when Prince Adalbert was transferred to army field command. By cabinet order the tasks of the Naval High Command were on 29 June 1870 transferred to the Navy Department. Next, departments for technical and general administrative affairs was formed. The existing division of powers was abolished and a central authority created. The departmental friction disappeared almost completely.

Due to the great increase in the duties of the Prussian War Minister, Wilhelm I on 30 November 1871 moved the Navy Department from the War Ministry to a newly created admiralty, which in a few months would become the German Imperial Admiralty.

Reichenbach (Oberlausitz)

Reichenbach/O.L. (full German name: Reichenbach/Oberlausitz, Sorbian: Rychbach) is a town in the Görlitz district, in eastern Saxony, Germany. It is located 13 km west of Görlitz.

SMS Roon

SMS Roon was the lead ship of her class of armored cruisers built for the German Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial Navy) as part of a major naval expansion program aimed at strengthening the fleet. The ship was named after Field Marshal Albrecht von Roon. She was built at the Kaiserliche Werft in Kiel, being laid down in August 1902, launched in June 1903, and commissioned in April 1906. The ship was armed with a main battery of four 21 cm (8.3 in) guns and had a top speed was 20.4 knots (37.8 km/h; 23.5 mph). Like many of the late armored cruisers, Yorck was quickly rendered obsolescent by the advent of the battlecruiser; as a result, her career was limited.

Roon served in I Scouting Group, the reconnaissance force of the High Seas Fleet, for the duration of her peacetime career, including several stints as the flagship of the group's deputy commander. During this period, the ship was occupied with training exercises and made several cruises in the Atlantic Ocean. In 1907, she visited the United States to represent Germany during the Jamestown Exposition. In September 1911, she was decommissioned and placed in reserve.

Three years later, the ship was mobilized in August 1914 following the outbreak of World War I and assigned to III Scouting Group, serving initially with the High Seas Fleet in the North Sea. There, she formed part of the reconnaissance screen during the raid on Yarmouth in November and the raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby in December, though she saw no action during either operation. She was transferred to the Baltic Sea in April 1915 and took part in several operations against Russian forces, including the successful attack on Libau in May and the failed attack on Riga in August. The threat of British submarines convinced the German command to withdraw old vessels like Roon by early 1916, and she was again decommissioned and eventually used as a training ship. Plans to convert her into a seaplane tender in 1918 came to nothing with the end of the war, and she was broken up in 1921.

Schloss Krobnitz

Schloss Krobnitz is a Schloss in Reichenbach (Oberlausitz), Saxony (Germany). Dating from the 17th century, it was the residence of the Prussian Minister of War Albrecht von Roon during the 19th century.

Statue of Albrecht von Roon

The statue of Albrecht von Roon (German: Roon-Denkmal) is an outdoor 1904 monument to Albrecht von Roon by Harro Magnusson, installed in Tiergarten in Berlin, Germany.

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