Born of an old Brandenburg Junker family, he studied at Göttingen and Berlin, and after holding minor judicial and administrative offices he was elected (1847) to the Prussian Landtag [parliament]. There he opposed the liberal movement, advocated unification of Germany under the aegis of Prussia, and defended the privileges of his elite social class, the Junkers. As Prussian minister to the German diet at Frankfurt (1851–59) and as ambassador to St. Petersburg (1859–62) and to Paris (1862), he gained the insight and experience that was to partially determine his subsequent policy.
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