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Gottfried von Bismarck, 44; a descendant of the historic German unifier

July 06, 2007|From the Associated Press

Count Gottfried von Bismarck, whose life of privileged excess as a descendant of Germany's "Iron Chancellor" was clouded by two deaths at or after his parties, has died in London. He was 44.

The Metropolitan Police said Wednesday that Bismarck, a great-great-grandson of Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who unified Germany in the 19th century, had been found dead at his $10-million apartment in London's Chelsea district Monday.

Police said they were treating the death as unexplained. A coroner's inquest will be held to determine the cause.

Bismarck had a well-publicized history of drug use. His family in Germany said he had been treated for epilepsy for many years.

Gottfried Alexander Leopold Graf von Bismarck-Schonhausen was born in Brussels in 1962 and was educated in Germany and Switzerland. He worked at the New York Stock Exchange before attending Oxford University in England.

At Christ Church College, he was known for his extravagant appearance -- which at times involved dressing in fishnet stockings or traditional Bavarian lederhosen -- and his lavish parties. At one, guests were greeted by a pair of severed pigs' heads on the dinner table.

He was a member of the Bullingdon Club -- a dining society known for its raucous upper-class membership -- and the Piers Gaveston Society, a 12-member club with a reputation for drunken excess and sexual shenanigans.

In 1986, Olivia Channon, the 22-year-old daughter of a Conservative government minister, died of a drug overdose in Bismarck's bed at Oxford after an end-of-term party.

Bismarck -- who was not in the bed at the time -- was not implicated in the death, although he was charged with and fined for possessing cocaine and amphetamine sulfate.

At his trial, his lawyer said Channon's death "is going to be a shadow over the head of Gottfried von Bismarck, probably for the rest of his life." The count said years later that some had accused him of disgracing the family name.

He eventually settled in London, working in finance and the telecommunications business. He remained out of the headlines until last August, when a 38-year-old man, Anthony Casey, died after falling from a roof garden during a party at Bismarck's home.

Dr. Paul Knapman, presiding over an inquest at Westminster Coroner's Court, said one room of the apartment contained a "bizarre" assortment of items, including a large rubber tarpaulin on the floor, towels, lubricants, bottles of vodka and buckets of sex toys.

Police concluded that Casey's death was an accident, and the coroner's verdict was "death by misadventure," meaning no one was to blame.

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