Absent Mindedness

A Diplomatic Solution So Complex That No One Remembers the Solution

If you ever find yourself at a loss to understand the intricacies of international relations, don’t despair. Even professional diplomats can find themselves lost as they navigate the ship of state through diplomatic perils.

One of the most challenging international problems of the 19th century was the conflict between Denmark, Prussia, and Austria over the status of Schleswig and Holstein. The entire affair was known as the Schleswig-Holstein Question. To say that the details were complicated is an understatement.

“The Schleswig-Holstein question is so complicated, only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor who became mad. I am the third and I have forgotten all about it.”

The British statesman Lord Palmerston (1784-1865) is reported to have said: “The Schleswig-Holstein question is so complicated, only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor who became mad. I am the third and I have forgotten all about it.”


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