In a question about leaders who rose quickly from "nothing" to supreme power, someone suggested Hitler, someone else Napoleon, then it was noticed that Hitler was a foreigner (Austrian who came into power in Germany), then it was remarked that Napoleon was Corsican (not exactly a foreigner, but anyway borderline French).

And then I notice that Stalin was Georgian, Victor Emmanuel Piedmontese, Bismarck Prussian, Getúlio Vargas a Gaúcho. All of them either "foreign" to the (most important) nation they led, or at least coming from the farthest borders of that nation.

To ask about the causes of such pattern (or whether it is a mere coincidence) would probably be deemed too broad or opinion-based to be properly answered.

So, to be objective, is there any study, book or paper, that deals with this curious set of facts?

(To notice, I am not talking about dynastic issues. True, many princes become sovereigns in foreign nations, through marriage or invitation, but that's not the issue. I am talking about actual leaders, i.e., people who won elections or revolutions or staged coup d'etats)

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    The names in you second paragraph are rather bizarre. Bismarck was a Prussian serving the king of Prussia who federated the German states. By your account, any prime minister of the German Empire would have been a "foreigner". Stalin was not a foreigner, since Georgia was already in the Russian empire which had almost the same territory as the USSR. Victor Emmanuel could not have been an Italian, because there was no Italian state before his armies united the country.
    – MasB
    Apr 8, 2018 at 23:37
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    And "Gaúcho" is not a nationality.
    – user31230
    Apr 9, 2018 at 9:00
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    @MichaelBay - Yeah, that's basically South American for "Cowboy". That'd be like throwing Teddy Roosevelt on there for being a "Rough Rider".
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 9, 2018 at 13:24
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    Most of the people you mention weren't really "foreginers". The concept that "Austrians are not Germans" dates from 1945 and so coincides with the end of Hitler; before that pretty much everyone in Germany and Austria considered Austrians germans so your argument doesn't hold. Piedmont had always been part of Italy culturally; I don't see how you could call Victor Emmanuel a "foreigner". Same hold for Bismarck and Prussia. So this question is based on completely false premises.
    – Bregalad
    Apr 9, 2018 at 14:19
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's based on a false premise (Napoleon, Hitler, Bismarck, Victor Emanuel being "foreigners" when they weren't.)
    – Bregalad
    Apr 9, 2018 at 17:19

2 Answers 2


Historically, this is not a "curious fact" but rather a general rule. I mean the time when "national leaders" in Europe were monarchs. It is very common for a monarch to be a foreigner.

Some examples: William I and William III of England, and their descendants, Romanov's dynasty in Russia after Peter I was mostly German. And most other European monarchs.


A foreigner as a ruler is (or perhaps was) quite common in Europe. Many European emerging nations looked for (usually) German princes when they gained their independence, if they wanted to become a kingdom and didn't have a royal family. The supplying royal families found this an excellent way to employ their sons not in line for the throne.

Why German princes? Because Germany had many, very many, princedoms and smaller kingdoms.

The Belgian kings descent from a German prince. So does the Dutch royal family, be it by now very indirect. The direct bloodline died out a couple of times. That Dutch royal family briefly occupied the throne of England, under William III.

To be precise, William I of Orange was a French, not a German prince. Originally he was heir to the county of Nassau, before he inherited the French principality of Orange. There is much more to that, but that is outside the scope of this question.

The British royal family changed their name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha into Windsor during WW1 for obvious reasons. The Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family was a German royal family.

George I of Greece was a Danish prince. Ferdinand I of Bulgaria was a German prince. Czar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria was also a German prince.

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