Charles-Maurice Tallyrand Perigord
Prince of Benavente
1754 - 1838
of the most influential diplomats of the era, Talleyrand was described
by Napoleon Bonaparte as "a piece
of dung in a silk stocking''.
was a friend of all and a friend of none and was in constant contact
with all sides and factions during one of Europe's most tumultuous
Throughout, his secret relations with the deposed Bourbons and Allies
kept him well informed of the prevailing political winds on the
Born into old artistocracy, Talleyrand was to have had a military
career but a foot injury as a child put paid to that and left him
with a permanent limp.
he used his wit to make a mark in politics as a diplomat.
One of his first assignments was in Britain where he tried to keep
that nation neutral.
war between the two broke out, Talleyrand went to America before
returning to his home city of Paris in 1796.
1797 he became Foreign Minister and was impressed enough with a
young General called Napoleon Bonaparte
to help him with the coup of Brumaire.
He helped repair revolutionary France's relations with the Pope,
but then found himself at increasing odds with the directions Bonaparte
major souring was the kidnap and execution of the Duc d'Enghien,
which caused opposing nations to harden their attitudes towards
Bonaparte refused to be influenced by the politically savvy Talleyrand
and, in 1806, he resigned and retired to his Valencay estate.
on the political sidelines he made known his opposition to war with
Spain, but had little internal influence in France.
Bonaparte's first abdication, Talleyrand became head of the new
government and lessened the harshness of terms that some nations
wanted to impose on France.
the Congress of Vienna he secretly allied France with Austria and
Britain to oppose Russian and Prussian moves to incorporate Poland
and Saxony as part of their own territories.
In 1830, he returned to Britain as ambassador for the final four
years of his career.
successful as he was in the double-dealing world of politics, Talleyrand
was not well liked. He made a huge personal fortune out of his high
positions and was always regarded with suspicion.
he prospered in a time when just surviving in French politics was
a major achievement.