Talleyrand, Charles Maurice de

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Talleyrand or Talleyrand-Périgord, Charles Maurice de

(tăl`ērănd', Fr. shärl mōrēs` də tälāräN`-pārēgôr`), 1754–1838, French statesman and diplomat. Born into the high nobility, he was early destined for the Roman Catholic Church because of a childhood accident that left him partially lame. Despite Talleyrand's notorious impiety, he was made (1789) bishop of Autun by King Louis XVI.

Talleyrand and the French Revolution

A representative of the clergy in the States-General of 1789, Talleyrand sided with the revolutionists. He proposed the appropriation of church lands by the state, endorsed the civil constitution of the clergy, and was excommunicated (1791) by the pope after consecrating two "constitutional" bishops. In 1792 he was sent by the National Assembly on a mission to London to secure Great Britain's neutrality, but the radical turn of the French Revolution nullified his success. A lifelong advocate of constitutional monarchy and peace, Talleyrand sought refuge in England in Sept., 1792, following the fall of the monarchy. In 1794 he went to the United States, where he stayed until after the establishment (Nov., 1795) of the Directory in France, when he returned (Sept., 1796) to Paris.

Talleyrand and Napoleon

Made foreign minister in 1797, Talleyrand hitched his career to the rising fortune of Napoleon Bonaparte (see Napoleon INapoleon I
, 1769–1821, emperor of the French, b. Ajaccio, Corsica, known as "the Little Corporal." Early Life

The son of Carlo and Letizia Bonaparte (or Buonaparte; see under Bonaparte, family), young Napoleon was sent (1779) to French military schools at
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. His part in the XYZ AffairXYZ Affair,
name usually given to an incident (1797–98) in Franco-American diplomatic relations. The United States had in 1778 entered into an alliance with France, but after the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars was both unable and unwilling to lend aid.
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 and his endorsement of Napoleon's plan for seizing Egypt in 1798 had unfortunate consequences for France. In July, 1799, he resigned his post, only to resume it after helping Napoleon gain power under the ConsulateConsulate,
1799–1804, in French history, form of government established after the coup of 18 Brumaire (Nov. 9–10, 1799), which ended the Directory. Three consuls were appointed to rule France—Napoleon Bonaparte (see Napoleon I), Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès,
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 (Nov., 1799). He helped to bring about the Concordat of 1801 with the Vatican, shortly after which the ban of excommunication against him was lifted (1802). The following year he was appointed to the lucrative position of grand chamberlain under Napoleon, now emperor, who in 1806 created him prince of Benevento.

Napoleon tended more and more to ignore Talleyrand's cautious advice, and the split between the two widened as Talleyrand tried unsuccessfully to restrain Napoleon's ambitions. Despite the accusations of Talleyrand's enemies (especially Joseph FouchéFouché, Joseph
, b. 1759 or 1763, d. 1820, French revolutionary and minister of police. A teacher in the schools of the Oratorian order, he joined the French Revolution and was elected to the Convention (1792).
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), he apparently played only a passive role in the abduction of the duke of EnghienEnghien, Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon-Condé, duc d'
, 1772–1804, French émigré; son of Louis Henri Joseph de Condé (see under Condé, family).
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. Napoleon's moves to gain Spain triggered Talleyrand's resignation (1807), although he remained in the imperial council and continued as grand chamberlain until early 1809. Ironically, Talleyrand was assigned the distasteful duty of keeping the three Spanish princes seized at Bayonne captive in his château.

Convinced of the necessity of a strong Austria to maintain European stability, Talleyrand, who accompanied Napoleon to the Congress of Erfurt (1808), secretly worked in Austria's rather than Napoleon's interest by persuading the Russian Czar Alexander I to oppose Napoleon's designs against Austria. He also had a hand in bringing about Napoleon's marriage to Marie Louise, daughter of the Austrian emperor Francis I in 1810. Napoleon's attack on Russia (1812) completed Talleyrand's alienation from the French emperor.

Talleyrand and the Restoration

When the allies entered Paris in 1814, Talleyrand persuaded them to restore the Bourbons in the person of Louis XVIIILouis XVIII,
1755–1824, king of France (1814–24), brother of King Louis XVI. Known as the comte de Provence, he fled (1791) to Koblenz from the French Revolution and intrigued to bring about foreign intervention against the revolutionaries.
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, who made him foreign minister. He negotiated the first Treaty of Paris of May, 1814, by which France, despite the defeat, was granted the French borders of 1792. He represented France at the Congress of Vienna (see Vienna, Congress ofVienna, Congress of,
Sept., 1814–June, 1815, one of the most important international conferences in European history, called to remake Europe after the downfall of Napoleon I.
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) of 1814–15, where he scored his greatest diplomatic triumphs. Winning the European powers to his principle of "legitimacy," namely, the restoration of Europe to its prerevolutionary status, and shrewdly exploiting the dissension among the allies, he succeeded in taking part in the negotiations on equal terms with the principal victorious powers.

Talleyrand remained in Vienna during the Hundred Days but resigned in Sept., 1815, shortly after the second Bourbon Restoration—according to his memoirs because of his opposition to the second Treaty of Paris of Nov., 1815, but in all probability because of pressure from the ultraroyalist chamber on Louis XVIII to dismiss him. In 1830, Louis PhilippeLouis Philippe
, 1773–1850, king of the French (1830–48), known before his accession as Louis Philippe, duc d'Orléans. The son of Philippe Égalité (see Orléans, Louis Philippe Joseph, duc d'), he joined the army of the French Revolution,
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, whom he had helped to power, offered him the portfolio of foreign affairs, but Talleyrand preferred to serve as ambassador to London. He resigned in 1834, after having achieved the recognition of Belgium (1831) and signed the Quadruple AllianceQuadruple Alliance,
any of several European alliances. The Quadruple Alliance of 1718 was formed by Great Britain, France, the Holy Roman emperor, and the Netherlands when Philip V of Spain, guided by Cardinal Alberoni, sought by force to nullify the peace settlements reached
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 of 1834.

Assessment

The prototype of the witty, cynical diplomat, Talleyrand has been either exalted as the savior of Europe in 1815 or damned as an opportunist or even a traitor. His corruption was undeniable, and his pliability enabled him to hold power under the ancien régime, the Revolution, Napoleon, the Restoration, and the July Monarchy. Yet Talleyrand was a good European, and his policy was aimed consistently—and often courageously—at the peace and stability of Europe as a whole.

Bibliography

See his memoirs (1891–92; tr., 5 vol., 1891–92). The standard biography is by G. Lacour-Gayet (4 vol., 1928–30, in French). See also biographies by D. Cooper (1932, repr. 1958), E. Dard (tr. 1937), C. C. Brinton (1936, repr. 1963), J. F. Bernard (1973), J. Orieux (tr. 1974), and D. Lawday (2007).