- Talleyrand-Périgord, Charles Maurice de
- (1754–1838)A remarkable French foreign minister, with many political lives, serving in turn governments during the French Revolution, the First Empire, and the Bourbon restoration. Born in Paris into an aristocratic family, he was sent to the seminary at Saint-Sulpice where he took holy orders in 1779. He was consecrated bishop of Autun a decade later and became politically involved in the French Revolution. In July 1792, the government sent him on a diplomatic mission to London, but while away he was condemned as a traitor and took refuge in the United States until 1795. Through connections with Paul Barras, he was appointed foreign minister in July 1797 and the next year proposed the sending of an expedition to Egypt to threaten British interests in India. He resigned from office in July 1798 when he failed to prevent the formation of a Second Coalition of powers against France. Offering strong support to Napoleon Bonaparte during the young general’s coup d’état of November 1799, Talleyrand was reinstated as foreign minister shortly thereafter. He was instrumental in arranging the Concordat of 1801 with the pope, negotiated the Treaty of Amiens with Britain in 1802, and helped establish the Confederation of the Rhine in 1806. In the wake of the Treaty of Tilsit, in which Napoleon made peace with Russia and Prussia, Talleyrand began to distant himself from his emperor’s policies, and he left his post in August 1807.Napoleon nevertheless continued to consult with Talleyrand, who strongly opposed French intervention in Spanish internal affairs, especially the emperor’s decision to remove King Charles IV and Crown Prince Ferdinand from power. After a heated exchange with Napoleon in January 1809, in which the emperor accused him of treachery, Talleyrand lost his post of grand chamberlain of the court, although he continued to exercise some influence over imperial affairs through his role as vice grand elector. By the time invading forces neared Paris in 1814, Talleyrand had already established secret communication with the sovereigns accompanying Allied headquarters. Having assembled some of Napoleon’s disaffected marshals to discuss their emperor’s abdication, Talleyrand then entertained Tsar Alexander of Russia, whose influence led to Talleyrand’s taking charge of the provisional government, which reached an agreement with the restored Bourbon king, Louis XVIII.Talleyrand was created a prince and appointed foreign minister, once again, in May 1814.In short order, he represented the new regime at the Congress of Vienna, where he virtually single handedly restored his defeated country to the status of a Great Power by playing one victor off against the other to secure concessions for France. After Napoleon’s second abdication in 1815, Talleyrand served as prime minister for a few months before retiring to his estate to write his much-biased memoirs, which only appeared in print long after his death. During the revolution of 1830, Talleyrand returned to Paris to aid Louis Philippe’s accession to power. He served as ambassador to Britain from September 1830 to August 1834.See also <
>; < >.FURTHER READING:Copper, Duff. Talleyrand. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001;Dwyer, Philip. Talleyrand. London: Longman, 2002;Lawday, David. Napoleon ’ s Master: A Life of Prince Talleyrand. London: Jonathan Cape, 2006.GREGORY FREMONT-BARNES
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.