Talleyrand: The Life and Legacy of France’s Most Influential Diplomat Talleyrand: The Life and Legacy of France’s Most Influential Diplomat

Talleyrand: The Life and Legacy of France’s Most Influential Diplomat

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Publisher Description

“Politics is the systematic cultivation of hatred.” - Talleyrand

While Metternich is most associated with the Congress of Vienna, France, despite its turbulence, had its own influential representative there: Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord. Known simply as Talleyrand, his name ultimately became associated with crafty, manipulative personal and political maneuvering, even in a country that suffered no shortage of such diplomats and ministers in its history.

As an adult, Talleyrand lived through the most tumultuous years of French history. In a period of little more than 40 years, France passed through five very different periods of rule, but despite the chaos these rapid changes brought, Talleyrand served in important roles in each successive new regime and, through a combination of charm, guile, intelligence, ability, and duplicity, played a leading role in undermining and destroying each.

Under the Ancien Régime, the social and political system by which France had been ruled since the Middle Ages, Talleyrand became a bishop. When the French Revolution tore the nation apart, Talleyrand betrayed both the church and the French Monarchy and became Foreign Minister for the Directory, the governing committee of the French First Republic. In 1799, he betrayed the Republic by helping to organize the coup d'état that would see Napoleon Bonaparte become the absolute dictator of France.

Talleyrand became extremely rich and very powerful under Napoleon, until he wearied of his new leader and betrayed him by selling secrets to his enemies. Talleyrand was one of the key people involved in the plot to remove Napoleon from power and pave the way for the Bourbon Restoration that brought Louis XVIII to the French throne in 1814. He was also a significant factor in the undermining of that regime and its replacement in 1830 during another revolution by a new constitutional monarchy.

Steve Knupp
hr min
December 6
Charles River Editors

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