Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

97

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord : biography

2 February 1754 – 17 May 1838

In popular culture

  • In 1995, then Prime Minister of Australia Paul Keating compared then Australian Leader of the Opposition John Howard regaining the Liberal leadership to Talleyrand.
" ….. Here he is (John Howard) politically limping in like the Bishop of Autun, the Talleyrand of the Liberal Party, scraping his way back into Australian history." 2 February 1995
  • "Talleyrand" is the pen-name of a satirical columnist in The University Observer.
  • Sacha Guitry played Talleyrand in his 1948 film The Lame Devil (Le Diable boiteux), a fictionalized account of Talleyrand’s life. He later reprised the role in the 1955 film Napoléon.
  • In 1993 film The Three Musketeers, Cardinal de Richelieu says to Queen Anne: Remember, Kings come and Kings go but one thing remains the same. And that is me., a sentence inspired by "Regimes may fall and fail, but I do not."
  • Talleyrand was played by John Malkovich in the TV mini-series Napoléon from 2002. For his performance John Malkovich was nominated for an Emmy in 2003 as "Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie".
  • In the RTS game Rise of Nations, Talleyrand is featured as a bonus card for the French nation. He has the ability to force an alliance or declare war for one turn.

Private Life

Talleyrand had a reputation as a voluptuary and a womaniser. He left no legitimate children, though he may have fathered illegitimate ones. Four possible children of his have been identified: Charles Joseph, comte de Flahaut, generally accepted to be an illegitimate son of Talleyrand; the painter Eugène Delacroix, once rumoured to be Talleyrand’s son, though this is doubted by historians who have examined the issue (for example, Léon Noël, French ambassador); the "Mysterious Charlotte", possibly his daughter by his future wife, Catherine Worlée Grand; and Pauline, ostensibly the daughter of the Duke and Duchess Dino. Of these four, only the first is given credence by historians.

Aristocratic women were a key component of Talleyrand’s political tactics, both for their influence and their ability to cross borders unhindered. His presumed lover Germaine de Staël was a major influence on him, and he on her. Though their personal philosophies were most different, (she, a romantic; he, very much of baroque sensibilities), she assisted him greatly, most notably by lobbying Barras to permit Talleyrand to return to France from his American exile, and then to have him made foreign minister. He lived with Catherine Worlée, born in India and married there to Charles Grand. She had traveled about before settling in Paris in the 1780s, where she lived as a notorious courtesan for several years before divorcing Grand to marry Talleyrand. Talleyrand was in no hurry to marry, and it was after repeated postponements that Napoleon obliged him in 1802 to formalize the relationship or risk his political career. Spite has lastingly accused Worlée of stupidity, unjustly. After her death in 1834, Talleyrand lived with Dorothea von Biron, the divorced wife of his nephew, the Duke of Dino.

Talleyrand’s venality was celebrated; in the tradition of the ancien régime, he expected to be paid for the state duties he performed—whether these can properly be called "bribes" is open to debate. For example, during the German Mediatisation, the consolidation of the small German states, a number of German rulers and elites paid him to save their possessions or enlarge their territories. Less successfully, he solicited payments from the United States government to open negotiations, precipitating a diplomatic disaster (the "XYZ Affair"). The difference between his diplomatic success in Europe and failure with the United States illustrates that his diplomacy rested firmly on the power of the French army that was a terrible threat to the German states within reach, but lacked the logistics to threaten the USA not the least because of the Royal Navy domination of the seas. After Napoleon’s defeat, he withdrew claims to the title "Prince of Benevento", but was created Duke of Talleyrand with the style "Prince de Talleyrand" for life, in the same manner as his estranged wife.Bernard, p. 266, 368 fn. Described by biographer Philip Ziegler as a "pattern of subtlety and finesse" and a "creature of grandeur and guile",The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History by Philip Bobbitt (2002), chp 21 Talleyrand was a great conversationalist, gourmet, and wine connoisseur. From 1801 to 1804, he owned Château Haut-Brion in Bordeaux. He employed the renowned French chef Carême, one of the first celebrity chefs known as the "chef of kings and king of chefs", and was said to have spent an hour every day with him.J.A.Gere and John Sparrow (ed.), Geoffrey Madan’s Notebooks, Oxford University Press, 1981, at page 12 His Paris residence on the Place de la Concorde, acquired in 1812 and sold to James Mayer de Rothschild in 1838, is now owned by the Embassy of the United States.