Talleyrand-Périgord, Charles-Maurice de

   Born in Paris, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, one of French history's most important statesmen and better known as Talleyrand, became lame as the result of a childhood accident and could not therefore enter the military. While not having a religious vocation, he was still destined for an ecclesiastical career. Educated at the seminary of Saint-Sulpice and ordained a priest, his aristocratic background allowed him to obtain an abbey in the diocese of Reims, and in 1780 he became an agent-general for the French clergy and in 1788, bishop of Autun. He was elected deputy for his class to the estates general in 1789 and, acquainted with the writings of the philosophes and open to their ideas, at the beginning of the meetings (and of the revolution of 1789) supported the joining of the three Estates, and subsequently played a preponderant role in the National Constituent Assembly, where he voted to put the church's property at the disposal of the nation. During the festival of the National Federation, he celebrated mass on the Champ du Mars (July 14, 1790). While he did not take a direct role in the drafting of the civil constitution of the Clergy, he was one of the first to take an oath to it and became the leader of the constitutional clergy, after resigning from his see at Autun. Condemned as a schismatic by the pope, he left the church shortly thereafter. under the new Legislative Assembly, he began what would be a long diplomatic career. Sent to Great Britain to secure that country's neutrality, he was accused, after August 10, 1792, of having intrigued in London for the duke of orléans. After trying to defend himself, left again for Great Britain in September 1792 and was put on the list of émigrés. After spending time in the united States, he returned to France with his mistress, Mme Grand (whom he married in 1803) after the fall of maximilien Robespierre. Thanks to paul barras, Talleyrand was made minister of foreign relations, a post that he kept after the coup d'état of 18 Brumaire (November 9, 1799), which he helped to carry out, and in spite of the charges of embezzlement that were made against him during the directory period. The inspiration for the Organic Articles in the concordat of 1801 and for the treaties negotiated at Lunéville, Amiens, Pressburg, and Tilsit, he was successively grand chamberlain (1804), prince of Benevento (1806), then vice-grand elector (1807), giving up his ministerial post. Having plotted with joseph fouché against napoléon i, in 1809 he fell into disgrace. Leader of the provisional government in 1814, he helped to gain the Senate vote that removed Napoléon and called louis XV III to power. Restored to his position as foreign minister, he negotiated the Treaty of Paris (May 1814) and took part in the Congress of Vienna, where he was able, through his intrigues, to divide the Allies and limit the excessive demands of Prussia and Russia on France, diplomatic efforts that were in a great part rendered in vain by the episode of the hundred days. President of the Council at the beginning of the Second restoration (July 1815), he was forced to resign shortly after because of the opposition of the ultraroyalists. As a member of the House of Peers, he played only a minor role, siding with the opposition to the government. Supporting the Orléans branch during the revolution of 1830, he was named ambassador to Great Britain by king louis-philippe and took part in the Conference of London (1830-31, dedicated in large part to the Belgian question) and in meetings regarding issues in iberia. intelligent and cultivated but greedy for gain and apparently little bothered by moral scruples, in diplomacy Talleyrand kept the impassive face of a great lord and the bearing of his ecclesiastical background. Gifted with prodigious foresight, it was said that although he "often changed his party, he never changed his opinion."

France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present . 1884.

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