Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand 1754-1838


Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand 1754-1838

One of the sturdiest hides in the history of French politics, Talleyrand exerted major influence over official European business from 1789 until 1834.

Image Above

Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Detail of the painting by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon

Metropolitan Museum of Art

This was a remarkably long time period stretching all the way from the
French Revolution to the reign of the Citizen King Louis-Philippe — an era of extreme political changes.

In other words, Talleyrand managed to stay in the saddle before, during, and after  Napoleon I. Not many men were able to accomplish the same.

Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand — Personality

Talleyrand had a sharp brain and wit. Although Talleyrand was said to have been able to appreciate the smart and beautiful things around him, he never lost sight of his aims.


Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand — Name, Family, and Roots

His full name was Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, and he was the Prince de Bénévent.


About the Talleyrands

  Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand's family had aristocratic roots but lacked its befitting wealth. However, the Talleyrands were very proud of their family tree.

Older spellings of the name Talleyrand are Taleyrand, Taleyran, Talieran, or Tailleran.

The name Talleyrand is of unknown origin and goes back to the 12th century. Some think it stems from a feudal tenure, others think it started as a nickname for soldiers (taille rangs = mow down the ranks) and eventually developed into a surname.

Here is the coat of arms of the Talleyrand-Périgords at their tomb at the cemetery of Auteuil — three rampant lions with crowns:

Talleyrand Coat of Arms
Photo Mu/Wiki

Re Que Diou = Rien Que Dieu, or Nothing but God, in other words Only God Above Us, a motto that reflects the proud mindset of the Talleyrands, especially in light of the fact that France was governed by an absolute monarch until 1792.

Talleyrand's paternal grandfather, Daniel-Marie-Anne, Marquis de Talleyrand-Périgord, Comte (count) de Grignols, was killed at the  Siege of Tournai.

Charles' father was Charles-Daniel, Comte (count) de Talleyrand-Périgord, who lived from June 16, 1734 - November 4, 1788, and made it to lieutenant general in the royal army.

Charles' mother was Alexandrine-Marie-Victoire-Eléonore de Damas d'Antigny, daughter of Joseph-François, Marquis d'Antigny, who died June 14, 1809.

The two married on January 12, 1751. Charles-Daniel was 16, Alexandrine was 22 years old at the time. They had four sons.

Their fist son was Alexandre-François-Jacques, born on January 18, 1752. Alex died at five years of age.

Their second son was Charles-Maurice.

Their third son was Archambauld-Joseph, born in 1762. Following his father's example, Archie became lieutenant general as well.

Their fourth son was Boson-Jacques, also lieutenant general, and later governor of Saint-Germain-en-Laye.


Charles married Catherine Noël Grand, nee Worlée. Born November 21, 1762.

In 1815, they separated.

Talleyrand had no legitimate children.


About the Périgords

  Périgord is a region in southern France, located between the cities Bordeaux and Limoges.

Way back when, the Petrocorii, or Petragorici, a Gallic tribe, dominated the area with headquarters at today's Perigueux. Then the Romans took over, followed by the Visigoths, after which the Merovingian kings moved in.

Guillaume de Périgord, is the first on record with the added surname Talleyrand (or Talairan.) In 1115, Guillaume became the Count of Perigord.

Here is the County of Périgord circled on a map showing France in 1328, just before the outbreak of the Hundred Years' War.

Map Location of Périgord, France 1328
Map Location of Périgord, France 1328
Click map to enlarge.


Some of the Talleyrands made it to Seigneur (Lord) de Grignols and Seigneur de Chalais.

For more details on this family tree see also  Comtes de La Marche & de Périgord.


About Bénévent

  Bénévent is the French name for the Italian city Benevento in southern Italy. Here is Benevento on a map, see red marker:

Map Location of Bénévent, or Benevento, in Italy
Map Location of Bénévent, or Benevento, in Italy
Google Map


What connections did Talleyrand have with Benevento?

In 1806, Napoleon called Benevento part of his realm, established a principality, and gave it to Talleyrand. We read,

"Wishing to testify to our Grand Chamberlain and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Talleyrand, our gratitude for the services he has rendered to our crown, we have resolved to transfer to him, as in fact we do transfer to him by these presents, the principality of Benevento, with the title of Prince and Duke of Benevento, to hold and fully to possess the same in full property and sovereignty as the immediate fief of our crown."

Given at our palace of St. Cloud,
5th of June, 1806


Formerly ruled by the Papacy, Pope Pius VII complained, of course. Here is Benevento's political situation on a map before it was annexed by Napoleon.

Map of Germany and Italy in 1803
1803 Germany and Italy

While Benevento was under Napoleon and Talleyrand, the map looked like this:

Map of Europe 1810: Napoleon's Power
1810 Europe: Napoleon's Power


In 1815, after the Congress of Vienna, Benevento was returned to the Church. However, the Pope could enjoy Benevento only until 1860, when its citizens voted to become part of a united Italy. But that was long after Talleyrand's death.

Here is a map of Italy after the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna in 1815:

The Unification of Italy, 1815-1870
1815-1870 Italy


Thus, Talleyrand carried his title Prince de Bénévent, or Prince of Benevento, only from 1806 - 1815.



Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand — Short Biography and Timeline


Talleyrand Under the Monarchy of King Louis XV (1715-1774)



February 2, 1754

Birth at 4, rue Garancière, Paris, France

Talleyrand was club-footed, his right foot was noticeably shorter than the other, a deformation that he might or might not have had from birth. Some say he had fallen when mounting a chest of drawers. Others say a servant of the house let him drop. Talleyrand's cousin said he had been born lame.

In any event, this handicap put a military career out of the question and he will go for a clerical profession.

1758 - 1760 Stays at his great-grandmother's at the Chalais Castle at Perigord.
1762 Collège d'Harcourt, Paris
1769 Goes to Reims (or Rheims) where his uncle Alexandre Angélique de Talleyrand-Périgord takes him under his wings.

Uncle Alexandre is employed as assistant to the archbishop of Reims, Charles Antoine de La Roche-Aymon, and wee Talleyrand gets employed to assist his uncle.

Reims was a pretty prestigious address. It was here where Joan of Arc witnessed the coronation of Charles VII in 1429.

Alexandre Angélique de Talleyrand-Périgord (1736-1821)
Alexandre Angélique de Talleyrand-Périgord (1736-1821)
L'Église Catholique à Paris


May 16, 1770 Marie Antoinette and Louis-Auguste are married at Versailles.
1770 Enters the seminary of Saint-Sulpice at Paris, a college for priesthood training.

Seminary of Saint-Sulpice, Paris
Former home of the always refreshing Margaret of Valois
Ministère de la Culture


Talleyrand Under the Monarchy of King Louis XVI (1774-1792)


1775 Expelled from Saint-Sulpice because of his affair with Dorothée Dorinville, in local theaters also known as Lucy.

Studies at the Sorbonne.

April 1775 Receives minor orders
June 11, 1775 Louis-Auguste is crowned King Louis XVI at the cathedral in Reims.
October 1775 The king nominates him abbot of Saint-Denis at Reims
1777 Uncle Alexandre becomes archbishop of Reims.
March 1778 Receives his degree in theology from the Sorbonne
December 1779 Ordained (admitted to the ministry of the Christian Church). The very next day uncle Alexandre makes him vicar general.

The Catholic Encyclopedia explains "vicar general" as follows:

The highest official of a diocese after the ordinary. He is a cleric legitimately deputed to exercise generally the Episcopal jurisdiction in the name of the bishop, so that his acts are reputed the acts of the bishop himself.

1780 Appointed general agent of the clergy of France. He will hold this important office for eight years.

The general agent represented the French church in its dealings with the French government.

November 1788 Appointed bishop of Autun.
March 15, 1789 Starts his job as Bishop of Autun.

Here is Autun on a map:

Map Location Autun - Ecclesiastical France 1789/1802
Map Location Autun - Ecclesiastical France 1789/1802
Click to enlarge.

May 5, 1789 États-généraux = Estates-General at Versailles = the representative assembly of the three estates: the Clergy, the Nobles, and the Third Estate (the commoners), which represented the majority of the people.

The assembly had not met in France since 1614.

Talleyrand was elected deputy for the clergy.

November 2, 1789 Nationalization, as recommended by Talleyrand, was voted.
July 12, 1790 Talleyrand succeeds in having the Constitution Civile du Clergé (Civil Constitution of the Clergy) adopted, which, without papal approval, completely reorganized the French church.

The Pope fires Talleyrand from Church.

January 1791 Elected administrator of the département of Paris
January 1792 Arrives in London as diplomat with the assignment to convince the British to remain neutral.
April 20, 1792 France declares war on Austria
April 29, 1792 Talleyrand and Chauvelin arrive at London.
May 25, 1792 British government issues a declaration of neutrality
June 20, 1792 Storming of the Tuileries palace
July 5, 1792 Talleyrand leaves London
August 10, 1792 Overthrow of the monarchy

Talleyrand in the First Republic -
The National Convention (1792-1795)


September 1792 Massacre of royalist prisoners.

Leaves Paris direction London as private citizen.

September 18, 1792 Arrives in London
January 1793 Execution of Louis XVI
January 1794 Expelled from London
March 1794 Travels to the United States, remains there for two years.
July 1794 Maximilien Robespierre's downfall

Talleyrand in the First Republic - The Directory (1795-1799)

September 1796 Back in Paris
July 1797 Foreign minister
October 1797 Treaty of Campo Formio
1797-1800 The XYZ Affair / The Quasi War

Talleyrand resigns


Talleyrand in the First Republic -
The Consulate / Napoleon (1799-1804)

Nov. 9–10, 1799 Napoleon's coup d'état makes him top dog
November 22, 1799 Talleyrand again foreign minister
July 1801 Concordat of 1801 between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII, which reestablished religious peace.
1802 Napoleon now consul for life
May 1803 Renewal of war between France and England

Talleyrand under the First Empire of
Napoleon I Bonaparte (1804-1814 / 1815)

May 18, 1804 Napoleon now Emperor. Talleyrand now Grand Chamberlain.
August 1807 Talleyrand resigns, Napoleon accepts.
September 1808 Accompanies Napoleon to a congress of European sovereigns at Erfurt, Prussia

Talleyrand Under the Monarchy of King Louis XVIII (1814-1824)


March 31, 1814 Allies enter Paris
May 13, 1814 Louis XVIII appoints Talleyrand foreign minister
1814–15 Talleyrand is France's representative at the Congress of Vienna
March 20, 1815
- July 8, 1815
Hundred Days.
Talleyrand in Vienna during the Hundred Days.
July 1815 Second Restoration of Louis XVIII
? Talleyrand forced to resign

Talleyrand Under the Monarchy of King Charles X (1814-1824)


1817 Uncle Alexandre becomes Archbishop of Paris and cardinal.
? - 1829 Retirement, writes his memoirs. Then becomes active again to remove Charles X and to get Louis-Philippe established.

Talleyrand Under the Monarchy of King Louis-Philippe (1830-1848)


1830 - 1834 Louis-Philippe July Monarchy

Talleyrand Ambassador to London

April 22, 1834 Quadruple Alliance regarding the thrones of Spain and Portugal
May 17, 1838 Death at Paris, France



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