Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Prince de Benevento (Biographical details)

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Prince de Benevento (cleric/religious official; politician/statesman; official; French; Male; 1754 - 1838)

Also known as

Talleyrand-Périgord, Charles Maurice de; Talleyrand, Charles Maurice de; Benevento; Talleyrand; Autun


Diplomat; a club foot prevented Talleyrand from following the family tradition of a career in the army. He was therefore directed by his parents towards the church and he entered the seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Paris in 1770. Soon after receiving minor orders in 1775, he was made abbot of Saint-Denis at Reims. He was ordained and appointed vicar general in December 1779. The following year he was appointed agent general of the clergy, a post that represented the Church in dealing with the French government. His activities in this post earned him the bishopric of Autun in 1788. At the meeting of the States General at Versailles in May 1789, Talleyrand attracted attention in urging for the repeal of the titles and for the nationalization of church property. He became known as one of the most revolutionary deputies of the National Assembly and succceeded in passing the Civil Constitution of the Clergy which completely reorganized the French Church on a democratic basis. He consecrated the first bishops in accordance with this new constitution, which was without the papal approval, and Talleyrand was excommunicated as a result. Elected as administrator of the département of Paris in 1791, he resigned from the bishopric of Autun.
The overthrow of the French monarchy in August 1792 made it necessary for Talleyrand to leave Paris, and having failed to persuade the British government not to join the coalition with Austria and Prussian against France, he was expelled from Britain in 1794. Upon his return from the United States in 1796, he took the seat in the Institut National and was shortly afterwards made Foreign Minister. He confirmed Napoleon (q.v.)'s Treaty of Campo Formio (October 1797). He resigned after two years as Foreign Minister, having failed on a number of policies. He then supported Napoleon's Consulate and returned to the Foreign ministry a few months later. He held the post until 1807 and engaged in secret negotiations to have Napoleon deposed. He became one of the five heads of the new government in 1814 which recalled Louis XVIII (q.v.) to the throne. Talleyrand was later instrumental in the overthrow of Charles X (q.v.) and the accession of Louis Philippe (q.v.) in 1830. As Ambassador to England from 1830 to 1834, he played an important role in the negotiations between Britain and France that created the neutral kingdom of Belgium. His diplomatic career was crowned with the signing of an alliance between France, Britain, Spain and Portugal in 1834.