Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

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Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, 1st Prince de Bénévente (French pronunciation: [ʃaʁl moʁis də tal(ɛ)ʁɑ̃ peʁiɡɔʁ]; 2 February 1754[1]  – 17 May 1838) was a French diplomat. He worked successfully from the regime of Louis XVI, through the French Revolution and then under Napoleon I, Louis XVIII, Charles X, and Louis-Philippe. Known since the turn of the 19th century simply by the name Talleyrand, he remains a figure that polarizes opinion. Some regard him as one of the most versatile, skilled and influential diplomats in European history, and some believe that he was a traitor, betraying in turn, the Ancien Régime, the French Revolution, Napoleon, and the Restoration.


Early life

Talleyrand was born into an aristocratic family in Paris. A congenital leg limp left him unable to enter the expected military career and caused him to be called later le diable boiteux[2] (French for "the lame devil") among other nicknames. Deprived of his rights of primogeniture by a family council, which judged his physical condition incompatible with the traditional military careers of the Talleyrand Counts of Périgord, he was instead directed to an ecclesiastic career. This was considerably assisted and encouraged by his uncle Alexandre Angélique de Talleyrand-Périgord, then Roman Catholic Archbishop of Reims. It would appear that the family, while prestigious and ancient, was not particularly prosperous, and saw church positions as a way to gain wealth. He attended the Collège d'Harcourt and seminary of Saint-Sulpice[3] until the age of 21. He was ordained a priest in 1779. In 1780, he became a Catholic-church representative to the French Crown, the Agent-General of the Clergy. In this position, he was instrumental in drafting a general inventory of church properties in France as of 1785, along with a defence of "inalienable rights of church", a stance he was to deny later. In 1789, because of the influence of his father and family, the already notably non-believing Talleyrand was appointed Bishop of Autun.

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