Talleyrand, The Prince of diplomats

Publications concerning Talleyrand since 1928

avec l'accord de la Fondation Napoléon.

by Philip G. Dwyer



 The Dutch historian, Pieter Geyl, said once that, "in the purely political arena" the only figure to have held on to his rank in history during the Napoleonic era, apart from Napoleon himself of course, was Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord and he intended to include a chapter on the prince in his famous work Napoleon For and Against (Harmondsworth, 1949).(1) Talleyrand was, without a doubt, one of the most remarkable figures in the history of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, and certainly one of the most controversial. He was one of a rare breed capable of occupying a wide range of positions in politics and society, both in his public and private life. To a certain extent, he was representative of his era, whether taking on the mantel of the Ancien Régime, as an aristocrat working for the Revolution, or as lord of the Château de Valençay during the Restoration. However, it is the most important of these roles, Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Directoire, the Consulate, the Empire and the Restoration, for which he is of course remembered. A recent book published as part of Michel Poniatowski's ambitious series enables to review the bibliography concerning Talleyrand, assess the contributions which these works can make to our knowledge, and suggest research guidelines.
The study by Lacour-Gayet, the standard work on Talleyrand, is the basis for this review.(2) The four volumes which appeared between 1928 and 1934 and which took seventeen years to complete, were greeted at the time as the final word on the subject. And whilst it is by far the most complete study concerning Talleyrand, it contains many defects. Indeed, despite the fact that the preface assures us of the author's impartiality, Lacour-Gayet demonstrates an obvious hostility with regard to Talleyrand and seems to have been guided by a sort of moral indignation. However, more importantly, he seems to have lacked insight into Talleyrand's character and, in general, the work, which reads like a collection of essays, is too long, based only on French sources, and draws doubtful conclusions. In conclusion, the work is a typical example of a biography which explains the political attitude of Talleyrand by referring to his alleged lack of moral principles.Despite the interest shown in Talleyrand's diplomatic and political career since publication of the work by Lacour-Gayet, it can be said that no biographer has been found for him comparable to Heinrich von Srbik or Enno Kraehe for Metternich, or Charles Webster for Castlereagh.(3) One is struck by the absence of serious analysis, by the number of anecdotes and by the fact that most of the historians of the Revolution and the Empire completely ignored him.(4) It could also be added that, among those who have studied Talleyrand, none have succeeded in understanding his ambiguous, elusive character. Almost all of them have been impressed by the quantity of exceptional exploits which marked his career. However, very few openly admire his character and some of them question his reputation as a diplomat.(5) As there is a significant amount of information concerning his life, the differences of opinion are not based on what he may or may not have done (although there remain some questions concerning his participation in certain events during the Imperial era, in particular concerning his role in the assassination of the Duc d'Enghien and the invasion of Spain), but the interpretation of his motives. The source of these interpretations often lies in abstract and moral concepts such as faithfulness, treachery and hypocrisy. Most of those who are against Talleyrand object to the fact that he survived so many of the governments, whereas he believed in none of them, that he was an opportunist and that he was a man with no principles, or at least that he altered his principles in order to adapt to the government in power. From this point of view, a man with no principles is one of history's culprits. On the other hand, there exist works where Talleyrand is described as a man guided by a political ideal.(6) Although few works written before 1945 fit into this category, it is certain that there is a trend among more recent biographers, to interpret the action and motives of Talleyrand in a more kindly manner. 

Attempts at rehabilitation

Let us now turn to these works. After the condemnation by Lacour-Gayet, a certain number of historians have attempted what could be called a rehabilitation. The first of them was Y. Guyomard in an essay entitled Le secret de Talleyrand (Cherbourg, 1934). Guyomard claimed Talleyrand was resolutely in favour of peace and equilibrium in Europe and that he pursued the same political goals all through his career. This book was followed up by an essay written by the great-grandnephew of Talleyrand, Jean de Castellane, Talleyrand, Le diplomate et le gentilhomme, vu par l'un des siens (Paris, 1934). It is a pleasant account, although over-favourable and somewhat lacking in precision, which, without going into too many details, attempts to depict the man and his political philosophy. It probably contains the most complete collection of quotations of Talleyrand's own words.

Anglo-American historians have generally treated Talleyrand more favourably, but it was not until the publication by Duff Cooper, Talleyrand (New York, 1932) that an adequate work appeared in English. Cooper's work, in which Talleyrand is depicted as a capable diplomat, but somewhat cunning, is probably the most widely-read biography in English and was for a long time considered to be one of the best studies available. Although it is out of date and can be categorised as "anecdotal" it is still worth reading for its entertaining style. After Cooper, the best-known contribution is that of Crane Brinton, The Lives of Talleyrand (New York, 1936). The work demonstrates the author's attitude towards the character of Talleyrand. All in all, it is well-written and favourable to Talleyrand while, however, criticising him, and is based on a thematic rather than chronological approach. It has probably done more than any other work to save Talleyrand from criticism of his morality. Certainly, there are numerous imperfections which spoil the work. One of the main themes is the "kindness" of Talleyrand; the first and last chapters, which are dedicated to it, are wordy, as is the chapter which analyses Talleyrand as a politician and moralist. Though out of date, it is worth reading for its psychological keenness and as one of the few studies which places the subject in a suitable intellectual and political context.

Overall, Anglo-American historians have paid very little attention to Talleyrand and it was almost forty years before another work came out in English, by Jack F. Bernard, Talleyrand: A Biography (New York, 1973). Although inaccurate in places and coloured by the author's tendency to exaggerate the extent of Talleyrand's contribution, it is highly readable and a good introduction to the subject. However, as a scientific work it is spoiled by the lack of critical analysis and archive research. Furthermore, the sections concerning Napoleon and international relations are sometimes weak. Nonetheless, it is the best work available in the English language, and twenty years after its publication has yet to be replaced.

The "popular" French tradition

The "popular" French tradition, which dominated the approach to studies on Talleyrand in the nineteenth century continues to the present day. None of the recent bibliographies have increased our knowledge and most of them can be regarded as having no value from an academic viewpoint. Gérard Sellier's Humeurs et humour de Monsieur de Talleyrand (Paris, 1992), which deals with Talleyrand's humour, is, by definition, anecdotal and the work of an amateur historian. The book by André Beau, Talleyrand: chronique indiscrète de la vie d'un prince: Consulat, Empire, Restauration (Paris, 1992) is a little more interesting because the author uses a number of unpublished sources to describe the life of Talleyrand at the Château of Valençay. However, the book remains essentially anecdotal. The work of François Bonneau Les Princes d'Espagne à Valençay ou l'Espagne humiliée (Châteauroux, 1986) is quite a well-researched account of life at the Château de Valençay during the period when the princes of the Asturias resided there (1809-1812). However, the work suffers from a lack of references and bibliography.

Two studies, one by Jean Orieux, Talleyrand ou le sphinx incompris (Paris, 1970), the other by André Castelot, Talleyrand ou le cynisme (Paris, 1980), the principal quality of which is to make Talleyrand accessible to the general public, are both based on a wide reading of literature concerning Talleyrand. Orieux's book has the advantage of being a real literary success. The work by Castelot is clear and reads well. Unfortunately, Orieux presents Talleyrand in a very cynical light and his book contains so many inaccuracies that it is of little historical value. One of the most recent works, Talleyrand: une mystification historique by Georges-Albert Morlot (Paris, 1991), contains little of any interest, sheds no new light on the subject and depends heavily on the memoires of people hostile to Talleyrand, such as Thiers. What is more serious is the fact that the author seems unaware of the interesting research carried out by English language writers since 1945.

Michel Poniatowski

The work of Michel Poniatowski, a completely different genre, draws copiously on documents and contemporary accounts. So far, five books have come out: Talleyrand aux Etats-Unis (Paris 1967); Talleyrand et le Directoire (Paris 1982); Talleyrand et le Consulat (Paris 1986); Talleyrand et l'Ancienne France (Paris 1988), and, the latest one, Talleyrand, Les années occultées, 1789-1792, (Paris 1995).(7) These books examine Talleyrand's career in intricate detail and, as Poniatowski has not yet started on either the Empire or the Restoration, other tomes can be expected in the future. Unfortunately these books consist of a narrative studded with long quotations taken from various newspapers and sources which have already been published. This approach will no doubt guarantee their status as reference works, however they are aimed only at the most fervent Talleyrand "fans". Although Poniatowski has clearly conducted archive research, he seems to avoid any analysis of personality or facts, with the exception of his most recent book where he adopts a much more than usually critical attitude to Talleyrand. However, there is every reason to suggest, in this particular case, that the author is using Talleyrand to express his conservative views of the Revolution.

Talleyrand's ecclesiastical career

One of the rare studies which has increased our knowledge of Talleyrand centres on his ecclesiastical career: Talleyrand, Statesman Priest. The Agent-General of the Clergy and the Church of France at the End of the Old Regime (Washington 1970) by Louis S. Greenbaum. This book is without a doubt the best one to have emerged for many years and practically replaces all of the preceding literature concerning the beginning of his career. Based on archive documents, it again sheds light on Talleyrand's role as an agent general of the clergy, a position he held between 1780 and 1785. Greenbaum shows us a model agent general, who worked to protect the rights of the clergy against the inroads of the monarchy. Talleyrand's most important contribution was the setting up of a plan adopted towards the end of his term of office, the purpose of which was to consolidate the church. Greenbaum also published a certain number of articles about Talleyrand the priest before publishing his book, as with: "Talleyrand and His Uncle: The Genesis of a Clerical Career", Journal of Modern History (1957), pp. 226-236, which revises the idea of a Talleyrand destined for an ecclesiastical career because of a decision taken by his parents, attributing the decision to the personal ambition of his uncle, who was determined to build an ecclesiastical empire: "Talleyrand and the Temporal problems of the French Church from 1780 to 1785", French Historical Studies, 3 (1963), pp. 41-71, which shows how Talleyrand, as an agent general, upheld the rights of the Church against the monarchy; "Talleyrand as Agent General of the Clergy of France: A Study in Comparative Influence", Catholic Historical Review, 48 (1963) pp. 473-486, which is an appraisal of Talleyrand's successes during his period as agent general, and which confirms that he alone was responsible for them; and "Ten Priests in Search of a Mitre: How Talleyrand Became a Bishop", Catholic Historical Review, 50 (1964) pp. 307-331, which contests the opinion that Talleyrand was refused by the bishopric because of his scandalous behaviour and demonstrates that "institutional and ecclesiastical considerations" played a much more important role. Despite the importance of the findings of his research, Greenbaum would appear to have been totally ignored by French historians. However, the implications for future research into Talleyrand are important, since Greenbaum depicts him as hardworking, ambitious, and even obeying moral principles, which contrasts sharply with the dissolute image of so many biographers. It would be interesting to know where this difference between the image of Talleyrand before and after the Revolution comes from, and to examine to what extent he himself may have encouraged this portrait of a lazy and frivolous man not over-concerned with scruples, a gambler and a womaniser.

His stay in the United States

The only book which deals with Talleyrand's period of exile in the United States is the one by Michel Poniatowski, Talleyrand aux Etats-Unis, 1794-1796. Although relatively well written, it is somewhat superficial and begs the question of whether it was worthwhile dedicating a whole book to the subject. It is also possible to consult the collection of documents concerning Talleyrand's financial activities during his stay in North America: Hans Huth and Wilma J. Pught, Talleyrand in America as a financial promoter, 1794-96 (Washington 1942). There also exist two American theses written at about the same time, though these are somewhat disappointing: Edwin Rockefeller Baldrige Jr., Talleyrand in the United States, 1794-1796 (University of Lehigh, 1963), which, at least, has the merit of having refuted a few false ideas about his stay there - Talleyrand did not buy a piece of land and he did not make a fortune through speculation; there is also the work by John L. Earl III, Talleyrand in America. A study of his exile in the United States 1794-1796 (University of Georgetown, 1964), which has the merit of being a little more profound than that of Baldwin, while covering the same subject. Neither of these two theses use archive sources and, in the case of Poniatowski's book, we may well ask whether the subject is suitable for in-depth study. Earl has published the results of his research in an article entitled "Talleyrand in Philadelphia, 1794-1796", Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 91 (1967), pp 282-298, which constitutes a well-researched exposé of his stay in America.

His role during the Revolution

Two studies trace Talleyrand's role during the Revolution, an aspect of his life generally been neglected by historians: the thesis by Peter V. Curl, Talleyrand and the Revolution Nobiliaire (University of Cornell, 1951) and Talleyrand. Les années occultées by Michel Poniatowski. By far the most successful is Curl's work, which deals with the character of Talleyrand and focuses on his relations with Mirabeau, Calonne and Necker. He claims that Talleyrand's part in the Revolution was not simply a question of opportunism, as many historians have claimed, but that he was politically on the side of the revolutionaries. He explains that Talleyrand served six successive governments on the basis that the State was a "metaphysical concept" which had to be obeyed and served in the most enlightened manner possible. There is a particularly interesting chapter on Talleyrand's attempt to obtain the Ministry of Finance in 1789, and another concerning his relations with La Fayette, and yet another which is central to Curl's thesis, that is to say that Talleyrand apparently attempted to save the monarchy through a policy of national reconciliation and limited war. One of the major defects of this work however, is the total absence of archive sources. Poniatowski also points to Talleyrand's involvement in the revolutionary process and goes as far as claiming that he was one of the founders of the Revolution, with Mirabeau and La Fayette! He unjustly holds Talleyrand responsible for the schism in the church and nicknames him the "father of the constitutional Church". While other books by Poniatowski on Talleyrand tend to lack critical analysis, that presented in this book is much too simplistic and reduces the most complex issues to their simplest tenets. Overall, he condemns Talleyrand's motivation and behaviour, leaving the reader to believe that his attitude is compatible with the traditional view of French historians, who see Talleyrand as a traitor to his class, an idea first put forward by the historian Louis Madelin. It is perhaps not surprising that Poniatowski and Madelin, on opposite sides of the political spectrum, have something in common. Madelin was one of the few French academics specialising in the Revolution to explore Talleyrand, but his assessment in this area is limited to quite a short article dealing with the three years that Talleyrand spent at the National Assembly, the events leading up to the nationalisation of church property, and the schism which resulted from the civil constitution of the clergy. Madelin explains Talleyrand's behaviour at the beginning of the Revolution as having been motivated by personal ambition, a point of view which overlooks the complex role which the aristocracy played in the revolutionary process.(8)

The diplomat

Literary criticism mainly concerns the study of Talleyrand the diplomat. However, two principal and surprising trends must be distinguished between those who doubted Talleyrand's capacity to act as a diplomat, and who considered him a traitor to his country (this trend is particularly strong amongst French writers), and those who consider him as an able diplomat, indeed one of the greatest diplomats of the nineteenth century. The second of these two viewpoints has often been upheld by former diplomats, who felt an almost awed respect for Talleyrand's talents as a negotiator, often to the detriment of more important domestic and political factors. The diplomatic traditions and international policy which existed well before Talleyrand arrived on the scene are often not taken into consideration and it was only very much later, with historians like Sorel and Bourgeois, that a link was established between the obvious talent of Talleyrand and the traditional nature of the policy which he advocated.

Alfred Fabre-Luce is a good example of a diplomat who became a historian, intrigued by Talleyrand' personality.(9) Although the book does not reach the strict minimum required for a historical work, certain observations made by the author concerning the childhood of Talleyrand and his dissatisfaction with his career have been used as a basis for reassessing his life. Fabre-Luce puts forward the argument that Talleyrand did nothing, or practically nothing, to do away with an image which was unfavourable to himself. In fact, he was largely responsible for creating it. It is interesting to note that the author's opinion of Talleyrand completely changed over the years, as shown in the preface to a new edition of his book, published in 1969. In the first edition, Talleyrand was considered a good citizen with a certain number of weaknesses, which could be forgiven given his intelligence and the circumstances of his life, however this interpretation gave way to a portrait of Talleyrand as a gangster who by all accounts stole regularly, and who even considered using assassination as a political tool. Unfortunately, the author does not give any explanation as to the reasons for this turnaround.

Another diplomat who admired Talleyrand, the Count of Saint-Aulaire, a supporter of Action française, wrote a flattering biography published a few years before the centenary of the birth of Talleyrand.(10) He claims that Talleyrand was a political genius who sought to become indispensable for his political masters. He draws a parallel between his life and the career of Bonaparte. Unfortunately, the author has too great a tendency to wax lyrical, and too ready to excuse, rather than to analyse, the behaviour of his subject.

The diplomatic beginnings of Talleyrand's career go back to the Ancien Régime. Sometimes he is depicted as the successor of Vergennes, Minister of Foreign Affairs between 1774 and 1787, and sometimes as the successor of Mirabeau. In an article entitled "Talleyrand and Vergennes: The Debut of a Diplomat", Catholic Historical Review, 56 (1970) pp. 543-55°, the American historian, Louis Greenbaum, describes the situation prior to the exchange of letters between Talleyrand and Vergennes which was his introduction to the diplomatic world. He notes that because of the continuity in the art of governing, Talleyrand and Vergennes were very close. Talleyrand's involvement in the beginning of the Egyptian campaign is adequately discussed in the article by Alain Silvera, "Egypt and the French Revolution", Revue Française d'Histoire d'Outre-Mer, 69 (1982), pp. 307-322, while Carl Ludwig Lokke, "Pourquoi Talleyrand ne fut pas envoyé à Constantinople", Annales historiques de la Révolution française, 10 (1933), pp. 153-159, explains why Talleyrand abandoned his project to go to Constantinople as an ambassador. Talleyrand was expected to oversee the diplomatic aspect of the Egyptian expedition and was later accused by Lacour-Gayet of perfidy for having allowed Bonaparte to leave France with no intention of supporting him. However, as Lokke points out, although Talleyrand had been the Minister of Foreign Affairs, he was often treated as a civil servant by the other members of the Directoire and had no vote in the chapter to appoint the person who might occupy the vacant position in Constantinople.

The book by Emile Dard, Napoleon et Talleyrand (Paris, 1935), described as "brilliant" by Jean Savant, covers the period between 1797 and 1815 and studies the relationship between the two men. Despite some flaws in the description of Talleyrand's action and motivation, this work is valuable for the details it gives of Talleyrand as Minister of Foreign Affairs. However, the fact that the real relationship between these two men will always basically remain a mystery must be pointed out, as correspondence available to historians is correspondence of an official nature, revealing little of their inner thoughts and feelings. Dard's work was the first to reveal the extent to which Talleyrand betrayed military secrets to the Allies,  fact running runs counter to the impression which Lacour-Gayer gives of Talleyrand as a servant of Napoleon. The thesis of Peter Hans Olden, Napoleon und Talleyrand. Die französiche Politik während des Feldzugs in Deutschland 1805 (University of Tübingen, 1927), may also be mentioned, as it concerns the divergent military goals of Talleyrand and Napoleon during the 1805 campaign. Olden bases his thesis on a known report by Talleyrand, written in October 1805 in Strasbourg, in which he urges Napoleon to enter into a moderate peace with Austria. Edward A. Whitcomb, on the other hand, refuses to take this report at face value, and severely criticises it in his book concerning Napoleon's diplomatic services, concluding that "the famous report by Talleyrand of 1805 was not moderate, and it did not ensure European peace; it did not require a balance of power and it was not practical".(11) Paul Schroeder raises an interesting point in his article, "Napoleon's Foreign Policy: A Criminal Enterprise?", Journal of Military History, 54 (1990) pp. 157, when he puts forward the argument that to judge Talleyrand's Strasbourg report on its merits as a practical solution for France's problems is missing the point. What it shows, above all, are the fundamental differences which existed between Talleyrand and Napoleon. Talleyrand, according to Schroeder, "took it for granted that a permanent place and a role for Austria should be found within the international system, and he tried to come up with one which would please Napoleon. Napoleon, very much a criminal with respect to international politics, clearly did not see why he should be obliged to grant any role whatsoever to Austria". A more recent study into the relationship between Talleyrand and Napoleon is set out in Barbara Norman Makanowitzky's book, Napoleon and Talleyrand: The Last Two Weeks (New York, 1976). It describes the events which took place between March 23 and April 5 1814, but contributes nothing new despite the author's very apparent archive work.

The minister and his correspondence

It is surprising that no specific study has yet been undertaken of Talleyrand as Minister of Foreign Affairs, an omission hard to believe considering the contradictory judgements with respect to his talents as a diplomat. Numerous documents referring to his period of office at the Ministry have been published - those of Pallain and Bertrand(12) being especially recommended - but the major part of his diplomatic correspondence during the Consulate and the Empire have been practically unpublished (with the exception of Bertrand), and it is rather surprising that a complete tome has never been produced. The only collection of correspondence published recently is by Gaston Palewski, Le miroir de Talleyrand. Lettres inédites à la duchesse de Courlande pendant le Congrès de Vienne (Paris, 1976)(13) and Ernest Eberhard Talleyrand und der Herzog von Dalberg: unveröffentlichte Briefe (1816-1832) (Frankfurt am Main, New York, 1987). This volume, a selection of the correspondence between Talleyrand and the Duchess of Courlande, is essential for an understanding of the Vienna Congress. Each one of the seventy-one letters is accompanied by an explanatory note placing it in its historical context. Eberhard's tome is made up of fifty-nine letters from Talleyrand to the Duc de Dalberg, representing the Elector of Baden in Paris. However, nothing "exciting" is revealed in them. For details concerning the manner in which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs operated, the above-mentioned work by Whitcomb, can be consulted. It is the most recent work and, unlike the classic study by Frédéric Masson, focuses on the personnel and concludes that the quality of the diplomatic services mainly improved during the reign of Napoleon. However, his opinions concerning the diplomatic talents of Talleyrand appear overly severe. Henri Robert's "Dictionnaire des diplomates de Napoléon" (Paris, 1990), quite a useful reference work concerning the diplomatic personnel during the Napoleonic era, does contains numerous inaccuracies and should be used with caution.

- "Lettres inédites de Daberg à Talleyrand", Revue d'histoire diplomatique, 51 (1937), pp.164-183, by Emile Dard contains eight letters from Dalberg to Talleyrand dated from April 26 to June 11, 1807. A large number of short extracts from his correspondence have been published in various reviews. The following is a selection of the most important extracts:

- Emile Dard, " Napoleon et Talleyrand. Lettres inédites de Talleyrand (1804-1808)", Revue de France, 14 (1934), pp. 601-619. Ibid, "Talleyrand et la correspondance de Napoleon", Revue des Deux Mondes, 19 (1934), pp. 183-200, pages 183-186 only being of direct interest.

Dard explains how, on January 12, 1817, Talleyrand sent Metternich a proposal to sell all of the correspondence which Napoleon had sent to him during his period as Minister of Foreign Affairs (1799-1807). Metternich accepted the offer and the deal was concluded for 500,000 French francs.

- Georges Lacour-Gayet "Pages inédites de Talleyrand sur l'Assemblée Constituante", Revue bleue politique et littéraire, 13 (1934), pp. 481-483, which contains a copy of the document written by Talleyrand himself, and was no doubt a part of his Mémoires, corresponding to pages 125-136 (vol. 1 of the 1891 edition). There are some differences between the two but not enough to cast doubt on the authenticity of the Mémoires.

- Jean Hanoteau, "Lettres de Talleyrand à Caulaincourt", Revue des Deux Mondes, 29 (1935), pp. 782-816; 30 (1935), pp. 142-180, a copy of the letters sent to Caulaincourt during his ambassadorship in Petersbourg, 1907-1809, and during his period with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1809-1815.

- Carl Ludwig Lokke, "Mémoire sur les Etats-Unis d'Amérique par Joseph Fauchet", American Historical Association, 1 (1936), pp. 83-123, which contains several reports from Talleyrand to the Directoire (1797-1799) concerning the affair known as "XYZ".

- A few articles based on documents found in the family archives (although the name of the family is not mentioned), were written by Fleuriot de Langle, "Le portefeuille Fouché-Talleyrand", Revue des Deux Mondes (May 1949), pp. 221-231. He explains that he found the correspondence concerning Talleyrand when sorting the archives relating to Fouché. Mention is also made of Talleyrand and of his connections with Metternich concerning the sale of the documents. Ibid., "Le portefeuille Fouché-Talleyrand. Correspondance avec l'Empereur", Revue des Deux Mondes (June 1949), pp. 493-515, upholds Chateaubriand, who mentioned a text concerning the execution of the Duc d'Enghien, dated March 8 1804. Ibid, "Le portefeuille Fouché-Talleyrand Austerlitz", Revue des Deux Mondes (August 1949), pp. 672-693, a collection of letters from Talleyrand to Napoleon while the latter was in Strasbourg in 1805. Ibid., "Le portefeuille Fouché-Talleyrand. Lettres inédites de Talleyrand, Fouché, etc.", Revue des Deux Mondes (May 1951), pp. 300-316, contains a number of letters from Talleyrand with some information concerning life in Valençay and the organisation of the Château during the captivity of the Princes of Spain.

- Michel Missoffe, "Talleyrand et Maret, duc de Bassano, Lettres inédites", Revue des Deux Mondes, 15 (1954), pp. 459-472, a collection of letters dated 1791 to 1809 from the Maret archives.

- Jean de Bourgoing, "Lettres de Talleyrand à Metternich", Revue de l'Institut Napoléon, 95 (1965), pp. 65-75, contains eighteen letters from Talleyrand to Metternich dated from 1809 to 1816, although the author gives no indications as to the origin of these documents.

- Emile Dard, "Une lettre inédite de la comtesse Tyskievitch to Talleyrand", Revue d'histoire diplomatique, 48 (1934), pp. 321-329, is part of correspondence in the archives of Vienna, unpublished to date. This letter, which was intercepted by the Austrians, is dated December 1812 and contains details about Napoleon in Warsaw.

Talleyrand's political system

No exhaustive analysis of Talleyrand's foreign policy has ever been undertaken, assuming, of course, he had one ... Maurice Schumann's belief is that Talleyrand did indeed have a political system, in particular with regard to Germany and England, and suggests that his political maxim can be summed up in a sentence - bind and subordinate France's national interest to the concept of a general European order.(14) He proposes bases for fruitful discussion and focuses on an element found throughout Talleyrand's entire career: his preference for alliance with England. This does not, however, explain Talleyrand's role in the Egyptian campaign, nor his attitude towards England when the war began again in 1803. The thesis of Ernst Mechthild Talleyrand und die angelsächsiche Welt, 1729-1799 (University of Münster, 1969), is an analysis of his policy towards the United States and England. Johannes Kraft's Prinzipien Talleyrands in der Aussen-und-Innenpolitik (Bonn, 1958) another attempt to examine the "principles" governing Talleyrand's policy, describing the broad-based policy pursued by Talleyrand at specific moments in his career, is interesting and of value but is not as detailed or as conscientious as might be hoped. One of the rare attempts to explore Talleyrand's political ideas is H. Wendorf's "Die Ideenwelt des Fürsten Talleyrand. Ein Versuch", Historische Vierteljahrschrift, 28 (1933-34), pp. 335-384; in it he speculates as to whether Talleyrand was a sophist or whether the diplomatic facade concealed his own Weltanschaung. Wendorf is also credited with being the only historian to try to understand Talleyrand's behaviour in the spirit of the age of the Enlightenment. He describes Talleyrand as a disciple of Montesquieu insofar as he believed that the specific circumstances of a nation determined the development of a society, as a disciple of Voltaire insofar as he recommended the advent of a sort of "world machinery" based on Newton's model for Europe, and of Locke insofar as he was convinced that the best gauge of a suitable government was its length of time in power.

His role in the assassination of the Duc d'Enghien and in the Spanish affair

Research into one of the most controversial aspects of Talleyrand's career - his involvement in the assassination of the Duc d'Enghien - is relatively lacking, although this gap obviously stems from a lack of documentary sources. However, Lacour-Gayet, in "Talleyrand et l'affaire du duc d'Enghien", Revue de Paris, 4 1929), pp. 387-405, claims that he was responsible for having suggested and passed on the order and for not having prevented the execution. There is also very little on Talleyrand and the invasion of Spain, once again because of the absence of documents. G.-A. Pordea, "Talleyrand et la couronne d'Espagne. L'intrigue de Bayonne à la lumière des documents diplomatiques", Société des Sciences, lettres et arts de Bayonne, 114 (1967), pp. 103-130, dedicates a part of his article to the role of Talleyrand in the affair. However, the unfavourable judgement on his private life overshadows the discussion concerning his involvement in politics. He draws the conclusion that Talleyrand was indeed involved and he even advocated invasion in an attempt to win back the esteem of Napoleon, who was displeased that he had left the ministry! Emile Dard, in Napoléon et Talleyrand (Paris, 1935), believes that Talleyrand was responsible both for the assassination of the Duc d'Enghien and the Spanish affair, and that his role can only be understood as the logical consequence of his hatred of the Bourbons. This argument falls down given that Talleyrand arranged the return of the Bourbons in 1814. Moreover, Dard makes a distinction between the advice which Talleyrand is said to have given to Napoleon concerning the necessity of overthrowing the Bourbons in Spain and the ensuing acts of political gangsterism. Of course, there is considerable discussion of these two episodes in studies of the Napoleonic era but, with documentary sources few and far between, it is most unlikely that the role that he may have played in these matters will ever be known with certainty.

His role in the Vienna Congress

The only works to appear in the context of this study dealing specifically with Talleyrand and the Vienna Congress are those of Guglielmo Ferrero, Riconstruzione Talleyrand a Vienna (1814-1815) (Milan, 1941), and the thesis of Ernest J. Knapton, A Reconsideration of the Diplomatic Policy of Prince Talleyrand, 1814-1815 (University of Harvard, 1934). Ferrero, an eminent antifascist before the war draws a parallel between the failure of the Campo-Formio Treaty and the failure of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. It was an appeal to the war generation to reach a settlement similar to the Vienna Congress in order to overcome despotism in Europe. The seeds of the First and even of the Second World War were sowed during the Vienna Congress and were fertilised by the inability to find a permanent solution to the problems created by the Napoleonic wars. Diverging from other interpretations of the Congress, Talleyrand emerges as a hero of the "reconstruction" who, in the author's mind, began to restore legitimate governments. He concludes from this that "the Vienna Congress gave Europe a century of peace because it applied Talleyrand's doctrine to the reconstruction of Europe by eliminating all of the revolutionary governments which Napoleon had inflicted upon the continent". Although this interpretation attaches too much importance to any influence Talleyrand may have exerted over the Congress, it is the most detailed study on the subject to date. The most annoying aspect of the work, however, is its almost total lack of source quotations and the fact that it is impossible to know to what extent it is based on archives sources.

Knapton's thesis is a detailed study which asks all the right questions about Talleyrand's role in French diplomacy in 1814 and 1815. Referring to printed sources, he begins with an analysis of Allied and French policy during the months preceding the opening of the Congress, and he examines in detail the issues of Poland, Saxony and Italy, where Talleyrand's influence was considerable. Knapton admits that his intention was not to paint a new portrait of Talleyrand, rather, more subtly, to shed light on points that remained unclear. He concluded that Talleyrand contributed to the work of the Congress, but not as much as many historians had previously thought, and that Talleyrand neither set the issues to be discussed during the Congress, nor the goals it set out to achieve. Ferdinand Bac's, Le secret de Talleyrand, d'après des témoignages contemporains (Paris, 1933), an anecdotal account of the Congress and the events leading up to it, draws its inspiration from contemporary journals, in particular that of Baron de Stettin. The secret, which is implied in the title, is nothing less than an unlikely pact between Talleyrand and the English to discreetly help Napoleon to escape from the Island of Elba, or at least to turn a blind eye, thus leading him to his irreparable downfall. The work by Tekla Krotoska Stosunek Talleyrand a do sprawy Polskiej w dobie I. cesarstwa i kongresu wiedenskiego (1806-1814) (Krakow, 1935) centres on Talleyrand and the Polish issue between 1806 and 1814.

Articles and essays dedicated to Talleyrand and the Congress are much more numerous, although most are anecdotal and of little use to the researcher. Most of these articles were written before the end of the nineteenth century, with one or two exceptions, but they all have a tendency to exaggerate the importance of Talleyrand's role and completely neglect the influence which the intrigues and scheming of the Court of Paris may have had on the decisions taken in Vienna (15). By comparison, a certain number of articles which appeared either during or after the First World War, are critical of the position taken by Talleyrand and above all of the decision taken with respect to Prussia and possession of the left bank of the Rhine.(16) It was not until the end of the Second World War that there would be a reappraisal of Talleyrand's policy with respect to Prussia and possession of the Rhine provinces with the article by Paul Mantoux, 'Talleyrand et la rive gauche du Rhin", Schweizer Beiträge zur Allgemeinen Geschichte, 3 (1945), pp. 158-178. The most recent essay is by Claude Guillaumin, "Talleyrand et le Congrès de Vienne" in "Les grandes énigmes du temps jadis" (Paris 1969), pp. 11-167 , mere "historical footnotes", a historically correct and entertaining account, but which historians can no doubt ignore. Another article worthy of note Harold E. Blinn's "New Light on Talleyrand at the Vienna Congress", Pacific Historical Review, 4 (1935), pp. 143-160, in which he puts forward the idea that Talleyrand's action with respect to the Italian negotiations at least, was a failure.

During the July Monarchy

Very little has been written about the role of Talleyrand during the July Monarchy. The one work of any value on this subject is Raymond Guyot's, "La dernière négociation de Talleyrand. L'indépendance de la Bélgique", Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine, 2 (1900), pp. 573-594; 3 (1091), pp. 237-281, it covers Talleyrand's ambassadorship in London between 1830 and 1834 and his involvement in the London conference on Belgium. There is also a relatively complete monograph on the subject, by J.S. Fishman, Diplomacy and Revolution: The London Conference of 1830 and the Belgian Revolt (Amsterdam, 1988). There is, however, no exhaustive account of the foreign policy of the July Monarchy. H.A.C. Collingham's The July Monarchy. A Political History of France 1830-1848 (London and New York, 1988), contains some useful insights and is a good introduction to the period.

The conversion

The conversion of Talleyrand on his deathbed has become a subject of controversy. The updating in the 1950s of the private archives of Monseigneur de Quelen (who presided over the conversion of Talleyrand in 1838) allowed R. Limouzin-Lamothe to begin a study into documents to which historians had not previously had access. Three articles followed. In the first, "La rétraction de Talleyrand", Revue d'histoire de l'Eglise de France, 40 (1954), pp. 229-241, the author recounts the story of the negotiations concerning the actual text of the retraction which demonstrates that Monseigneur de Quelen did all he could to obtain a precise document from Talleyrand and that the Prince co-operated in good faith with the Church. The author seems to have changed his opinion a few years later, however, when he published "Monseigneur de Quelen et la convérsion de Talleyrand. Documents inédits", Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique 3 (1957), pp. 151-172: and "Monseigneur de Quelen et la convérsion de Talleyrand. Documents inédits" (suite)", Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique 59 (1958), pp. 73-94. In both of these articles, his conclusion is that Talleyrand simply signed the retraction, which in any case had been imposed upon him.

The "betrayals" of Talleyrand

Pieter Geyl points out that, overall, French historians are incapable of considering Talleyrand as a statesman, and that he is judged within the context of his betrayal of Napoleon. Dard is probably the first person to defend this idea and he accuses Talleyrand of selling out not only Napoleon but also France as whole. It is interesting to note how the concepts of Napoleon and France are often confused by these historians, as if the one personified the other. Louis Madelin, author of "Talleyrand trahissait son maître", Historia 143 (1958), pp. 389-394, is another researcher who considered Talleyrand to be a criminal because of his role at Erfurt.(17) Edouard Aujay, Talleyrand (Paris 1946), sees in Talleyrand nothing less than the sum total of a whole series of misdemeanours motivated by profit. According to Aujay, the Prince deliberately constructed an ambiguous personality in order to confuse history, but he gives no explanations as to why Talleyrand behaved in this manner. In an account of three biographers of Talleyrand (Brinton, Dard and Saint-Aulaire) and an article (Wendorf), Georges Lefebvre, "Dard, Napoleon et Talleyrand", Annales historiques de la Révolution française, 16 (1933), pp. 268-272, calls Talleyrand a traitor and a mediocre diplomat. Engenii Viktorovich Tarlé, Talleiran (Moscow, 1948) is another historian who believes that Talleyrand betrayed his government for selfish reasons.

There have, however, been a number of attempts to correct the image of a self-seeking Talleyrand bent on advancing his own career by maintaining that he was working for France. J. Marriot, "Talleyrand: The prince of diplomats", Cornhill Magazine, 74 (1933), pp. 129-138, has concluded that, although Talleyrand was blatantly corrupt, he always worked for France and never betrayed its interests. Franz Blei, "Talleyrand" (Berlin, 1935), is one of the first historians of this century to try to rehabilitate Talleyrand using the argument that, as far as affairs of state are concerned, morality is a purely relative consideration.(18) The biographer, Serge Fleury, Talleyrand. Maître souverain de la dipmomatie (Montreal, 1942), is the only Canadian to have made any contribution to the literature on the subject with a somewhat naive attempt at rehabilitation; indeed without any original research on which to base his ideas, it can never be totally convincing. The author is sure that Talleyrand never stopped thinking about his country. Paul Lesourd, in "Plaidoyer pour Talleyrand", Revue générale belge, 91 (1954), pp. 427-439, made another attempt at rehabilitation in the 1950s by presenting him as one of France's greatest servants. Barbara Norman Makanowitzky, already mentioned, adopts a more indulgent view of Talleyrand's betrayal, putting forward the theory that he (Talleyrand) believed the interests of France to be the interests of Europe. These efforts are part of a recent trend, favourable to Talleyrand, which Jean Tulard and Jeffrey Haight have pointed out, although Haight observes in his analysis of historical literature that criticism of Talleyrand has often been based on a pessimistic view of politics in the modern world.(19)

Among the works deserving brief mention are those of Jacques Dyssord, Les belles amies de M. de Talleyrand (Paris, 1942), which is a popular biography of no historical importance, with a deceptive title,(20) Jules Bertaut's, Talleyrand (Lyons, 1945), which is lacking in inspiration and is comparable to Saint-Aulaire, with no notes or biography, Louis Madelin's Talleyrand, (Paris, 1944), which describes him as a brilliant but destructive statesman and draws the conclusion that he was an important factor in the downfall of Napoleon, and Jean Savant's, Talleyrand (Paris, 1960), one of the most virulent attacks ever written against him. Savant holds Talleyrand literally responsible for all of the misfortunes of France since 1789 in a very personal, almost absurd, interpretation of history, while Casimir Carrère's Talleyrand amoureux (Paris, 1975), although belonging to popular history, nonetheless succeeds in shedding fresh light on a story so often told. Carrère's approach is systematic and professional and his meticulous research into local and family archives has enjoyed considerable acclaim.

As far as the Marxist interpretation is concerned - for what it is worth today since the decline of Marxist methodology - the book by Eugenii Viktorovich Tarlé mentioned above may be consulted. Tarlé considers Talleyrand to be a bourgeois serving the interests of his class, and although his book is the only one which discusses the relationship between Talleyrand and Alexander I in a serious manner, it does so inadequately. Its only quality is that it contains extracts of documents which until then had remained unpublished. The thesis of Joseph Edward Krok, Talleyrand and the Foreign Policy thought of Alexander I: The Nature of Talleyrand's Influence, 1807-1815 (University of Pennsylvania State, 1975), , in which he examines the impact of Talleyrand on Alexander's thought, may also be consulted. The lack of primary sources, however, makes this work much too speculative, and the conclusions much too vague, for example ("Talleyrand may sometimes have had an "influence" on Alexander" which was "important from time to time").

Talleyrand's personality

A number of psychological studies have been conducted, although none proposes a valid explanation of Talleyrand's motivations and his character. Two essays by Edmund Berhler, Talleyrand. Ein Beitrag zur Psychologie des Zynikers, and Napoleon und Talleyrand. Ein Beitrag zur weltgeschichtlichen Wirkung des unbewussten Strafbedurfnisses, in Talleyrand, Napoleon, Stendhal, Grabbe, Psychoanalytisch-biographische Essays (Vienna, 1935), are based on incorrect historical statements and an imperfect understanding of the period. The book by Paul Lesourd, "L'ame de Talleyrand" (Paris, 1942), which was supposed to provide a psychological explanation, is nothing other than an exposé of the author's personal opinions, which are based to a great extent on Saint-Aulaire and the "Mémoires de Talleyrand". Réné Laforgue's Talleyrand, l'homme de la France: Essai psychanalytique sur la personnalité collective française (Geneva, 1947), is a hotchpotch of ideas and fall well short of the standards required in current psychological and historical research.

Talleyrand and women

An attempt, more serious than those undertaken by most of Talleyrand's biographers, to resolve the problem posed by his ambiguous character by examining his relationships with women, is Michel Missoffe's Le coeur secret de Talleyrand (Paris, 1956). More importantly, Missoffe was one of the first to point out that the legend that Talleyrand spent most of his childhood in poverty is totally unfounded. To a certain extent, he absolves him from the accusation of venality. Many biographers have a tendency to confuse Talleyrand's private life and political life in order to criticise his diplomatic methods in general. In these works, his love affairs are generally romanticised, and used by these writers to demonstrate the diplomat's fundamental duplicity. Among them, Jacques Audibrerti in Faire marcher les femmes, in Jacques de Lacrotelle et al. Talleyrand (Paris, 1964), pp. 173-194, touches on the love life of Talleyrand, who is credited with saying "What are politics if not women"; Pierre Audiat, in his "Talleyrand séducteur", Revue de Paris (1956), pp. 151-157, begins a rather uninteresting discussion of Talleyrand's capacity to charm and delight not just women but all those who became involved with him. André Castelot's "Talleyrand et les femmes", Historia 413 (1981), pp. 52-61 is an entertaining account of a few of his conquests.

The only biography about the Duchess of Courlande, the former mistress and mother of the partner with whom Talleyrand would spend his last few years, deals with a few aspects of the end of his life: Louis Arrigon, "Une amie de Talleyrand. La duchesse de Courlande, 1761-1821 (Paris, 1945). The Duchess of Dino, the daughter of the Duchess of Courlande and the wife of Talleyrand's nephew, Edmond de Périgord, is much more popular with biographers. The first attempt at writing her biography, which is quite successful, was that of Marie von Bunsen, Talleyrands Nichte, die Herzogin von Sagan (Stuttgart, Berlin, 1935). The author, however, did not use the archives of the Château de Sagan, which contained a large quantity of correspondence between Talleyrand and the Duchesse de Dino. The best work on the subject was Françoise de Bernardy's, Le dernier amour de Talleyrand. La Duchesse de Dino(1793-1862) (Paris 1956),(21) until it was overtaken by Philip Ziegler's, The Duchess of Dino (London, 1962). An article by Arrigon, "La Duchesse de Dino et les dernières années de Talleyrand", Revue des Deux Mondes, 6 (1955), pp. 251-266; 7 (1955), pp. 507-520, is based on contemporary memoires, published correspondence and secondary sources. There is also a work by Edouard Vellay, "La duchesse de Dino a-t-elle été la maîtresse de Talleyrand?" Intermédiaire des chercheurs et des curieux, 93 (1958), pp. 1123-1125; this raises the question as to whether the Duchesse was in fact Talleyrand's mistress and is quite useful in summing up the historiography on the subject.

Given the small role she played in history, there are in fact too many works dedicated to the wife of Talleyrand, Madame Grand, and many are disappointing. Historians would appear to have succumbed to the charms of her beauty as much as Talleyrand himself. One book in English, Annette Joelson's Courtisan Princess, Catherine Grand, Princesse de Talleyrand (London, 1937, republished in 1966). can be disregarded. Articles are more numerous:

- Lacour-Gayet's "A propos du mariage de Talleyrand", Revue politique et littéraire (revue bleue), 7 (1926), pp. 197-201, is limited to a discussion about the marriage contract and a description of Monsieur Grand, Catherine's former husband.

- Yvonne Robert Gaebelé's "Des Plages du Coromandel aux Salons du Consulat et de l'Empire (Vie de la Princesse de Talleyrand)", Revue historique de l'Inde française, 7 (1948), pp. 1-115, is a long study based on archive sources and contemporary memoires.

- M. G. Coolen's "Madame Grand et Talleyrand", Bulletin trimestriel de la Société académique des antiquaires de la Morinie, 17 (1950), pp. 321-330, reproduces letters from Talleyrand in which he begs Barras to free Madame Grand.

- Bernard Nabonne's "M de Talleyrand et sa fiancée", Miroir de l'Histoire, 11 (1950), pp. 80-84, puts forward the idea that, far from being the empty-headed woman that most historians take her for, Madame Grand was a spy in England's pay! He also suggests that Talleyrand also secretly corresponded with England as of the period of the Directoire and reproduces a letter written by Madame Grand sent to a friend working at the Saint-James firm, and which came into the hands of La Révellière-Lépeaux. The argument and the evidence, however, are somewhat lame.

- The Viscount of Reiser's "Le roman de la Princesse de Talleyrand", Historia, 78 (1953), pp. 548-556, attempts to rectify the popular image of the brainless girl.

- Sylvain Bonmariage's" La Princesse de Bénévent", Aux carrefours de l'histoire, 17 (1959), pp. 103-105, is of no special interest.

- Léon Noèl's "Les deux mariages de Talleyrand", Revue des Deux Mondes, 6 (1960), pp. 239-258, examines the complications arising with the Catholic Church due to the fact that when he married, Talleyrand was still officially a bishop. Noèl is the first person to discover documents which prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the marriage took place in the house of the Mayor of Monceau, at the time a small village outside Paris.

- Michel Gaudart's "Duchesse de Talleyrand-Périgord, Princesse de Bénévent, Créole des Indes", Héraldique et Généalogique, 11 (1969), pp. 26-27, traces her genealogy.

- Finally, there is Pierre Viguié's "Le mariage de Talleyrand", Revue de Paris, 3 (1970), pp. 113-122, of no particular interest.

Talleyrand's children

A number of studies have been carried out concerning children whom Talleyrand is said to have fathered; indeed it appears to be one of the main preoccupations of French historians. There are doubts concerning the paternity of four children, that is to say Charlotte, his adopted daughter, Charles de Flahaut, the painter Eugène Delacroix and Pauline de Perigord, daughter of the Duchesse de Dino. Today, it seems certain that Talleyrand was the father of Charles de Flahaut, but there is no conclusive proof concerning the origins of the other three children. In a work dedicated to the private life of Talleyrand, Jacques Vivent in his "La vie privée de Talleyrand (Paris, 1940) gathered and assessed the proof concerning the question.

- Michel Missoffe's "Charlotte la mystérieuse et Talleyrand", Revue des Deux Mondes (1951), pp. 331-340, attempts to resolve the issue of the paternity of Charlotte and concludes that she was the daughter of the Chevalier of Coigny and Madame Beaugeard (maiden name Catherine d'Hugues), and therefore an illegitimate child. Madame Grand, who was unable to have children herself, apparently wanted to adopt a girl from a "distinguished family" and arranged for the adoption of the girl. Michel Poniatowski, on the other hand, believes that the child was indeed Talleyrand's.(22)

- Louis Hastier's "La fille adoptive de Talleyrand", Miroir de l'Histoire, 51 (1954), pp. 462-468, is an outmoded and unconvincing discussion of Charlotte's origins.

- Flavien Bonnet-Roy's "En marge de l'histoire de Talleyrand", Bulletin Médical, 42 (1928), pp. 1108-1109, is an article concerning Charles Delacroix's tumour of the testicles and, indirectly, the paternity of Eugène Delacroix.

- C. Bell's "Was Talleyrand Delacroix's Father?", The New Statesman, 33 (1929), pp. 576-577, is written in the same spirit, but the argument is not very convincing.

- Léon Noèl has dedicated two articles to the question of the paternity of Delacroix, "Eugène Delacroix et Talleyrand", Les Oeuvres Libres, 213 (1964), pp. 57-74, and "Delacroix étail-il le fils de Talleyrand"? Historia 321 (1973), pp. 57-65; in them he concludes that there is no proof to suggest that Talleyrand was the father of the painter.

- Emile Dard's "Trois générations: Talleyrand, Flahaut, Morny", Revue des Deux Mondes, 46 (1938), pp. 341-365. 615-629 is a description of Charles de Flahaut and of Morny..

There is also a book by Françoise de Bernady, Charles de Flahaut, (Paris, 1954), which is a popular biography.


With this the historiography concerning Talleyrand as it stands, there is still much to do. Not only can the literature concerning Talleyrand not be compared with that about a statesman like Metternich (even although Metternich's influence was greater), but the archives still have to be fully exploited. Most importantly, there has yet to emerge a biographer able to present a more balanced, more objective portrait, and capable of explain Talleyrand's motives in terms of political ideology and personal motivation. A psychological biography incorporating Talleyrand's personality and life into the society of his day would be an invaluable asset, however the task would be complex and difficult.

To date, Talleyrand seems, unfortunately, to have inspired many more "casual" biographers than academics. Certainly, numerous aspects of the life of Talleyrand, such as his ecclesiastical career and his exile in America, have been examined in depth and, in certain cases, with respect to his children, for example, have been studied much too often. However, the most surprising discovery for us is that few historians have actually explored the records and "got their hands dirty" to carry out a satisfactory study of Talleyrand's role as Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods. We still do not know with certainty the extent to which he may have been able to influence the direction of foreign policy, whether he had any real control over the Ministry, and what the relations were between the Minister and the Directoire, between the Minister and Napoleon and how they "functioned" together. Although Talleyrand had no influence over events, nonetheless it would be useful to take a closer look at the process of decision making inside government. Whitcomb provides us with abundant proof of the deterioration of the Ministry during the Napoleonic period, but we can only guess as to the exact contribution of the successors of Talleyrand to the transformation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs into "an auxiliary of the Grande Armée and a branch of military intelligence".(23) It would also be useful to know whether Talleyrand was hardworking and conscientious, as the study of his youth by Greenbaum suggests, and to what extent the image of the lazy womaniser is due to Talleyrand's promoting a false image of himself. And if so, why? Similarly, despite the interest shown in Talleyrand's role in the Vienna Congress, there are no suitable studies concerning this aspect of his life and a reappraisal of it would be worthwhile. The same can be said for the period between 1814 and 1815 when Talleyrand and Fouché were governing the country, as well as for the period of his ambassadorship in London between 1830 and 1834, when he was in fact Minister of Foreign Affairs.

When these more in-depth studies have been carried out, will we know the exact nature of Talleyrand's impact on politics in Europe? These are only some of the gaps in the history of this extraordinary man's career, and there are no doubt other aspects which have not been covered. However, one thing is certain: all future research concerning Talleyrand must be based on archives.

Ph. G. D.

(1) Pieter Giel, "The French Historians and Talleyrand", in Debates with Historians, (London, 1955), pp. 198-209. There is a complete biography on Talleyrand in Philip G. Dwyer, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, 1754-1838: A Biography, (Westport, 1996). An attempt at a previous biographic study of Talleyrand has been made by Czeslaw Nanke, "Na marginesne najnowizych monografij o Talleyrandzie" (A note concerning recent publications concerning Talleyrand), Kwartalnik historyczny, 51 (1937), which deals with a part of the works until 1930.
(2) Georges Lacour-Gayet, Talleyrand, 1754-1838, (Paris, 1928-1934). A new edition in 3 volumes was published by Payot in 1930, 1946, 1979 and again in 1991, the latter with a preface by François Furet.

(3) A glance at Paul Schroeder's "Metternich Studies since 1925", Journal of Modern History, 33 (1962), pp. 237-266, is enough to show the enormous divide separating the type of scholarly work which a man like Metternich has generated compared with Talleyrand. Certainly, Metternich's impact on politics in Europe after Napoleon was much greater, and there are many more primary sources for the historian to work on, given that he carried out his duties for a much longer period of time, however there are still glaring holes in the research into Talleyrand.

(4) The exceptions are Aulant and Sorel, who have each written articles about him and, of course, Madelin who dedicated a book to him. Neither Soboul, Mathiez, Thiry or Lefebvre have written about his role during the Revolution and the Empire.

(5) Chateaubriand, Mémoires d'Outre-Tombe, book 6. p. 340. cf Jean Tulard's "Talleyrand, prince des diplomates ou "diable boiteux"? L'Histoire 108 (1988), voicing doubts about the credibility of Talleyrand as a diplomat: cf also Edward A. Whitcomb, Napoleon's Diplomatic Service (Durham, N.C., 1979), pp. 129-132.

(6) Guglielmo Ferrero, Riconstruzione. Talleyrand a Vienna (1914-1818) (Milan, 1941), is an example.

(7) There could also be added the catalogue for the Talleyrand exhibition, which took place during the bicentenary of the Revolution celebrations. Talleyrand-Périgord, 1789-1799) (Madrid 1989), the text, which is by Poniatowski, is accompanied by an interesting collection of illustrations.

(8) Louis Madelin, "Les hommes de la Révolution. III. Talleyrand révolutionaire", Revue hebdomadaire, 6 (1928), pp. 183-209.

(9) Alfred Fabre-Luce (also published under the pen name of Jacques Sindral), Talleyrand (Paris, 1926).

(10) August-Félix-Charles de Beaupoll de Saint-Aulaire, Talleyrand (Paris, 1936).

(11) Whitcomb, Napoleon's Diplomatic Service, p. 132.

(12) Georges Pallain, "Correspondance diplomatique de Talleyrand. Le ministère Talleyrand sous le Directoire" (Paris, 1891): and "Correspondance diplomatique de Talleyrand. La mission de Talleyrand à Londres en 1792" (Paris, 1887): Pierre Bertrand. "Lettre inédites de Talleyrand à Napoleon, 1800-1809" (Paris, 1889). This last volume was republished in 1967 and again in 1989 (Editions Jean de Bonnot). The publisher, however, omitted to mention it was a republication of the work by Bertrand and, left out the introduction, which is unforgivable. Numerous diplomatic dispatches, signed or written by Talleyrand, are to be found in various compilations, all of which were published before 1905. cf my biography of Talleyrand for more details.

(13) Good news concerning the archives of the Château de Sagan, formerly in Silesia, reached us recently. For many years, it was thought that the archives had been destroyed or removed by the Soviet forces at the end of the Second World War. They have apparently resurfaced and are now to be found in the Municipal Archives of Zielona Gora in Poland.

(14) Maurice Schumann, "Talleyrand et l'Allemagne", Annales du centre universitaire méditerranéen, 18 (1964-65), pp. 43-62. cf his article entitled "Le Pondérateur de l'équilibre ou Talleyrand et sa politique", in Jacques de Lacretelle et al. Talleyrand (Paris, 1964), pp. 243-277.

(15) Count Joseph de Haussonville, "Le Congrès de Vienne, l'Empereur Alexandre et le Prince de Talleyrand. Le traité du 3 janvier 1815", Revue des Deux Mondes, 39 (1862), pp. 332-383. Haussonville bases his discussion of the Vienna Congress on unpublished correspondence between Talleyrand and Louis XVIII. Basically, it is a favourable view of Talleyrand's role in the Congress, which contradicts the opinion that Thiers greatly exaggerated the manner in which Talleyrand imposed his will on Europe through an alliance with Russia and Prussia.

(16) Yves Guyot, "The Great Mistake of Talleyrand and Lord Castlereigh at the Vienna Congress", Nineteenth Century, 78 (1915), pp. 52-57. Guyot criticised Talleyrand for his position with respect to the Rhineland States: Paul Reynaud, "Talleyrand et le problème de sécurité", Revue hebdomadaire, 6 (1923), pp. 607-615 and 7 (1923), pp. 92-98. Reynaud, who was an député in the "Chambre Bleue" after the First World War, wrote this article in response to Herriot, a left-wing politician who had drawn a parallel between the policy of Talleyrand and France's position after the war, as an example of how to resolve the "German problem" (in other words, Talleyrand/Herriot represented the liberal tradition, while Napoleon/Poincaré represented inflexibility). Reynaud believed that Talleyrand's action in Vienna had harmed France: Georges Grosjean, "L'erreur de 1815". Revue bleue politique et littéraire, I (1929), pp. 9-15, which is patriotic verbiage about the so-called mistakes that Talleyrand was supposed to have made.

(17) This theme is relatively constant in his book, Talleyrand (Paris, 1944).

(18) Translated into French by René Lobstein, Talleyrand, homme d'Etat (Paris, 1935).

(19) Jeffrey Haight, Talleyrand and History (University of Rochester, 1968), p. 241: Jean Tulard, Talleyrand, prince des diplomates.

(20) Dyssord is a pen name for Edouard-Jacques-Marie-Joseph Morceau de Bellaing.

(21) Republished by Perrin in 1965.

(22) Poniatowski, Talleyrand et le Consulat, p. 438.

(23) It is in this manner that Paul Schroeder describes the activities of the Ministry in "Napoleon's foreign policy", Journal of Military History, 54 (1990), p.156.

Source : 
avec l'accord de la Fondation Napoléon.