"You will see that Talleyrand will die in his bed." - The death of “le diable boiteux” in 1838.

17 May 1838, 175 years ago, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord died at the age of 84 in Paris.


"Love of glory can only create a great hero; contempt of glory creates a great man." (Talleyrand)



 French caricature from 1815 after Napoleon’s fall with the title: Monsieur Tout-á-tous" ("Gentlemen [of a kind] among one another").



Nicknamed “le diable boiteux”, the lame devil, because of a congentinal left leg limp, Talleyrand was unable to pursue a military career and entered church service, left it in 1789 to become a nominal bourgeois, was consecrated as Bishop of Autun and became one of the finest diplomats and wits and epicureans the world has ever seen.

With six years of exile, first in London and later in the young US during the Reign of Terror, he came back as foreign minister and thus survived six different regimes in France, being still in office after the fall of Napoleon in 1815. Talleyrand had approached the Allies half a year before the Battle of Waterloo, coining the phrase “It is the beginning of the end” for the Emperor’s Hundred Days and represented the new Bourbon government during the Congress of Vienna. He saw the seventh change of French government during the July Revolution in 1830 and was the “Citizen King’s” Louis Philippe’s ambassador in London.

Sir David Wilkie (1785 - 1841):  "Talleyrand in London" (1834)


With only one major failure in his political career, the “XYZ Affair” and the following Quasi War with the US (1798 – 1800), he was a bon vivant, a ladies’ man, sired a number of illegitimate children and proverbially corrupt, shrewd and loyal only to Talleyrand, thereby probably serving France herself and not the individual consecutive French governments he was employed by.
Napoleon’s dictum from 1817, uttered in his exile in St Helena, is denotive: “"What makes me think that there can be no God who metes out punishment, is that good people are so often unhappy and rascals prosperous. You will see that Talleyrand will die in his bed."

"The lame leading the blind" - Talleyrand and a young Palmerston (1832)


He did, returning officially to the folds of the Church and was given the last rites on his deathbed, insisting on receiving them with the full honours of a bishop. Prince Metternich allegedly commented on Talleyrand’s demise: “"I wonder what he meant by that?"


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