Charles Mauriee Talleirmd-Perigord, prince de, a French statesman, born in Paris, Feb. 13, 1754, died there, May 17, 1838. He was the eldest son of the count de Talleyrand-Perigord, and, having been lamed by accident when about a year old, was neglected by his family. In 1766 he was placed by an uncle in the college of Harcourt at Paris, and though he there greatly distinguished himself, a family council in 1769 decided that in consequence of his incurable lameness he should give up his birthright to his younger brother, and become a churchman. He was sent immediately to St. Sulpice, and graduated with much distinction at the Sorbonne in 1774. He was then presented at court, and received in commen-dam the abbey of St. Denis in the diocese of Rheims and several other livings. Despite his notorious licentiousness, he was ordained priest soon afterward, and displayed uncommon business tact and brilliant conversational powers. From 1780 to 1785 he held the post of general agent of the French clergy. He mingled in the financial discussions of the time, became acquainted with Mirabeau, Ca-lonne, and Necker, and was noted for his prudence and skill as a speculator. In 1787 he was one of the assembly of notables, and in 1788 was made bishop of Autun, which gave him a yearly income of 60,000 francs.
When the states general were summoned in 1789, he was elected one of the deputies of the clergy, insisted that his colleagues should join at once the representatives of the third estate who had assumed the name of "national assembly," figured conspicuously among Mira-beau's friends, and proved a strong supporter of every liberal measure. It was he who moved the celebration of the great patriotic feast, styled the "federation," on July 14, 1790; and in his capacity of bishop, at the head of 200 priests, wearing the national colors over their white robes, he officiated in that solemnity upon the great altar erected in the midst of the Champ de Mars. In the assembly he reported a plan for the reorganization of public instruction, and advocated the abolition of ecclesiastical tithes, the assumption by the government of the lands belonging to the clergy as national property, and the establishment of a civil constitution for that order; and on this constitution being adopted, he consecrated such priests as consented to take the oath to it. This, added to his many deficiencies as a Catholic bishop and his political course, caused him to be excommunicated; but he was secularized by the pope, on condition that he should wear a lay habit and abstain from all clerical functions.
In April, 1791, he attended Mirabeau in his last moments, and was charged by the great orator to deliver in the assembly a speech he had prepared upon testamentary powers and the rights of succession. On the dissolution of the constituent assembly, Sept. 30, 1791, Talleyrand was sent, under Chauvelin, on a fruitless mission to England. After the king's fall he retired to England; but, while a warrant was issued against him in Paris by the committee of public safety, he received peremptory orders from the ministry (January, 1794) to leave England in 24 hours. He then sailed for the United States, where through speculation he accumulated a fortune, and carefully studied American institutions and commerce. Before the adjournment of the convention, on motion of Chenier, acting under Mme. de Stael's influence, his name was erased from the list of emigrants; he returned to Paris, found himself a member of the academy of moral and political sciences, was one of the original members of the constitutional club, and in July, 1797, was called to the ministry of foreign affairs.
On Bonaparte's return from Italy, Dec. 5, he welcomed him, introduced him to the directors, delivered a speech in his honor at his great official reception, and promoted his subsequent designs. "While the young general sailed for Egypt, the diplomatist was to go to Constantinople to reconcile the sultan to the invasion of one of his provinces; he neglected this mission, and continued in office till July, 1799, when he was forced to resign. When Bonaparte returned from Egypt, he again propitiated the conqueror, procured an interview between him and Sieves, and prevailed upon Barras to resign, thus greatly contributing to the success of the coup d'etat of the 18th Brumaire. He was rewarded by his reappointment, in November, 1799, as minister of foreign affairs, which office he held till August, 1807, and aided in the reestab-lishment of the peace in Europe, taking part in the successful conclusion of the treaties of Luneville, 1801, and of Amiens, 1802. On June 29, 1802, Pius VII., at Bonaparte's request, released Talleyrand from excommunication; and yielding to Bonaparte's injunction, he married Mme. Grant, with whom he had lived for several years.
The pope's refusal to allow this, lady to be presented to him filled Talleyrand with resentment; and he is said to have counselled the partition of the Papal States. He prompted the seizure of the duke d'Enghien, and hastened his execution. After the establishment of the empire he received the office of grand chamberlain, and in 1806 the principality of Benevento in Italy. Having vainly advocated an alliance with England, and feeling the growing coldness of the emperor, he resigned his ministerial office, Aug. 9, 1807, and received the title of vice grand elector, to which a large salary was attached. Thenceforward he was only occasionally consulted by his sovereign, but gave very free expression to his views on great political questions, and was in consequence deprived of his office of chamberlain in 1809; but this only stimulated his sarcastic criticisms against the imperial policy. As early as 1812 he is said to have foretold the approaching overthrow of Napoleon, and on its occurrence he was looked upon at home and abroad as the most influential statesman of the day and the leader of the new revolution.
A last interview between him and the emperor in the beginning of 1814 completed the estrangement between them; and Talleyrand, though still a dignitary of the empire and one of the council of regency, thought of nothing but ruining his master. He secretly sent word to the allied sovereigns to hasten toward Paris; and when that city surrendered, March 30, he offered his hotel to the emperor Alexander. His management secured the appointment by the senate, on April 1, of a provisional government, and its formal declaration on the day following Napoleon's dethronement. While Marshal Marmont was prevailed upon to sign at Essonne (April 3) a convention that baffled Napoleon's last hopes of resisting, Talleyrand welcomed the count of Artois to the French metropolis, April 12, and remained the head of the new government. On the arrival of Louis XVIII. he was appointed (May 12) minister of foreign affairs, holding in fact the premiership in the cabinet; and on June 4 he was made a peer of France. He negotiated the first treaty of Paris, May 30, 1814; and four months later he was sent as minister plenipotentiary to the congress of Vienna, where he failed in protecting the interests of France as well as he desired.
He was surprised there by the sudden return of Napoleon from Elba, and participated in the declaration that " outlawed the enemy of nations." He was excepted from the amnesty granted to those who had previously deserted the emperor, went to Ghent, where he joined the exiled king Louis XVIII., accompanied him to France when he returned there after the battle of Waterloo, and resumed, July 8, 1815, the premiership in the cabinet and the ministry of foreign affairs; but being disgusted by the hard terms imposed upon France by the allied powers and by the reactionary tendencies of the new chamber of deputies, he resigned his office at the end of a few weeks. According to another account, having become obnoxious to the emperor Alexander, he was dismissed; but through the duke of Richelieu's entreaties he received the title of grand chamberlain of France, with a salary of 40,000 francs. He still visited the Tuileries, but was coldly received; he retained his seat in the chamber of peers, and delivered there several opposition speeches; but his influence was greatest in social intercourse, his saloon being the gathering place of politicians of every shade of opinion.
After the revolution of July, 1830, he was appointed ambassador to England with a princely salary, and negotiated a treaty, April 22, 1834, by which France, England, Spain, and Portugal united for the pacification and settlement of the two peninsular kingdoms. He resigned his office, Jan. 7, 1835, and retired to private life. The most remarkable of his essays is his Memoire sur les relations commerciales des Etats- Unis vers 1797. He left personal memoirs, which according to his will were not to be published till 30 years after his death. In 1868 Napoleon III. obtained from the heirs a further postponement of 22 years; and in 1872, it having been announced that the memoirs were about to be published, the duke de Montmorency, custodian of the manuscript, refused to violate the pledge given to the late emperor. On the day before his death Talleyrand wrote a letter to the pope enclosing a "retraction" written two months before. The "retraction" deplores his acts which had afflicted the church; and the letter says that his memoirs will explain to posterity the writer's conduct during the revolution.