Talleyrand (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Talleyrand directed the foreign relations of his country in a time of changing principles and changing regimes—the Directory, the Consulate, the Empire, and the Restoration Monarchy—trying to adjust his French patriotism with the establishment of a viable balance of power that formed the basis of European relations for a century.
Talleyrand’s family came from an old and highly distinguished line of sovereign counts, but at the time he was born the family had lost a considerable amount of its former importance. His parents were courtiers whose business, attending the offspring of Louis XV, gave them little time to spend with their most recent addition. Talleyrand was sent to a wet nurse, a poor woman who lived in the Saint-Jacques district. Although such surrogate mothering was a common practice, with Talleyrand it was excessive: The parents did not see their son for the next four years. While in his nurse’s care only several months, he fell from a chest of drawers, breaking his right foot. The injury did not receive proper medical attention and the bones knit badly, leaving him with a club foot. For the rest of his life he was unable to walk without a cane or a brace.
When Talleyrand was three, his older brother died, leaving him heir to the family title and estates. He would have become a soldier, but his injury made this impossible. The family therefore decided to have...
(The entire section is 2739 words.)
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