One of the greatest statesman and diplomats in European history, he was also a man without scruples. A canny survivor Talleyrand worked for the King, then the Revolution, then Napoleon, then the restored Bourbon monarchy. A brilliant man known as much for his bluster, arrogance, amorality, and greed as much as he was for his astonishing talents and diplomatic skills.
He was the Bishop of Autun when the revolution started. He quickly embraced the revolution and an anti-church position. Desirous of government power and influence over his previous holy vows, he worked his way through informal channels to the top of the French Foreign Ministry. He would be John Adams’s nemesis – by his greed and brinkmanship he would almost bring the United States and France to war.
A fascinating yet troubled and troublesome man, Talleyrand was a key player in the drama that was the ever ratcheting-up conflict during Adams’s presidency between the two revolutionary republics and former allies, France and the United States. Never a moralist Talleyrand was a prince of pragmatism. Caught up in downfall, revolution, wars, and societal upheavals, Talleyrand rode the winds of change as if a bird (or a Napoleonic bee).
He is the anti-Lafayette; a survivor, the deft navigator of conflicting and overlapping worlds.
He is a man of influence and cunning, a man of extraordinary influence, a man to be watched with great care.