Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord
|Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord|
|Prime Minister of France|
9 July 1815 – 26 September 1815
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Armand-Emmanuel de Vignerot du Plessis|
|Minister of Foreign Affairs|
9 July 1815 – 26 September 1815
|Preceded by||Louis Pierre Edouard|
|Succeeded by||Armand-Emmanuel de Vignerot du Plessis|
13 May 1814 – 20 March 1815
|Preceded by||Antoine René Charles Mathurin|
|Succeeded by||Armand Augustin Louis de Caulaincourt|
22 November 1799 – 9 August 1807
|Preceded by||Charles-Frédéric Reinhard|
|Succeeded by||Jean-Baptiste de Nompère de Champagny|
15 July 1797 – 20 July 1799
|Preceded by||Charles-François Delacroix|
|Succeeded by||Charles-Frédéric Reinhard|
2 February 1754*|
|Died||17 May 1838
|*Encyclopedia of World Biography and Catholic Encyclopedia give 13 February|
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, prince de Bénévent, then prince de Talleyrand (French: [ʃaʁl moʁis də tal(ɛ)ʁɑ̃ peʁiɡɔʁ]; 1754–1838) was a French diplomat. He worked successfully from the regime of Louis XVI, through the French Revolution and then under Napoleon I, Louis XVIII, Charles X, and Louis-Philippe. Known since the turn of the 19th century simply by the name Talleyrand, he remains a figure that polarizes opinion. Some regard him as one of the most versatile, skilled and influential diplomats in European history, and some believe that he was a traitor, betraying in turn, the Ancien Régime, the French Revolution, Napoleon, and the Restoration. He is also notorious for leaving the Catholic Church after ordination to the priesthood and consecration to the episcopacy.
Early life 
Talleyrand was born into an aristocratic family in Paris. His father, Count Daniel de Talleyrand-Périgord, was 20 years of age when Charles was born. A congenital leg limp left young Talleyrand unable to enter the expected military career and caused him to be called later le diable boiteux (French for "the lame devil") among other nicknames. Deprived of his rights of primogeniture by a family council, which judged his physical condition incompatible with the traditional military careers of the Talleyrand. His own father had a long career in the Army, reaching the rank of Lieutenant general. He was instead directed to an ecclesiastic career. His uncle Alexandre Angélique de Talleyrand-Périgord, then Archbishop of Reims, considerably assisted and encouraged him in this endeavor. It would appear that the family, while prestigious and ancient, was not particularly prosperous, and saw church positions as a way to gain wealth. Tallyrand attended the Collège d'Harcourt and seminary of Saint-Sulpice until the age of 21. He was ordained a priest in 1779, when he was 25. In 1780, he became Agent-General of the Clergy, a representative of the Catholic Church to the French Crown. In this important position, he was instrumental in drafting a general inventory of church properties in France as of 1785, along with a defence of "inalienable rights of church", a stance he was to deny later. In 1789, through the influence of his father and family, the already notably non-believing Talleyrand was appointed Bishop of Autun. In 1801, Pope Pius VII laicized Talleyrand, an event most uncommon at the time in the history of the Church.
French Revolution 
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Shorty after he was ordained as Bishop of Autun, Talleyrand attended the Estates-General of 1789, representing the clergy, the First Estate. During the French Revolution, Talleyrand strongly supported the anti-clericalism of the revolutionaries. He assisted Mirabeau in the appropriation of Church properties. He participated in the writing of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and proposed the Civil Constitution of the Clergy that nationalised the Church, and swore in the first four constitutional bishops, even though he had himself resigned as Bishop following his excommunication by Pope Pius VI in 1791. During the Fête de la Fédération on 14 July 1790, Talleyrand celebrated Mass. Notably, he promoted public education in full spirit of the Enlightenment.
In 1792, he was sent twice, though unofficially, to Britain to avert war. Besides an initial declaration of neutrality during the first campaigns of 1792, his mission ultimately failed. In September 1792, he left Paris for England just at the beginning of September Massacres, yet declined émigré status. Because of incriminating papers found in the armoire de fer, the National Convention issued a warrant for his arrest in December 1792. His stay in England was not uneventful either; in March 1794, he was forced to leave the country by Pitt's expulsion order. He then arrived in the United States where he stayed until his return to France in 1796. During his stay, he supported himself by working as a bank agent, involved in commodity trading and real estate speculation. He was the house guest of Senator Aaron Burr of New York and collaborated with Theophile Cazenove, who lived at Market Street, Philadelphia. Talleyrand years later refused the same generosity to Burr because Talleyrand had been friends with Alexander Hamilton, whom Burr had killed in a duel. Talleyrand is also reputed to have stayed at the Wilson House in Oyster Bay, New York.
After 9 Thermidor, he mobilised his friends (most notably the abbé Martial Borye Desrenaudes and Germaine de Staël) to lobby in the National Convention and then the newly established Directoire for his return. His name was then suppressed from the émigré list and he returned to France on 25 September 1796. In 1797, he became Foreign Minister. He was implicated in the XYZ Affair which escalated the Quasi-War with America. Talleyrand saw a possible political career for Napoleon during the Italian campaigns of 1796 to 1797. He wrote many letters to Napoleon, and the two became close allies. Talleyrand was against the destruction of the Republic of Venice, but he complimented Napoleon when peace with Austria was concluded (Venice was given to Austria), probably because he wanted to reinforce his alliance with Napoleon.
Together with Napoleon's younger brother, Lucien Bonaparte, he was instrumental in the 1799 coup d'état of 18 Brumaire, establishing the French Consulate government. Soon after he was made Foreign Minister by Napoleon, although he rarely agreed with Napoleon's foreign policy. The Pope also released him from the ban of excommunication in the Concordat of 1801, which also revoked the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Talleyrand was instrumental in the completion of the Treaty of Amiens in 1802.
In March 1804, he may have been involved in the kidnapping and execution of the Duke of Enghien, which was a cause célèbre in Europe, as an echo of the execution of Louis XVI: a charge made later by François-René de Chateaubriand. Talleyrand advocated against violence, most notably speaking out against the guillotine, and during the coup of 18 Brumaire he ensured that Barras could leave Paris safely.
Talleyrand was also an integral player in the German Mediatisation, or Reichsdeputationshauptschluss. While the Treaty of Campo Formio had, on paper, stripped German princes of their lands beyond the left bank of the Rhine, it was not until the Treaty of Lunéville that this was enforced. The French annexed these lands and it was deemed proper that the deposed sovereigns receive new territories on the Right Bank of the Rhine. As many of these rulers gave out bribes in order to secure new lands Talleyrand became quite wealthy. He gained an estimated 10 million francs in the process. This was the first blow in the destruction of the Holy Roman Empire.
Napoleon forced his hand into marriage in September 1802 to longtime mistress Catherine Grand (née Worlée). Talleyrand purchased the Château de Valençay in May 1803, upon the urging of Napoleon. This would later be the site of the imprisonment of the Spanish Royalty after Napoleon's invasion from 1808–1813.
French Empire 
In May 1804, Napoleon bestowed upon him the title of Grand Chamberlain of the Empire. In 1806, he was made Sovereign Prince of Benevento (or Bénévent). Talleyrand was opposed to the harsh treatment of Austria in the 1805 Treaty of Pressburg and of Prussia in the Peace of Tilsit in 1807. In 1806, after Pressburg and just as in 1803, he profited greatly from the reorganization of the German lands, this time into the Confederation of the Rhine. He was then shut out completely from the negotiations at Tilsit. After her famous failed imploring of Napoleon to spare her nation, Queen Louise of Prussia wept and was consoled by Talleyrand. This gave him a good name among the elites of the European countries outside France.
Talleyrand breaks with Napoleon 
He resigned as minister of foreign affairs in 1807, because of a myriad of suggested reasons, some genuine and others not. In essence, he traded his position as minister for the imperial title of Vice Grand Elector. The ill-fated Peninsula War, initiated in 1808, was the breaking point for Talleyrand concerning his loyalty to the Emperor.
His actions at the Congress of Erfurt, in September–October 1808, helped to thwart Napoleon's plans. It was here that he counselled Tsar Alexander nightly on how to deal with Napoleon. The Tsar's attitude towards Napoleon was one of apprehensive opposition. Talleyrand repaired the confidence of the Russian monarch and together they rebuked Napoleon's attempts to form a direct anti-Austrian military alliance. Of course, this was not why Talleyrand had been brought to the conference. In fact, Napoleon had expected him to help convince the Tsar to accept all of his proposals, yet, somehow he never discovered the acts of treason committed by Talleyrand in Erfurt.
After his resignation in 1807 from the ministry, Talleyrand began to accept bribes from hostile countries, particularly Austria and Russia to betray Napoleon's secrets. Talleyrand and Fouché, who were typically enemies in both politics and the salons, had a rapprochement in late 1808 and entered into discussions over the imperial line of succession. Napoleon had yet to address this matter and the two men knew that without a legitimate heir France would crumble into chaos in the wake of Napoleon's possible death. Even Talleyrand, who believed that Napoleon's policies were leading France to ruin, understood the necessity of peaceful transitions of power. However, Napoleon received word of their actions and deemed them treasonous. This perception caused the famous dressing down of Talleyrand in front of Napoleon's marshals, during which Napoleon famously claimed that he could "break him like a glass, but it's not worth the trouble" and added with a scatological tone that Talleyrand was "a turd in a silk stocking", to which the minister coldly retorted, once Napoleon had left, "Pity that so great a man should have been so badly brought up!"
Talleyrand spent the last few years of the empire working as an informant for Austria and (sometimes) Russia. He opposed the further harsh treatment of Austria in 1809 after the War of the Fifth Coalition, also known as the War of 1809. He was also a critic of the French invasion of Russia in 1812. He was offered to resume his role in late 1813 but Talleyrand adeptly understood that Napoleon was nearing his end. On 1 April 1814 he led the French Senate in establishing a provisional government in Paris, of which he was elected president. On 2 April the Senate officially deposed Napoleon with the Acte de déchéance de l'Empereur and by 11 April had created the Treaty of Fontainebleau and a new constitution to re-establish the Bourbons as monarchs of France.
When Napoleon was succeeded by Louis XVIII in April 1814, Talleyrand was one of the key agents of the restoration of the House of Bourbon, while opposing the new legislation of Louis' rule. Talleyrand was the chief French negotiator at the Congress of Vienna, and, in that same year, he signed the Treaty of Paris. It was due in part to his skills that the terms of the treaty were remarkably lenient towards France. As the Congress opened, the right to make decisions was restricted to four countries: Austria, the United Kingdom, Prussia, and Russia. France and other European countries were invited to attend, but were not allowed to influence the process. Talleyrand promptly became the champion of the small countries and demanded admission into the ranks of the decision-making process. The four powers admitted France and Spain to the decision-making backrooms of the conference after a good deal of diplomatic maneuvering by Talleyrand, who had the support of the Spanish representative, Pedro Gómez Labrador, Marquis of Labrador. Spain was excluded after a while (a result of both the Marquis of Labrador's incompetence as well as the quixotic nature of Spain's agenda), but France (Talleyrand) was allowed to participate until the end. Russia and Prussia sought to enlarge their territory at the Congress. Russia demanded annexation of Poland (already occupied by Russian troops), and this demand was finally satisfied, despite protests by France, Austria and the United Kingdom. Austria was afraid of future conflicts with Russia or Prussia and the United Kingdom was opposed to their expansion as well – and Talleyrand managed to take advantage of these contradictions within the former anti-French coalition. On 3 January 1815, a secret treaty was signed by France's Talleyrand, Austria's Metternich and Britain's Castlereagh. By this tract, officially a secret treaty of defensive alliance, the three powers agreed to use force if necessary to "repulse aggression" (of Russia and Prussia) and to protect the "state of security and independence". This agreement effectively spelled the end of the anti-France coalition.
Talleyrand, having managed to establish a middle position, received some favours from the other countries in exchange for his support: France returned to its 1792 boundaries without reparations, with French control over papal Avignon, Montbéliard (Mompelgard) and Salm, which had been independent at the start of the French Revolution in 1789. It would later be debated which outcome would have been better for France: allowing Prussia to annex all of Saxony (Talleyrand ensured that only part of the kingdom would be annexed) or the Rhine provinces. The first option would have kept Prussia farther away from France, but would have needed much more opposition as well. Some historians have argued that Talleyrand's diplomacy wound up establishing the faultlines of World War I, especially as it allowed Prussia to engulf small German states west of the Rhine. This simultaneously placed Prussian armed forces at the French-German frontier, for the first time; made Prussia the largest German power in terms of territory, population and the industry of the Ruhr and Rhineland; and eventually helped pave the way to German unification under the Prussian throne. However, at the time Talleyrand's diplomacy was regarded as successful, as it removed the threat of France being partitioned by the victors. Talleyrand also managed to strengthen his own position in France (ultraroyalists had disapproved of the presence of a former "revolutionary" and "murderer of the Duke d'Enghien" in the royal cabinet).
Napoleon's return to France in 1815 and his subsequent defeat, the Hundred Days, was a reverse for the diplomatic victories of Talleyrand; the second peace settlement was markedly less lenient and it was fortunate for France that the business of the Congress had been concluded. Talleyrand resigned in September of that year, either over the second treaty or under pressure from opponents in France. For the next fifteen years he restricted himself to the role of "elder statesman", criticising—and intriguing—from the sidelines. However, when King Louis-Philippe came to power in the July Revolution of 1830, Talleyrand agreed to become ambassador to the United Kingdom, a post he held from 1830 to 1834. In this role, he strove to reinforce the legitimacy of Louis-Philippe's regime, and proposed a partition plan for the newly independent Belgium.
Character traits 
Talleyrand had a reputation as a voluptuary and a womaniser. He left no legitimate children, though he may have fathered illegitimate ones. Four possible children of his have been identified: Charles Joseph, comte de Flahaut, generally accepted to be an illegitimate son of Talleyrand; the painter Eugène Delacroix, once rumoured to be Talleyrand's son, though this is doubted by historians who have examined the issue (for example, Léon Noël, French ambassador); the "Mysterious Charlotte", possibly his daughter by his future wife, Catherine Worlée Grand; and Pauline, ostensibly the daughter of the Duke and Duchess Dino. Of these four, only the first is given credence by historians.
Aristocratic women were a key component of Talleyrand's political tactics, both for their influence and their ability to cross borders unhindered. His presumed lover Germaine de Staël was a major influence on him, and he on her. Though their personal philosophies were most different, (she, a romantic; he, very much of baroque sensibilities), she assisted him greatly, most notably by lobbying Barras to permit Talleyrand to return to France from his American exile, and then to have him made foreign minister. He lived with Catherine Worlée, born in India and married there to Charles Grand. She had traveled about before settling in Paris, as a notorious courtesan in the 1780s, for several years before she divorced Grand and married Talleyrand in 1802. Talleyrand, largely indifferent, tried to prevent the marriage, but after repeated postponements, was obliged by Napoleon to carry it out to preserve his political career. Rumours about her stupidity, though unfounded, continue to circulate to this day. He later lived with the Dorothea von Biron, the divorced wife of his nephew, the Duke of Dino.
Talleyrand's venality was celebrated; in the tradition of the ancien régime, he expected to be paid for the state duties he performed—whether these can properly be called "bribes" is open to debate. For example, during the German Mediatisation, the consolidation of the small German states, a number of German rulers and elites paid him to save their possessions or enlarge their territories. Less successfully, he solicited payments from the United States government to open negotiations, precipitating a diplomatic disaster (the "XYZ Affair"). The difference between his diplomatic success in Europe and failure with the United States illustrates that his diplomacy rested firmly on the power of the French army that was a terrible threat to the German states within reach, but lacked the logistics to threaten the USA not the least because of the Royal Navy domination of the seas. After Napoleon's defeat, he withdrew claims to the title "Prince of Benevento", but was created Duke of Talleyrand with the style "Prince de Talleyrand" for life, in the same manner as his estranged wife.
Described by biographer Philip Ziegler as a "pattern of subtlety and finesse" and a "creature of grandeur and guile", Talleyrand was a great conversationalist, gourmet, and wine connoisseur. From 1801 to 1804, he owned Château Haut-Brion in Bordeaux. He employed the renowned French chef Carême, one of the first celebrity chefs known as the "chef of kings and king of chefs", and was said to have spent an hour every day with him. His Paris residence on the Place de la Concorde, acquired in 1812 and sold to James Mayer de Rothschild in 1838, is now owned by the Embassy of the United States.
Talleyrand has been regarded as a traitor because of his support for successive regimes, some of which were mutually hostile. According to French philosopher Simone Weil, criticism of his loyalty is unfounded, as Talleyrand served not every regime as had been said, but in reality "France behind every regime"
Near the end of his life, Talleyrand became interested in Catholicism again while teaching his young granddaughter simple prayers. The Abbé Félix Dupanloup came to Talleyrand in his last hours, and according to his account Talleyrand made confession and received extreme unction. When the abbé tried to anoint Talleyrand's palms, as prescribed by the rite, he turned his hands over to make the priest anoint him on the back of the hands, since he was a bishop. He also signed, in the abbé's presence, a solemn declaration in which he openly disavowed "the great errors which . . . had troubled and afflicted the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church, and in which he himself had had the misfortune to fall." Many, however, have doubted the sincerity of the conversion given Talleyrand's history. He died on 17 May 1838 and was buried in Notre-Dame Chapel, near his Castle of Valençay.
Today, when speaking of the art of diplomacy, the phrase "he is a Talleyrand" is used to denote a statesman of great resource and skill.
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- Talleyrand had a morbid dread of falling out of bed in his sleep. To prevent this, he had his mattresses made with a depression in the centre. As a further safety measure, he wore fourteen cotton nightcaps at once, held together by 'a sort of tiara'.
- Following the arrival of the Allies, Talleyrand's mansion hosted Tsar Alexander. Later, his bedroom became the center of government in the provisional government. It was actually quite common to hold important occurrences in one's bedroom as it was warm for the host while the attendants had to stand in the cold night air.
- On hearing of the death of a Turkish ambassador, Talleyrand is supposed to have said: "I wonder what he meant by that?" More commonly, the quote is attributed to Metternich, the Austrian diplomat, upon Talleyrand's death in 1838.
- During the occupation of Paris by the Allies, Prussian General Blücher wanted to destroy the Pont d'Iéna, which was named after a French victorious battle against Prussia. The Prefect of Paris tried everything to change the mind of Blücher, without success, and finally went to Talleyrand asking him whether he could write a letter to the General asking him not to destroy the bridge. Talleyrand instead wrote to Tsar Alexander, who was in person in Paris, asking him to grant to the people of Paris the favour of inaugurating himself the bridge under a new name (Pont de l'École militaire). The Tsar accepted, and Blücher could not then destroy a bridge inaugurated by an Ally. The name of the bridge was reverted to its original name under Louis-Philippe.
In fiction 
- Talleyrand is portrayed in Dennis Wheatley's series of novels featuring secret agent and gallant Roger Brook (also M.Chevalier de Breuc).
- Talleyrand was featured in the two-character theatre piece by Jean-Claude Brisville Supping with the Devil, in which he is depicted dining with Joseph Fouché while deciding how to preserve their respective power under the coming regime. The drama was hugely successful and was turned into the movie Le Souper (1992), directed by Edouard Molinaro, starring Claude Rich and Claude Brasseur.
- Talleyrand was also a major supporting character in Katherine Neville's book The Eight, a quasi-mystical adventure novel about a centuries-long struggle for control of a chess set with mysterious powers.
- Talleyrand plays a significant part in Arthur Conan Doyle's story "How the Brigadier Slew the Brothers of Ajaccio" (1895), part of the Brigadier Gerard series.
- Talleyrand appears as a supporting character in Rudyard Kipling's short story "A Priest in Spite of Himself", collected in Rewards and Fairies, 1910.
- Talleyrand is the central figure in Roberto Calasso's epic "The Ruin of Kasch". As Italo Calvino noted in 'Panorama Mese', the book "takes up two subjects: the first is Talleyrand, and the second is everything else."
- Talleyrand appears as a character in the 1934 novel Captain Caution, by Kenneth Roberts.
- Talleyrand is the subject of "The Third Lion" by author Floyd Kemske.
- Talleyrand is an offstage but influential character near the end of The Surgeon's Mate, one of the 20 books in the Aubrey-Maturin series of seafaring novels by Patrick O'Brian.
In popular culture 
- In 1995, then Prime Minister of Australia Paul Keating compared then Australian Leader of the Opposition John Howard regaining the Liberal leadership to Talleyrand.
- " ..... Here he is (John Howard) politically limping in like the Bishop of Autun, the Talleyrand of the Liberal Party, scraping his way back into Australian history." 2 February 1995
- "Talleyrand" is the pen-name of a satirical columnist in The University Observer.
- Sacha Guitry played Talleyrand in his 1948 film The Lame Devil (Le Diable boiteux), a fictionalized account of Talleyrand's life. He later reprised the role in the 1955 film Napoléon.
- In 1993 film The Three Musketeers, Cardinal de Richelieu says to Queen Anne: Remember, Kings come and Kings go but one thing remains the same. And that is me., a sentence inspired by "Regimes may fall and fail, but I do not."
- Talleyrand was played by John Malkovich in the TV mini-series Napoléon from 2002. For his performance John Malkovich was nominated for an Emmy in 2003 as "Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie".
- In the RTS game Rise of Nations, Talleyrand is featured as a bonus card for the French nation. He has the ability to force an alliance or declare war for one turn.
- Royot, Daniel (2007). Divided Loyalties in a Doomed Empire. University of Delaware Press, ISBN 978-0-87413-968-6, p. 138: "Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord was the essence of the metamorphic talent inherent in French aristocracy. The so-called Diable boiteux (lame devil), born in 1754 was not fit for armed service."
- "il est admis, ... en 1770, au grand séminaire de Saint-Sulpice": http://www.talleyrand.org
- Controversial concordats. Catholic University of America Press. 1999.
- Palmer, Robert Roswell; Joel Colton (1995). A History of the Modern World (8 ed.). New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing. p. 419. ISBN 978-0-67943-253-1.
- Lawday, David (2007). Napoleon's Master: A Life of Prince Talleyrand. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-37297-3.
- Traité sécret d'alliance défensive, conclu à Vienne entre Autriche, la Grande bretagne et la France, contre la Russie et la Prussie, le 3 janvier 1815
- Bernard, p. 266, 368 fn.
- The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History by Philip Bobbitt (2002), chp 21
- J.A.Gere and John Sparrow (ed.), Geoffrey Madan's Notebooks, Oxford University Press, 1981, at page 12
- Simone Weil (2002). The Need for Roots. Routledge. p. p110. ISBN 0-415-27102-9.
- Talleyrand's short biography in Napoleon & Empire website, displaying photographs of his castle of Valençay and of his tomb
- Gérard Robichaud, Papa Martel, University of Maine Press, 2003, p.125.
- Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), H.M. Stationery Off., 1964, p.1391
- André Castelot (1980), Talleyrand ou le cynisme, from the Mémoires (1880) of Claire de Rémusat, lady-in-waiting to Empress Marie-Louise.
- Brooks, Xan (1 January 2009). "Happy birthday Salinger". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 28 April 2010.
- Atlas, James (14 December 1994). "An Erudite Author In a Genre All His Own". The New York Times.
- Bernard, J.F. (1973). Talleyrand: A Biography. New York: Putnam. ISBN 0-399-11022-4.
- Cooper, Duff (1932). Talleyrand. New York: Harper. ISBN 0-88064-065-0.
- Lawday, David (2006). Napoleon's master: A life of Prince Talleyrand. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 978-0-224-07366-0.
- Orieux, Jean (1970). Talleyrand ou Le Sphinx Incompris. Paris: Flammarion. ISBN 2-08-067674-1.
- Potocka-Wąsowiczowa, Anna z Tyszkiewiczów (1965). Wspomnienia naocznego świadka. Warsaw, PL: PWN.
- Waresquiel, Emmanuel de (2003). Talleyrand: le prince immobile. Paris: Fayard. ISBN 2-213-61326-5.
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- Charles Maurice de Talleyrand Perigord 1754–1838
- Career of Mme Grand, Talleyrand's wife
- Bishop Charles Maurice de Talleyrand Perigord, Catholic Hierarchy website
- Talleyrands letters and dispatches translated into English