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Napoleon's Master: A Life of Prince Talleyrand
Synopses & Reviews
Lawday explores in detail Talleyrand's perverse relationship with Napoleon, whom he fought with flattery, courtesy and an alarmingly straight face. Quite as much as the Duke of Wellington, it was this club-footed genius of French diplomacy who defeated the great conqueror and delivered France and all Europe from the Emperor's follies.
"Charles-Maurice de Tallyrand-Perigord (1754 1838) was a diplomat for all regimes. He had major French governmental posts, including brief stints as prime minister, for nearly four decades: during the post-terror phase of the French Revolution and then under Napoleon and the Bourbon King Louis XVIII. As portrayed by Lawday, a former correspondent for the Economist, Talleyrand was a womanizer (he and Gouverneur Morris, then the American ambassador to Paris, competed for the same mistress) and a money-grubber, with a certain aristocratic hauteur. Yet Tallyrand was gifted at diplomacy: he was patient, an exceptional listener and, most important, a conciliator. Having had an exceptionally close relationship with Napoleon, he came to staunchly oppose the emperor's 'insatiable ambition' and even committed near-treason in his complicity with Austria and Russia against Napoleon. Lawday devotes appropriate space to Talleyrand's finest moment, the 1815 Congress of Vienna, where his skills steered the assembled diplomats to allowing France to remain an integral part of the 'concert of Europe.' Though comprehensive and quite good, Lawday's biography is long on narrative, hewing closely to the details of Tallyrand's unfolding life, but short on analyses of Tallyrand's choices and of the broader French and European contexts in which he acted. 8 pages of b&w photos; maps." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Born into the high aristocracy, where rank meant more than wealth, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord was to become one of the great politicians of all time. His early career in politics was marked with turmoil: a liberal who saw the need to curb the powers of the monarchy, Talleyrand fled from France when the violence of the revolution turned extreme in 1792, first to England and then to the United States. It was not until his return to France after the dust had settled in 1796 that his star would begin to rise in earnest.
First, he was appointed Foreign Minister. In this position, he aligned himself with the charismatic general who would become Emperor of France: Napoleon Bonaparte.
In the course of the next three decades, Talleyrand would prove himself perhaps the most adept politician of all time: his political pliability allowed him to survive the fall of Bonaparte and the consequent second Bourbon restoration. He was in the shadow of power in Europe through more upheaval than perhaps any other person of his generation.
Napoleons Master is a riveting portrait of an eternally fascinating man.
About the Author
David Lawday was born in London and educated at Oxford. A writer and journalist who was a correspondent for twenty years with The Economist, he now lives in Paris with his wife and two children.
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