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Napoleon's Master: A Life of Prince Talleyrand

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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 ...

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Overview

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.

Napoleon’s Master is a riveting portrait of an eternally fascinating man.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Swift, informed and literate."

—-Kirkus Reviews

"Comprehensive and quite good."

—-Publishers Weekly

"Yields insight . . . Lawday gives good account of Talleyrand's languid and imperturbable personality and throws light on his keen sense of political weather. Delivers complete coverage, stocking and all, of Talleyrand's remarkable, controversial career."

—-Booklist

“A marvelous biography.”

—-The Daily Telegraph (UK)

“A fast-moving romp through Talleyrand’s life, engagingly admiring of its subjects and appreciative of his many qualities.”

—-The Sunday Telegraph (UK)

“Entertaining . . . strangely touching . . . tells of the extraordinary life of a politician who managed to survive and prosper through revolution, empire, restoration, empire, restoration, and revolution again.”

—-The Scotsman (UK)

“Alive with the world of the Paris salon and the glittering connections of a most sociable diplomat . . . David Lawday is an ideal biographer of Talleyrand.”

—-The Economist (UK)

Publishers Weekly

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. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

One of the key players in the momentous events of European history, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord is best known as chief adviser to Napoléon. He was also instrumental in bringing about the emperor's downfall and then playing an active role during the Restoration regimes of Louis XVIII and Charles X. Further, he was ambassador to London for Louis-Philippe during key negotiations that ended centuries of hostilities between England and France. Talleyrand sprang from the upper aristocracy but was relegated to the priesthood because of a deformed foot. Joining the clergy in no way inhibited his libertine habits and he quickly became a leader in the Parisian social scene. Ex-journalist Lawday (Economist) has created a compelling portrait of this dynamic Frenchman, downplaying Talleyrand's hedonistic and opportunistic reputation while arguing that Talleyrand was a true statesman who envisioned a Europe governed by international laws and engaged in free trade. Although some scholars may quibble over the book's thin documentation, Lawday's is the first English-language biography of Talleyrand in over 70 years. Recommended for all libraries.
—Jim Doyle

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312372972
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/13/2007
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.77 (w) x 9.11 (h) x 1.36 (d)

Meet 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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Table of Contents


Maps     ix
Illustrations     xiii
Prologue: Paris 1809     1
Born to Count     11
In the Black     20
A Good Revolution     39
Saved by a Passport     58
America     74
Encounter with a Warrior     89
Minister of Civilisation     105
Napoleon Breaks His Leash     120
England's Baggage     137
Austerlitz - and Trafalgar     155
The Quartermaster's Two-step     171
Disgrace     183
Tea with the Tsar     197
A Stockingful of Mistrust     210
1812     230
A Conqueror's Fall     242
'One More Frenchman'     262
The Congress of Vienna     274
Waterloo     293
National Grouch     308
Last Performance     330
Epilogue     345
Notes     349
Index     371
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