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Charles-Maurice de Tallyrand
[Charles-Maurice de Tallyrand]
February 2, 1754 - May 17, 1838
Bishop of Autun, he proposed confiscation of church property and schemed against Louis XVI. Fleeing Paris for London in 1792, by 1794 he was expelled from Britain and sojourning in Maine. He returned to Paris in 1796 and the following year, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, he introduced Napoleon to the Directory and urged the invasion of Egypt. Resigning as Foreign Minister in the summer of 1799, he accepted reappointment later the same year. He held the post until 1807 when he was appointed Vice-Grand Elector.
Concurrently, he held the office of Emperor Napoleon's Grand Chambellan from 1804 until 1809. In 1812 he briefly acted as Napoleon's agent in Warsaw. The following year he refused reappointment as Foreign Minister on three occasions. On Napoleon's abdication, Tallyrand was appointed president of the provisional government in 1814. As Foreign Minister he signed the Treaty of Paris and subsequent alliances with Britain and Austria. Reappointed to both offices, he resigned in 1815 to be appointed Grand Chambellan.
Having been appointed Prince of Benevento in 1806, he relinquished the principality in 1817 for a substantial sum and a lesser title. Louise XVIII had appointed him "prince de Tallyrand" in 1814, a title he carried for the rest of his life. A key player in the Bourbon restoration, by 1816 his personal animosities to government dignitaries lead to Louis XVIII suspending him as Grand Chambellan and, briefly, banishing him from the Tuileries. He later served as ambassador to England from 1830 to 1834.
There is little reason to believe he was a freemason:
"Another powerful tie between Tallyrand and the duc d'Orléans, and indeed with many of the Orléan circle, was in all probability freemasonry. It is not quite certain that Charles-Maurice was a mason, but the likelihood is strong. He seems to have been initiated by the duc as premier surveilant ('first warden') of a masonic lodge that d'Orléans established in Paris in 1786.62 That did not prevent Tallyrand in his memoirs from mocking what he considered the duc's ridiculous pride in being grand master of France's Grand-Orient lodge."63
62. François de la Rouchefoucauld, duc de Liancourt (1747-1827), was master of the royal wardrobe and would be a useful ally of Tallyrand's; see p. 43. Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (1741-1803) was an Orléanist propagandist, as well as the author of the notorious novel Liasons dangereuses. Lacour-Gayet asserts that Tallyrand was definitely a freemason, while Poniatowski, without evidence, is equally emphatic that he was not (Lacour-Gayet, Tallyrand, p. 87 ; Poniatowski, Tallyrand et l'ancienne France, p. 520 note 1).
63. Tallyrand, Mémoires, I, p. 167.

Tallyrand, Betrayer and Savior of France, Robin Harris. London : John Murray, 2007. p. 33, 357. Portrait : by François Gerard (1808) The Art Archive/Dagli Orti.


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