Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord quotes

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord photo
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Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Birthdate: 2. February 1754
Date of death: 17. May 1838
Other names: Charles Maurice Talleyrand, Charles M. Talleyrand-Périgord, Principe Talleyrand

Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord , 1st Prince of Benevento, then 1st Duke of Talleyrand, was a French politician and diplomat. After theology studies, he became in 1780 Agent-General of the Clergy and represented the Catholic Church to the French Crown. He worked at the highest levels of successive French governments, most commonly as foreign minister or in some other diplomatic capacity. His career spanned the regimes of Louis XVI, the years of the French Revolution, Napoleon, Louis XVIII, and Louis-Philippe. Those he served often distrusted Talleyrand but, like Napoleon, found him extremely useful. The name "Talleyrand" has become a byword for crafty, cynical diplomacy.

He was Napoleon's chief diplomat during the years when French military victories brought one European state after another under French hegemony. However, most of the time, Talleyrand worked for peace so as to consolidate France's gains. He succeeded in obtaining peace with Austria through the 1801 Treaty of Luneville and with Britain in the 1802 Treaty of Amiens. He could not prevent the renewal of war in 1803 but by 1805, he opposed his emperor's renewed wars against Austria, Prussia, and Russia. He resigned as foreign minister in August 1807, but retained the trust of Napoleon and conspired to undermine the emperor's plans through secret dealings with Tsar Alexander of Russia and Austrian minister Metternich. Talleyrand sought a negotiated secure peace so as to perpetuate the gains of the French revolution. Napoleon rejected peace and, when he fell in 1814, Talleyrand eased the Bourbon restoration decided by the Allies. He played a major role at the Congress of Vienna in 1814–1815, where he negotiated a favourable settlement for France and played a role in decisions regarding the undoing of Napoleon's conquests.

Talleyrand polarizes scholarly 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. Wikipedia

Quotes Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

„They have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.“

—  Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

and variations
Recognized since the 19th century as a borrowing, possibly used by Talleyrand, from a 1796 letter to Mallet du Pan by French naval officer Charles Louis Etienne, Chevalier de Panat: Personne n'est corrigé; personne n'a su ni rien oublier ni rien apprendre. "Nobody has been corrected; no one has known to forget, nor yet to learn anything."
Sources: Craufurd Tate Ramage Ll.D.Beautiful thoughts from French and Italian authors, E. Howell (1866)
Misattributed

„It is not an event, it is a piece of news.“

—  Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Ce n'est pas un événement, c'est une nouvelle.
On hearing of Napoleon's death; reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922).

„I know where there is more wisdom than is found in Napoleon, Voltaire, or all the ministers present and to come — in public opinion.“

—  Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Original: (fr) Je connais quelqu'un qui a plus d'esprit que Napoléon, que Voltaire, que tous les ministres présents et futurs: c'est l'opinion.

In the Chamber of Peers (1821); reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 570.

„It is the beginning of the end.“

—  Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

C'est le commencement de la fin.
Ascribed to Talleyrand in The Hundred Days (1815); reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 66. Also attributed to General Augereau.

„You do not play then at whist, sir! Alas, what a sad old age you are preparing for yourself!“

—  Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Vous ne jouez donc pas le whist, monsieur? Hélas! quelle triste vieilesse vous vous préparez!
Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 90.

„Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love.“

—  Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Noir comme le diable, chaud comme l'enfer, pur comme un ange, doux comme l'amour.
frequently misattributed to Talleyrand, no primary source exists, its not his style of speech, and he famously drank tea not coffee.
Misattributed

„Whoever did not live in the years neighboring 1789 does not know what the pleasure of living means.“

—  Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Qui n'a pas vécu dans les années voisines de 1789 ne sait pas ce que c'est le plaisir de vivre.
Reported in Memoirs pour Servir a l'histoire de nous Temps by François Guizot, Volume I, p. 6.

„It is worse than a crime, it is a mistake.“

—  Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

C'est pire qu'un crime, c'est une faute.
Reaction to the 1804 drumhead trial and execution of Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, on orders of Napoleon. Actually said by either Antoine Boulay de la Meurthe, legislative deputy from Meurthe (according to the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations) or Joseph Fouché, Napoleon's chief of police (according to John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919), http://www.bartleby.com/100/758.1.html).
Misattributed

„There is no sentiment less aristocratic than that of nonbelief.“

—  Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Reported in, Bernard, J. F., Talleyrand: A Biography. (1973), p. 605

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