(Important in The Mistaken Wife)

By any measure, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754-1838) had an astonishing career.  The eldest son in an aristocratic family, his deformed foot disqualified him from the Army so he was intended for the Church.  He was ordained in 1779 and became bishop of Autun ten years later through family influence, although he regarded his vocation with considerable cynicism.  His extremist conduct during the first stage of the Revolution resulted in excommunication, while his secret royalist sympathies caused the National Convention to issue a warrant for his arrest.  Fortunately, he was in England on an unofficial commission when this happened.  He was expelled from Britain in 1794 and went to America, where he remained until the fall of Robespierre.  Then, through the intervention of friends, he succeeded in having his name removed from the émigré list and returned to France in 1796.  The following year he became Foreign Minister.  Having cultivated the friendship of Napoleon Bonaparte, Talleyrand was instrumental in the coup d’état that brought the general to power in 1799, securing his own position in the process.  (The sentence of excommunication was also lifted in 1802.)  He continued as Foreign Minister until 1807, and thereafter provided confidential information to Austria and Russia, with an eye to protecting France (and himself) in the event of Bonaparte’s death or defeat.  When the latter occurred in 1814, Talleyrand helped to restore the Bourbon monarchy and served as chief French negotiator at the Congress of Vienna.  Bonaparte’s return and second defeat undermined the settlement Talleyrand had helped to bring about, and he resigned in 1815.  For the next fifteen years he was out of office, but in 1830 he was appointed ambassador to the United Kingdom.  On his deathbed he received the last rites of the Catholic Church, and instructed his confessor to anoint the backs rather than the palms of his hands, stating, ‘Remember – I am a bishop.’