Remembering the wise Talleyrand

Political Cartoon of Napoleon I and TalleyrandNapoleon I, originally Napolean Bonaparte, was the emperor of France. He seized power in 1799 in a coup d'etat, crowned himself emperor in 1804, and attempted to conquer Europe. He abdicated in 1815 after several military defeats.
Political Cartoon of Napoleon I and Talleyrand
Napoleon I, originally Napolean Bonaparte, was the emperor of France. He seized power in 1799 in a coup d’etat, crowned himself emperor in 1804, and attempted to conquer Europe. He abdicated in 1815 after several military defeats.

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

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 was born a day like today on February 13, 1754.  He is one of the smartest and more prolific politicians and diplomats of  modern times (and one of my favourites).  Born and well educated in the arts, letters and ideas into an aristocratic family in Paris he quickly became a wise men by a young age.  He worked, survived and taught successfully for and against the regimes of Louis XVI, participated actively through the French Revolution and then under Napoleon ILouis XVIIICharles X, and Louis-Philippe.

The Dutch historian, Pieter Geyl, said once that, “in the purely political arena” the only figure to have held on to his rank in history during the Napoleonic era, apart from Napoleon himself of course, was Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord and he intended to include a chapter on the prince in his famous work Napoleon For and Against (Harmondsworth, 1949).(1)

Talleyrand was, without a doubt, one of the most remarkable figures in the history of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, and certainly one of the most controversial. He was one of a rare breed capable of occupying a wide range of positions in politics and society, both in his public and private life. To a certain extent, he was representative of his era, whether taking on the mantel of the Ancien Régime, as an aristocrat working for the Revolution, or as lord of the Château de Valençay during the Restoration. However, it is the most important of these roles, Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Directoire, the Consulate, the Empire and the Restoration, for which he is of course remembered.

To learn more about his life, works and ideas I invite you to read the following biography (one of my favourite books too) which I am sure you will all enjoy: Talleyrand by Duff Cooper

Reenacting The Battle of the Nations 16-19 October, 1813

Today I had the pleasure of attending (living) the reenactment of The Battle of the Nations (also known as The Battle of Leipzig) that took place half mile south of Leipzig on 16-19 October, 1813.  The battle was fought by the coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria and Sweden against the French army of Napoleon. Napoleon’s army also contained Polish and Italian troops as well as Germans from the Confederation of the Rhine. The battle involved over 600,000 soldiers, making it the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I.1

This allied victory over Napoleon at Leipzig marked the first significant cooperation among European nations against a common foe. “Napoleon limped back toward Paris. Behind him he left 60,000 dead, wounded, or captured French soldiers. The Allies had lost a similar number, but they could find replacements far more quickly and easily than Napoleon. Other countries, including the Netherlands and Bavaria–which Napoleon had added to his confederation by conquest–now abandoned him and joined the Allies. On December 21, the Allies invaded France and, following their victory at Paris on March 30, 1814, forced Napoleon into exile on Elba.”2

Indeed, it was the cooperation of all the region’s powers that Leipzig led to the fall of Paris and the abdication of Napoleon. The decisiveness of this battle had a global impact that redefined the course of history.

I invite you to see all the pictures I took of this fantastic battle:

Check dozens of more pictures in my Flickr album

1 Battle of Leipzig. Wikipedia.

2 Vía http://www.historyplace.com