A profile of the contradictory statesman Charles Maurice Prince de Talleyrand who went from church establishment figure to revolutionary, supporter of Napoleon Bonaparte to promoter of the Bourbon Restoration during one of the most turbulent periods of French and European history. Witty and wiley, cynical and charming, Talleyrand has been portrayed as a cynical opportunist, hypocrite, and traitor who betrayed governments whenever he had a chance to do so. Yet as the representative of France and advocate of peace at the Congress of Vienna, he has also been cast as the saviour of Europe. Philip Dwyer offers a detached analysis of the role of Talleyrand in the corridors of power over five different French regimes. He presents Talleyrand as a pragmatist, a member of the French political elite, mediating between various political interests and ideological tendencies to produce a working compromise, rather than actively seeking the overthrow of governments. His ability to weather the tectonic shifts in French and European politics of the time, and to successfully attach himself to the prevalent political trend, ensured that his role as French statesman was long and productive.
Philip Dwyer specialises in the history of Napoleonic France and Europe: published titles include "Napoleon and Europe "(Longman) and "Modern Prussian History "(Longman). He teaches history at the University of Newcastle, New South Wales.