The arrival of Charles-Maurice, Prince de Talleyrand-Perigord, as French ambassador in London in September 1830, was regarded as a great event by the British government. Two months earlier the July Revolution in Paris, overthrowing the reactionary rule of Charles X, had brought the liberal Louis-Philippe to the throne. Talleyrand, the best-known diplomat in Europe, had emerged from retirement at the age of 76 to lend his support to the new monarchy and to confirm its acceptance by the other European powers.Few people had aroused more controversy than Talleyrand. A former bishop whose love affairs were notorious, and a turncoat who had abandoned every master he had served, he was widely detested by the French public. But he was greeted as a celebrity in London, where the July Revolution - foreshadowing Britain's own Reform Bill - had been hugely popular. London society had not yet acquired the virtuous tone of the Victorian era.
The easy-going morals of the Regency had carried on into the reign of William IV, and the fact that Talleyrand's niece by marriage, the Duchess of Dino, 37 years his junior, was not only his hostess but reputedly his mistress, merely added to theinterest he induced.Talleyrand had arrived in London at a perilous moment. Revolution had broken out in Belgium, where the Belgians demanded independence from Holland to which they had been forcibly joined in 1815. The autocratic powers of Russia, Austria and Prussia threatened war to restore the status quo. It was largely thanks to Talleyrand's diplomatic skills and his close collaboration with the British that the creation of Belgium as a constitutional monarchy was peacefully achieved.Talleyrand's four years in London were the last and, in his own opinion, the most important of his diplomatic career. Linda Kelly's sparkling narrative brings the period to life, providing a fascinating picture of one of Europe's greateststatesmen as he appeared to English eyes.
Linda Kelly's books include Juniper Hall, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and most recently Holland House and Ireland's Minstrel (both I.B.Tauris). She has written for The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Times Literary Supplement and numerous other publications, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Wordsworth Trust. She is married to the writer Laurence Kelly, a specialist in Russian history. They have three children and live in London.
List of Illustrations Author's Note Prologue The July Revolution Ambassador in London The Belgian Conference Social Successes The Search for a Monarch The Eighteen Articles French Troops in Belgium! A Firm and Cordial Entente The Triumph of Reform Leave of Absence Besieging Antwerp A New Challenge The Quadruple Alliance A Changing Scene Time to Go Epilogue Dramatis Personae Notes Bibliography Index