Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord  - Survivor

Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord - Survivor

As I draw to a close the biography by Duff Cooper on the famed French diplomat Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord – often referred to in history as just Talleyrand – I am reminded that in spite of our belief that the world is in fragile state – it has – roughly speaking – always been the case. Born in 1754 to an aristocratic family with a long lineage, gammy legged, his titled conferred to his brother and sent off to be part of the clergy, Talleyrand first managed to become the Bishop Of Autun (recall former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s insult against then opposition leader John Howard), survived the French Revolution, survived being decapitated within a hair’s breadth, survived the terror, emigrated to London, then Philadelphia, made safe passage back during the First Assembly, promoted Napoleon to office, presided over his affairs as he became Emperor, devised his downfall, oversaw and implemented the architecture of Europe as we know it today and reinstalled the Bourbon Kings. And that’s where I am up to at the minute.

At every turn he might have had his head chopped off, by way of his birth, by way of corruption, by way of treason. Yet somehow this charming man with his wit and intelligence always intact is able to survive throughout a tumultuous period of European and French history.

One AFR journalist that I coffee with sometimes like to quote a particular dinner party where a charming woman of society asks him at dinner “And Monsieur Talleyrand, what did you do during the revolution?” to which Talleyrand responds, “I survived.”

So today on this Friday I offer you this – whatever it is we witness in our lifetimes, don’t forget that those before you have witnessed the horrors of revolutions, purges, war and terror. They have withstood hardships and harder periods in which to live, they have gone without so many of the amenities we take for granted today and they have suffered health issues without any of the advancements in medical science that we casually enjoy today.

Gratitude and acknowledgement this Friday are what I will practice. And I would like to thank my customers for remaining so.

Have a great weekend.


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