Talleyrand, Part II

Harold Kurtz writes that the torments of a false conscience formed a secret experience that was with Talleyrand all his life.

The reader may feel reproachfully at this point in our study of Talleyrand that an excessive amount of space has been given to the affair of the Duke of Enghien, which was, after all, but one brief episode in a long and successful life dedicated to the greatness and stability of France.

Moreover, it is an episode in which the person principally concerned has taken good care to efface the traces of his share. Yet it had to be treated at length because it is probably the only event in that long life which brings us face to face with Talleyrand’s conscience, the existence of which is generally denied. We must give him the final word on this subject.

When the old Talleyrand was French Ambassador in London in the 1830’s the conversation turned one evening upon Charles X, and a French visitor spoke on the “undeserved miseries” which that luckless Prince had had to suffer most of his life. “You are quite right, Monsieur,” said Talleyrand. “Nobody,” he continued after a pause, “has ever known sufficiently the Prince’s heart, his perfect inner goodness.

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