All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Monday, June 09, 2008

Was Talleyrand Born In Maine?

Was French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord—popularly known as "Talleyrand"—born in Maine? Edward Robbins, a former Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, thought so.
When Talleyrand was in Boston, in 1794, he was introduced to Mr. Robbins, and they became quite intimate. A few weeks subsequent to their acquaintance, Mr. Robbins was called on business to Mount Desert, in Maine, where, to his surprise, he found Talleyrand, incog., and on questioning him in regard to his business there, he returned an evasive answer, and treated him very coldly during his stay.

The stranger's (Talleyrand's) visit caused considerable surprise among the few inhabitants of the place at that time, and when Mr. R. informed them that his name was Talleyrand, a French gentleman of considerable note, who had left France on account of the Revolution—that he had been introduced to him in Boston, and was surprised to find him so shy and indifferent on their meeting there, the people were as much so, as they had noticed his strolling about the place without any apparent notice. But some of the older inhabitants observed that his lameness and walk put them in mind of the French Boy, (as they used to call him) who was taken from there about the time of the close of the French War. These observations induced Mr. Robbins to make particular inquiries in regard to the French Boy, and they informed him that sometime previous to the war, a French ship of war came into that place to make repairs, and to obtain wood and water; that while there, the captain became intimate with a young girl, the daughter of a fisherman than absent, which created scandal among the little society of fish mongers, and in due time the girl gave birth to a child—a fine boy.

The next year the French captain made his appearance among them, and found the mother and son, whom he well provided for, and made some presents to the grand-parents, which apparently reconciled them, especially as he promised to marry the girl when he should come out the next year; but they never saw him again.

When the boy was about a year old, the mother overturned a kettle of boiling water on his feet, which so curled up his toes as to make him a cripple for life. Some few years after this, the mother died, and at the close of the war, or about that time, a French gentleman (not the father of the child) came there for the purpose of taking the boy to France; but the grand-parents would not give him up until the gentleman proposed as follows: That he would give them enough money to make them comfortable during their lives; that the father was dead, and that the uncle of the boy was a French nobleman, of immense fortune, and had promised the father that he would adopt him and bring him up as his own child, provided he could be brought to Paris; which proposals were accepted, and the boy was taken away. [Link]
In a Discover Maine article, Barbara Adams locates Talleyrand's supposed birthplace as Southwest Harbor.

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