The Diplomats

Talleyrand by Marie-Éléonore Godefroid, in between 1825 and 1850, French Residence in London

It was only natural that diplomats, or at least some of the most remarkable among them, should make an entrance in “Perspectives Europe-Monde”. The diaphragm of an optical lens, such as the logo of this site, is their favorite instrument of observation, the focus consisting of an adjustment of the image, and diplomats are often called upon to engage in all of these operations. It is desirable that they at least possess a good 50mm lens, which corresponds to natural vision, and they sometimes happen to modify their focal length to get closer or on the contrary, take distance. But it is particularly indispensable for them to possess a wide-angle lens, with the greatest possible field of view, in order to have an overview of what is happening and to outline perspectives. Perspective, always and ever…

The list of diplomats likely to be retained on this site is by definition arbitrary. But as we say “Honour where honour is due”, and thus this list could not fail to place Tallyrand, the most famous of diplomats, at the forefront. Tallyrand made strides in a period which was itself exceptional, that of the Ancien Régime, of revolutions, from 1789 until that of 1830, and of the Napoleonic Empire.

The order will then follow on in a more chronological fashion and on a geographic basis. The selection will place emphasis on influential States and major global institutions such as the UN and the Vatican, as their clout is a decisive factor in evidencing diplomatic players. It is therefore not just about evoking pure talent, albeit remarkable, but also their influence on the unfolding of events, the privilege of those with access to the “board” of powers. In reality, Diplomats do not act uniquely within the traditional and strict boundaries of what is still called Foreign Affairs. If we consider this category nowadays, it refers to specific professional skills and aptitudes, as well as a creative ability to influence change, which can be allowed to flourish in all environments. To reinforce this assertion I will cite, for example, the EU, the IMF and the ECB, which are currently led by three absolutely remarkable women. But we could also mention mighty champions such as Pelé, Maradona, Yashin, Zidane or Federer, who greatly surpassed the context of sport in which they excelled. We could also cite the fashion designer Pierre Cardin, or Christophe de Margerie who managed the French oil corporation Total. Grand diplomacy is ultimately seeking to extend the influence of one’s country, institution, cause or passion, and yearning to communicate as broadly as possible to reach worldwide dimensions.

It is possible to feel modest at the idea of drawing on works and biographies, stories or even first-hand accounts to sketch the portrait, after so many others, of the Prince of Benevento. For the latter, I shall take position behind the remarkable works of Jean Tulard and Charles Zorgbibe who was and still is my grandmaster. But we must also dare to speak of Yevgeny Primakov and Sergey Lavrov, of Willy Brandt, Kofi Annan, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar and Lakhdar Brahimi, of Hubert Védrine and Roland Dumas, of John Kerry and William J. Burns, and of the supreme audacity of Jean-Bernard Raimond – who himself was both a minister and a diplomat – and the immense man of politics that was Pope John Paul II. The list, which is not exhaustive, sets the mind spinning…

Madame de Talleyrand-Périgord (Madame Grand), painted in 1783 by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun

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