British Passport 1803 Legation Paris Signed Talleyrand

British Passport 1803 Legation Paris Signed Talleyrand

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754-1838)
French Diplomat and Statesman. Prime Minister of France

Paris, 12th May 1803, partially printed document issued by the British Embassy in Paris, to J. Charles Clermont, in French. The attractive document, bearing two large printed coats of arms, is a passport authorizing Charles Clermont to return to England together with his servant, and states ‘Charles Lord Whitworth, Counselor of Her British Majesty and British Ambassador to France, asks and requests in the name of Her Majesty to all Officers and authorities, civil and military ones, Princes and friend States and allies of Her Majesty, not only to let Charles Clermont cross any territory, with his servant and luggage, but also to give him any help he may require on his way back to England. We promise reciprocity on similar situations… Beneath the British Ambassador’s signature, and annotated in another hand ‘The Foreign Affairs Minister certify that the above signature of H.E. Lord Whitworth is authentic, Paris, 16th May 1803‘, signed by Talleyrand in his capacity as Foreign Affairs Minister. Also signed by a Diplomatic service officer, and bearing a contemporary ink stamp of the French Foreign Affairs Ministry.

UK Talleyrand 1803

Charles Whitworth (1752-1825) British Ambassador to France. Whitworth demanded his passports on 12th May 1803, the same day the present passport was issued, and left Paris. Whitworth reached London on 20th May. Two days after Talleyrand signed the present document, on 18th May 1803, Britain declared war against France. On 22nd May Napoleon ordered the arrest of all British residents in France.

On 13th March 1803 took place the famous scene between Napoleon I and the British Ambassador at the Tuileries. Before a full court Napoleon exclaimed loudly to Whitworth “Misfortune to those who do not respect treaties. They will be accountable to the whole of Europe”.

Whitworth will later state “He was too agitated to prolong the conversation; I therefore made no answer, and he retired to his apartment repeating the last phrase. Two hundred people heard this conversation, and I am persuaded that there was not a single person who did not feel the extreme impropriety of his conduct and the total want of dignity as well as of decency on the occasion’.

charles_maurice_de_talleyrandCharles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, prince de Bénévent, then prince de Talleyrand, was a French bishop, politician and diplomat. Due to a lame leg, he was not able to pursue the military career that had originally been foreseen for him by his family. Instead he studied theology. In 1780, he became Agent-General of the Clergy and represented the Catholic Church to the French Crown. He worked at the highest levels of successive French governments, most commonly as foreign minister or in some other diplomatic capacity. His career spanned the regimes of Louis XVI, the years of the French Revolution, Napoleon, Louis XVIII, and Louis-Philippe. Those he served often distrusted Talleyrand but, like Napoleon, found him extremely useful. The name “Talleyrand” has become a byword for crafty, cynical diplomacy.

He was Napoleon’s chief diplomat during the years when French military victories brought one European state after another under French hegemony. However, most of the time, Talleyrand worked for peace so as to consolidate France’s gains. He succeeded in obtaining peace with Austria through the 1801 Treaty of Luneville and with Britain in the 1802 Treaty of Amiens. He could not prevent the renewal of war in 1803 but by 1805, he opposed his emperor’s renewed wars against Austria, Prussia, and Russia. He resigned as foreign minister in August 1807, but retained the trust of Napoleon and connived to undermine the emperor’s plans through secret dealings with Tsar Alexander of Russia and the Austrian minister Metternich.

British Passport 1803 Legation Paris Signed Talleyrand

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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

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