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La Brède (Municipality, Gironde, France)

Last modified: 2024-04-06 by olivier touzeau
Keywords: gironde | brede (la) |
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Flag of La Brède - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 27 April 2022

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Presentation of La Brède

La Brède (4,469 inhabitants in 2021; 2,382 ha) is a commune in the Gironde department.

A proto-historic necropolis (tumulus of Perbos) is located in the south of the commune, bordering the commune of Saint-Morillon.
The former name of the commune was Saint-Jean-d'Etampes, in reference to a presence of the Templars: it was the seat of a Templar establishment in the 11th century.
The Château de La Brède is a feudal castle in La Brède, built in the Gothic style starting in 1306, on the site of an earlier castle. It is surrounded by water-filled moats and an English garden, in the centre of a Bordelais vineyard. The philosopher Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, was born, lived and wrote the majority of his works here. Montesquieu is the principal source of the theory of separation of powers, is the author of the Persia letters (1721) and anonymously published The Spirit of Law (1748).
At her death in 2004, the Countess of Chabannes, a descendant of Montesquieu and last owner of the château, bequeathed her belongings, including the castle, to the Foundation named after her.

Olivier Touzeau, 27 April 2022

La Brède and ist fortified manor were owned in 1283 by Galhard de Lalande. Jean de Lalande rebuilt the castle in 1419, married Jeanne de Foix, the daughter of Gaston de Foix, and was created Baron of Lalande in 1426. After his death in 1440, his unique daughter, Catherine de Lalande, married Gaston de l'Isle, lord of L'Isle-en-Médoc. Their son, Pierre de L'Isle, inherited the castle of La Brède in 1502.
Jean de Pesnel married Pierre's grand-daughter, Françoise de l'Isle, and inherited La Brède in 1577. Marie-Françoise de Pesnel married in 1686 Jacques de Secondat, the daughter of Gaston de Secondat, Baron of Montesquieu, "President à mortier" at the Bordeaux Parliament. They were the parents of Charles-Louis de Secondat (1689-1755), Baron of La Brède (1713)and Baron de Montesquieu (1716), universally known as the philosopher Montesquieu. [source: Savoirs et Images en Graves-Montesquieu]

Montesquieu published anonymously in Amsterdam in 1721 the "Lettres persanes" (Persian Letters), recounting the adventures of two Persians discovering Paris; the novel, indeed a satire of France during the late reign of Louis XIV and the Regency that followed, filled with frontal attacks against religion, has remained a model of intellectual freedom.
Montesquieu resigned from his office of President at the Bordeaux Parliament that he had inherited from his father. He was elected at the French academy the same year, in spite of the reluctance of several academicians he had mocked in the Persian Letters. In the next three years, he traveled all over Europe, including a 18-month stay in England, to learn more about different political and economical systems, aiming at becoming a diplomat, to no avail. Back to France in 1731, he stayed in the castle of La Brède and in Bordeaux at his brother's, who was Dean of the St. Seurin basilica, and regularly traveled to Paris.
In 1734, he published "Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de leur décadence" (Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline). He ordered the destruction of all copies, but one, of "Réflexions sur la monarchie universelle en Europe" (Thoughts on Universal Monarchy in Europe), scared by his own audacity.
Montesquieu published in Geneva in 1748 his masterpiece, "De l'esprit des lois" (The Spirit of Law), a plea for a constitutional system of government and separation of power and preservation of legality and civil liberties. Violently criticized by the Roman Catholic church, Montesquieu published in 1750 the rebuttal "La défense de l'esprit des lois" (The Defense of the Spirit of Law).

When the French Revolution broke out, Charles-Louis de Secondat, the philosopher's grandson, emigrated to England and the castle was confiscated as a national good but not sold. Joseph Cyrille de Secondat, a cousin of Charles-Louis, restored the castle but did not later its organization; the philosopher's room was left untouched. At the death of Charles-Louis in 1824, Joseph Cyrille's son, Prosper de Secondat, inherited the castle, revamped as his family residence, and the titles of Baron of Montesquieu and La Brède. His son, Charles de Secondat, hired from 1870 to 1877 the famous architect Paul Abadie (1812-1884) to modernize the castle and increase its comfort. Montesquieu's room, kept untouched, became a place of pilgrimage, which was visited by Stendhal in 1838.
Registered as an historical monument in 1951, the castle of La Brède was offered in 2004 by Countess Jacqueline de Chabannes, a grand grand-daughter of the philosopher, to the foundation she had created to preserve her ancestor's heritage. The whole domain of La Brède was registered as an historical monument in 2008. [sources: Château de la Brède website & A Montesquieu Dictionary]

Ivan Sache, 29 April 2022

Coat of arms of La Brède

The coat of arms of the commune is blazoned:
Quarterly, 1. Azure three fesses Argent charged with nine merlettes Sable set 4, 3 and 2; 2. Gules a lion Ermine armed, langued and crowned Or; 3. Argent a cross bottony Gules surmounting a terrace in base Azure charged with three flowers Or, their stems in a bowl of the same; 4. Argent four fesses Azure; overall an inescutcheon Azure a fess Or flanked in chief by wo escallops of the same and in base by a crescent Argent.

This coat of arms, designed by J.-L. Chapin, is formed by the coats of arms of the four main ascending and descending families of Montesquieu, that is to say:

  • the family of La Lande (4. ; 11th century-1502); The Armorial Général gives "Azure three fesses argent" as the arms of Pierre de la Lande, King's Councillor and Lieutenant General in the Admiralty of Bayonne [source] and of Bertrand de la Lande, Baron of Magescq [source].
  • the family of L'Isle (L'Isle de la River originating in the region of Fronsac) (3. ; 1502-1577);
  • the family of Penelle (or Pesnel) (1. ; 1577-1686)
  • and the family of Chabannes (2. 1900-2004); the Armorial Général features these arms for André Louis de la Chabane, Councillor at the Bordeaux Parliament [source]; Guillaume Gaston de la Chabane, Treasurer of France [source]; de Chabanne, Abbot of Aubeterre (Limousin) [source]; Gilbert de Chabannes, Officer (Paris); and Henry de Chabannes, Knight, Marquess of Curton [source].
    The first known member of the Chabannes lineage would be Eschivat de Chavannes, who married in 1171 Matabrune de Ventadour, the daughter of Ebblo IV, Viscount of Ventadour, and Marguerite de Turenne. Another tradition, totally unsubstantiated, reports that Eschivat was the son of Guillaume de Mathas, a descendant of the Counts of Angoulême. Marguerite brought as her dowry the domain of Charlus, located south-east of Ussel (Corrèze) and its powerful castle, disappeared long ago. The lineage's continuous genealogy starts with Hugues de Chabanne, co-lord of Charlus in the mid-14th century.
    The oldest recorded name of the lineage, Cabanensis, was subsequently written Chabanées, Cabanes, Chabannez, Chabanais, and eventually Chabannes.
    The lineage's oldest documented seal, belonging to Eschivat III de Chabanais, featured two lions rampant in pale. The modern seal seems to have been adopted by Marshal Jacques II de Chabannes.
  • the center of the coat of arms is the coat of arms of the Montesquieus (family of Secondat, 1686-1900).
    The Armorial Général features "Azure in chief to scallops or in base a crescent argent" as the arms of Jaque de Secondac, Baron of La Brède [source]; de Montesquieu, Abbot of Faize [source]; and de Montesquieu, widow of du Noyer, Councillor at the Bordeaux Parliament [source]; and Secondat de Montesquieu, President à mortier at the Bordeaux Parliament [source].
    The same arms with the fess or are shown as the first and fourth quarters of the arms of Godefroy de Secondat, Knight, Lord of Roquefort [source].

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache , 29 April 2022

Flag of La Brède

The flag of the commune is a banner of arms, made after the coat of arms rotated of 90°. The flag has the dexter chief of the coat of arms at the upper hoist : photo (2011), photo (2018), photo (2021).

It has been sometimes observed hoited with the dexter chief of the coat of arms at the lower hoist of the flag: photo (2019), photo (2010)

Olivier Touzeau, 28 April 2022