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Monday, 3 October 2011

Le Comte de la Valade??

Anyone reading my ongoing research into the origins of our La Valade family will have no doubt noticed that everything so far is pure conjecture and that I seem to be going round in circles. This post is more of the same!
From the 14th Century on, the French King began to create titles, issuing a written act called lettres patentes, which had to be registered by the court (parlement) of the region within which the individual lived, and by the Chambre des Comptes, a sort of fiscal auditing department, before the title could be validated.
French titles are a type of fief within the feudal system. which was abolished by the French Revolution.
All titles were attached to a piece of land; if a lord lost or sold a property, therefore, he also lost the title that went with it. The sale of land, and the title which went with the property, was widespread in 16th and 17th century France.
French titles were borne by one person at a time - unlike other north European countries where the title is born by the entire family and is not attached to land ownership. A French family might own several titles at one time and could distribute them amongst his heirs or sell them as he saw fit.
An ecuyer (or esquire) was not a title, but a rank within the nobility - all ecuyers were noblemen, no matter how recently the nobility had been conferred upon them.
Seigneurs were not noblemen nor were they titled - the term, which translates as ‘lord’ merely signified the owner of a certain type of property within the feudal system.
Our Huguenot ancestor, Charles de la Valade, was supposedly the son of the Comte de la Valade, a title which would have gone hand in hand with a territory named La Valade/Lavalade/La Vallade. (The French term ‘comte’ translates as ‘earl’.)
Because there is so little information about Charles de la Valade, I’ve been hunting instead for his father, a Comte de la Valade, who would have been alive in 1670, or thereabouts, when Charles de la Valade would have been born.
In his book ‘Baby on her Back’, William Dubourdieu suggested that the La Valade family originated in the townland of Lavalade, 23 miles south-east of Bergerac, a town strongly associated with the Dubourdieu family.
This particular Lavalade is located just outside the bastide town of Montpazier and was associated with the Pourquery de la Bogotie family. One of their members was named Louis de Pourquery de la Bigotie, Sieur de Roussille, qualifié ecuyer, vicomte de la Valade, comte de la Roque, former captain of the regiment of the Duke de Montauzier, colonel general of the French army, created a chevalier by order of the King, and promoted by the French Minister for War, Louvois.
Louis was present at the marriage of his nephew, Jean Francois de Pourquery, to Marguerite de Vassal in 1658 which would make him conceivably the correct age to have a son in 1670. Unlike other members of this family, no other information is given about this Vicomte de la Valade.
Louis was the only member of his family (which is well-document in ‘Nobiliare de Guienne et Gascogne’) to bear the title of Vicomte de la Valade but there are several reasons why I believe this to be the incorrect family, the first being the fact that the title of vicomte is far superior to that of comte and our ancestor was supposedly a mere comte.
Secondly, this vicomte of La Valade was promoted by Louvois, the man who authorised the use of the Dragonnades to terrorise the Protestant population in 1685 following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. It seems, therefore, unlikely that this family would have Huguenot sons and daughters.
Thirdly, the members of this particular family seemed to use ‘Pourquery de la Bigotie’ or ‘Pourquery’ as their nom de famille, and our ancestors used ‘Lavalade’ or ‘La Valade’ as their surname in the surviving records.

Another possibility is the Lavalade family of Saint Georges-Des-Coteaux, near Saintes midway between the Huguenot hotbed of La Rochelle and Bordeaux. This family has several things going for it - the use of ‘Lavalade’ as a nom-de-famille, the recurrence of the name ‘Charles’ and a ‘Comte, Sr. de Lavalade’ present in the genealogy at the end of the 17th century.

From ‘Bulletin de la Societe des Archives Historiques de la Saintonge at d’Aunis’: 1702: ‘Une transaction passee entre Jacques La Vallade, Seigneur de Saint-Georges, comte de La Vallade, Charles de La Vallade, seigneur de la Dorinne, Artus de La Vallade, Noeman de La Vallade, damoiselle Jeanne Tullerand de Grignaud, Francois-Charles de Saint-Martin, Charles de Brilhac, marys de Suzanne et Clere de La Tour, recu le 2 mai 1665 par Tourneur, notaire royale a Saintes.’Some of the published genealogies omit the ‘Comte’ altogether which raises some doubt.
Also, the Comte in this instant actually seems to be a name rather than a title.
The family seems to have baptised most of their recorded children in the parish church which I presume would make them Catholic - Protestants worshipped in temples, rather than churches, at that time. There are no records of any relative fleeing the country in the 1680s, although few of the genealogies mention exiled relations, preferring to brush all memory of them under the historical carpet.
There was, however, a Protestant temple in the nearby town of Marennes with a substantial congregation of 13,000 to 14,000. In the late 1680s the pastor there was Marc Boisbellaud whose uncle, Jean Boybellaud, married Andrée le Valet in Charenton in 1672. Andree le Valet was the daughter of Isaac Dubourdieu and his first wife; her brother, Jacques Dubourdieu was married to the sister of our ancestor, Charles de la Valade.
Is this significant or mere coincidence?
I will add any other ‘Comte de la Valades’ to this list as I find them.

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