France is so full of castles that it almost seems commonplace! In this region there is a castle that really stands out: Château de la Brède, a few kilometers below Bordeaux. It is a castle that became famous after Montesquieu was the owner and lived there for a long time.
The history behind one of the most famous châteaux in the Gironde
The castle dates back to the year 1306. Construction began where another castle once stood. Over the centuries, there have been constant buildings and re-buildings of the castle. At first, it was a fortified castle in Gothic style but later, during the Renaissance, it was modified and became a castle in which people could live comfortably.
For more than 350 years, the castle has been owned by the La Lande, l'Isle and Pesnel families. In 1686, Marie-Françoise de Pesnel married Jacques de Secondat, the father of the famous French philosopher Montesquieu, who was born there. From that moment, the castle was in the hands of the Secondat family. Countess Jacqueline de Chabannes, a descendant of Denise, the daughter of Montesquieu, died in 2004. She placed the castle in a foundation named after her and determined that it should be opened to the public.
Castle tour during your vacation
The castle is open to visitors and is one of the most beautiful sights in the region of Gironde. There are guided tours (approx. 1 hour) that you can join. An expert guide will show you all the beautiful rooms. You will also see Montesquieu's study and his personal library. However, his famous books are housed in a library in Bordeaux.
The outside of this beautiful castle is also worth a look! The castle has its own moat that is reminiscent of past military activity. The property of the castle is about 150 hectares and is made up of beautiful French and English gardens and hedges.
Montesquieu (1689 - 1755)
The château is best known because it is where the French philosopher Montesquieu was born. Officially, he was called Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu. Born in 1689, he spent a lot of his life in this castle. He is considered one of the most important philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment.
He studied law in Bordeaux and Paris. In 1713, his father died and he returned to Bordeaux to take care of the estate. Also at this time, he joined the Parliament of Bordeaux and married Jeanne de Lartigue, a member of a wealthy family.
In 1716, he received a great inheritance from his uncle and became owner of the barony Montesquieu, which he held in his name from that moment on.
From about 1728 to 1731, he made a long journey through Europe and became a member of the Freemasons in England. After coming home to Château de la Brède, he devoted himself entirely to writing books.
Montesquieu is particularly known for his "Trias Politica." This separation of powers is still the norm of Western democracies to this day. He explained this principle in what is called his main work, "De l’esprit des lois."