Château Lafite-Rothschild: The Seigneurs of Lafite

Regardless of its uncertain origins, within a hundred years or so of Gombaud de Lafite’s stewardship of the abbey at Vertheuil, Lafite was documented as being a seigneurie. The seigneural system was, in essence, 12th-century French feudalism; seigneurs – knightish characters of a robust nature – held sway over their particular domaine, or fiefdom, perhaps controlling other nearby lesser fiefs, and paying homage to grander or more noble estates nearby.

Château Lafite-Rothschild

Some evidence for this comes from the writings of the Abbé Jacques Baurein, a member of the Académie de Bordeaux and the archivist for the Chapitre Saint André, one of the most powerful Roman Catholic institutions in Bordeaux. Writing at the end of the 18th century Baurein called upon the archives at his disposal, which included a wealth of ancient correspondence between priests and the Archbishop, using the documents to describe elements of life in Bordeaux during medieval times. He wrote in his book Variétés Bordeloises (published circa 1786) of a Jean de Lafite, a seigneur, mentioned in the chapter’s archives from 1355. This individual is a much more likely ‘first proprietor’ than Gombaud de Lafite, the distant abbot.

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