Château de Lamarque
The Médoc peninsula is known for its many grand and distinctive châteaux, from the imposing majesty of Château Margaux, to the more exotically styled Château Cos d’Estournel, and every style between. Many are centuries old, built by noblemen and later (especially after the Revolution) merchants, their towering walls of pale limestone and elegantly slate-tiled roofs communicating their status and wealth to all who saw it.
Among them, however, there are a few châteaux which speak of older times. These châteaux display not an elegant Renaissance form, but have a more Medieval construct. I could rattle off a few names (from among the ranks of the classed growth Château La Tour Carnet springs immediately to mind) but none of them can hold a candle to Château Lamarque. Indeed, I suspect there are very few Medieval castles anywhere in Europe that could match this property, centuries old, and still in the possession of the descendants of its ancient originators.
The history of the seigneurie of Lamarque dates back close to a thousand years, at least to the time of Amanieu de Lamarque (died 1160), Seigneur de Lamarque, who lived during the 12th century. At this time he had built a castle – predating that which stands here today – in a position very close to the Gironde. At the time the newborn Kingdom of France, ruled by the first sons of the Capetian dynasty, was subject to attack by marauding Vikings, and the purpose of the castle was to help protect the Médoc from such attack.
During the ensuing years the seigneurie was passed through the generations, to Ithier de Lamarque (1080 – 1160) and at least two generations both named Garsion de Lamarque, one of whom was responsible for upgrading the castle to more or less what we see now (pictured below, viewed from the vineyard). He built it directly after returning from the Crusades, so perhaps he was more concerned about marauding Moors than Vikings (or quite possibly I have just watched too many Robin Hood films).
With the passing of time this lineage drops from view, and it is not until the mid-13th century that we find further trace of the seigneurie; at this time Bordeaux was under English rule, and had been since the marriage of Henry II to Aliénor d’Aquitaine. In 1247 the seigneurie was carved up by Henry III (1207 – 1272) of England; he gave land to two noblemen Hugues de Castillon and Bertrand de Noaillan, both of whom paid homage to the English monarch. The property remained an English property through to the end of the Hundred Years’ War, and at one point it was inhabited by Humphrey (1390 – 1447), the Duke of Gloucester and the brother of Henry V (1386 – 1422).