Château d’Yquem: Ancient Origins

Long before the château we know today began to take shape on this particular hilltop within the modern-day Sauternes appellation, the land which is today home to Château d’Yquem’s vineyards was part of the estate of a high-ranking noblewoman named Aliénor d’Aquitaine (1122 – 1204), a name frequently anglicised to Eleanor d’Aquitaine. In 1137, at the tender age of fifteen years this young woman, set to become one of the most wealthy and influential in all Europe, inherited the duchy from her father Guillém X (1099 – 1137) following his demise during a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. On his deathbed he granted the guardianship of his daughter to the King of France, Louis VI (1081 – 1137), who no doubt – knowing of William’s wealth and huge dominion – readily accepted. In July 1137, only three months after the inheritance of her grand title and her father’s lands and other riches, Louis VI had married Eleanor off to his own son, Prince Louis Capet. Prince Louis had already been crowned junior king (in order to reduce the likelihood of inheritance disputes, it was commonplace for French kings of this era to anoint and crown their successor during their lifetime), and so Eleanor was set to be queen. And this did indeed come to pass when, only a few weeks later, Louis VI died of dysentery at Béthisy-Saint-Pierre. Prince Louis Capet, or Louis VII as he would now be known, became senior king, and that which we today know as Château d’Yquem came into the ownership of the French crown.

Château d'Yquem

Although Eleanor d’Aquitaine bore Louis VII two daughters, and the marriage lasted fifteen years, it was doomed to fail. Louis VII occupied himself with wars, sometimes quite unsuccessfully, followed by a period at crusade, accompanied by Eleanor. Ultimately Louis VII aw sense, and he returned from the Holy Land to France, taking his armies with him. This was despite the protestations of Eleanor who wished to stay to assist her uncle Raymond of Poitiers (c.1105 – 1219), who was subsequently slain at the battle of Inab, meeting his end when he was beheaded by Shirkuh (died 1169), uncle of Saladin (c.1137 – 1193). This disagreement no doubt did nothing to improve the already frosty relationships between the two, and when it was clear Eleanor would not be bearing Louis VII a male heir the marriage was annulled in March 1152.

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