Le secret du château
The secret of Château Labastide Orliac
An evening in April 2007 happened to be disturbed by a thunderstorm as it often arrives at that time of the year. As a consequence the estate’s electricity was cut off for a lapse of time longer than usual; a thunderbolt had hit the grid nearby.
The two sisters, Catherine and Isabelle Orliac, found the batteries of their torches out of working order and replacements were not at hand. So, there they were, in a pitchdark house groping for some candles. Luckily, since their childhood they had come to know every nook and cranny of the house. While searching, they stumbled on an old piece of furniture which contained a secret drawer accidentally touched by them. When it opened, it revealed several old papers and objects.
What they discovered by feeble candlelight, caused a change in their life. The sisters were so excited by their discovery that it made them stay awake until daybreak to be quite sure of the importance of it and to be sure they were not dreaming.
An incredible discovery
La lettre Royale
Catherine and Isabelle discovered a detailed description of the family-estate history, which was only vaguely and very partially known by them.
The most important item consisted of the safe-conduct delivered by King Louis XVI to Jean Orliac, ancestor of the two sisters, releasing him from prison and preserving him from arrest and prosecution anywhere in France.
This document shed new light upon the family’s past and its special relationship with the King of France.
The secret drawer also contained marriage certificates and quite a lot of other papers, rare and curious objects, a silver compass, small measuring instruments and two engravings of a special kind about which furtheron some more details are given.
The King’s leniency
Jean Orliac was a trader who owned several ships plying the Garonne river and also venturing out on the seas. He sold his own wines and flour and those of his neighbours. His business covered not only Europe but the Antilles as well, bringing back from these islands spices, salt and rare goods.
The papers found in that piece of furniture by the two sisters revealed that Jean Orliac, deeply indebted as a consequence of the shipwreck of one of his ships on the Garonne river with loss of all of its cargo, was arrested and imprisoned by his creditors as he was declared bankrupt.
King Louis XVI heard what had happened to Jean Orliac (1734-1818). As he much appreciated the wines from Château Labastide Orliac and also had a liking for Jean Orliac, he felt pity for him and ordered his liberation. Furthermore he bestowed his protection on Jean Orliac making it possible for the latter to continue his trade without hindrance.
Assignat : monnaie qui a remplacé les Louis d'or
après la révolution
In that epoch the volume of trade was such that wines from the Brulhois hinterland once they arrived at the port of shipment, Bordeaux, were named “Bordeaux wine”, thus contributing to a large extent to the reputation of the so called “Bordeaux wines”, because at that time the notion “appellation” didn’t exist.
Likewise, the fame of Jean Orliac expanded and many vied for his friendship, thus favouring the consumption of his wines which were served at the best tables of the realm. The Orliac family once again enjoyed prosperity enabling them to honour all their debts.
Realising the favours bestowed by the King on Jean Orliac caused the creditors of the latter to become much more accommodating. The leaders of the realm came to buy the Orliac wines hoping to please the King and the courtiers tried to do the same.
Some years later the Revolution happened and Jean Orliac and his family had to leave for the Antilles where they settled on Martinique during nine years.
Thereafter they returned to France, accompanied by an aunt nicknamed “auntie Accra”, because of her expertise in baking “accra doughnuts which are special Martinique treats. On return their ship was loaded with spices packed in mahogany crates.
Those crates were turned into furniture of Château Labastide Orliac which had been destroyed during the Revolution.
Jean Orliac took to farming his estate which, more or less, had been taken care of by his neighbours. He paid them all the (heavy) taxes imposed on the villagers by the new regime as appears in the accounts of the year 1791. He also tried as much as possible to help restore royalty. This can be concluded from the existence of the engravings found in the secret drawer together with the 1791 accounts.
Engraved after the Revolution, the coded images convey a defense of the royalty. They represent the King, Louis XVI, Queen Marie-Antoinette and their children, anonymous of course, and not directly recognizable. These engravings are proof of the Orliac family values of that time, of their attachment to the King and of their gratitude towards him.
All through the epoch following the Revolution, even during the Restauration period (reign of the Kings Louis XVIII, Charles X), it was not without danger to express sympathy for royalty. The fact that the two engravings had been hidden is an indication of the political climate at the time the secret drawer was locked, to be forgotten for more than two centuries up to the discovery by the two sisters, Catherine and Isabelle Orliac.