If Short on Facts, Then Invent: Marketing of Chateau Talbot

The Chateau Talbot winery in the Saint Julien region of Bordeaux prides itself on its wines. It is also  proud of its long history and purported link to Sir John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, and Constable of France under King Henry VI of England and (at least in Henry's exalted opinion) of France. 




The Chateau Talbot winery is situated in the Saint Julien region of Bordeaux. Its main vintage goes by the name of Château Talbot and was assessed as Quatrième Grand Crus Classé in the Official Bordeaux Wine Classification of 1855. The winery also produces two AOC labels: red wine under the name Connétable Talbot and a white wine named Château Talbot Caillou blanc. 


French wine marketing is often done through history. A winery with a long historical pedigree has an edge over its competitors. A famous name, preferably with a well known historical connotation, makes the establishment of a brand much easier. If the famous name is there but the historical context is missing, invention may take the place of veracity. Are you surprised that there are historical spin doctors?


Where the Chateau Talbot got its name from is not clear. Its current owners claim that the name derived from Sir John Talbot (Wikipedia even claims that he was the owner of the domain in the distant past); while this claim is not their invention, there is no proof for it either. The name of Chateau Talbot was first mentioned in the 18th century which stretches credulity a bit. 


Sir John Talbot had died in 1453 at the end of the Hundred Years’ War. At the end is a bit imprecise; his death in the battle at Castillon ended it. But there is no proof and no record showing him owning any lands in Bordeaux much less this particular domain. The roughly 200 years’ distance in time from the end of the Hundred Years’ War to the first naming of names would suggest that there was no connection.

  

There are two possibilities how the name got attached to the Chateau. One way was re-naming the domain at a later point in history. A humble manor house could thereby acquire a quite outstanding pedigree and a noteworthy historical connection. Talbot was admired and feared by the French and his name lived on after his death in 1453. The French even erected a monument to his memory with Notre Dame de Talbot, a chapel commemorating the battle at Castillon. His name might have been chosen for that purpose for the chateau. For an example at home, you need only look at Bruce Castle in Tottenham which used to be named quite humbly Lordship House. 


Another possibility would be that a Talbot received the domain while Aquitaine was joined to England. But again, we lack any evidence on that score. The Talbots were an eminent Norman family and left their name on at least one French Castle: The Castle de la Roche-Talbot. It is situated halfway between Angers and Le Mans. The title of Seigneurs de la Roche-Talbot was held by a branch of the Talbot family closely related to the Beaumont family. One would expect a genuine Talbot domain to be mentioned in some document somewhere. 


Talbot was no political light weight himself. During his life he was made Earl of Shrewsbury and Earl of Waterford; as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland he held the honor of Wexford; by marriage he became Baron Furnville, by inheritance from his niece Baron Strange of Blackmere and Baron Talbot; King Henry VI (in his guise as King of France) made him Constable of France. There is no reason why there should be no documents pertaining to domains in Aquitaine (Henry VI was after all the Duke of Aquitaine, too). 


It would seem that the name and the connection of Chateau Talbot to Sir John Talbot or other Talbot family members are but an invention. If the house was more than a hovel before the 18th century, I am sure a local historian could find out its name. So far, I lack evidence of even a shack, much less an earlier castle.