From the "Annales Agricoles et Littéraires de la Dordogne, year 1867, pages 282 to 288" partially translated from the French original.
Laforce is situated 10 km West of Bergerac and 58 km South of Périgueux. The origin of "Laforce" is unknown.
Etymologically the lower Latin word FORTIA and the Roman FORSA indicates a place where a fortress or a castle was built. Also the position of Laforce, dominating the valley of the Dordogne can be at the origin.
Anyhow, in the XIII century people lived in this place, earlier settlements are not excluded.
About the importance of the place or the first constructions, if it just was a safe place or a castle, nothing is known.
Later we find the Prévôt family as lords (seigneur) of Laforce and of Masduran (place in what is today the municipality of St Pierre d'Eyraud), and occupants of the "hôtel de la prévoté" of Bergerac. This suggests that the Prévôt where originally real "prévôt" or governors, keeping the name of their function.[note 1] Anyhow, they were an important family in the XIII.
We are sure about the fact that in the XIII century (1253-1254) both a family "Prévôt" and a family "Gaillard" lived at Bergerac, both noble, both adding to their name the surname "de Laforce".
Historical documents from the XIV century only occasionally mention the names of some Prévôt family members, not much is to be learned about Laforce.
At the start of the XV century, the owner of La Force and Masduran was an Elie Prévôt. He died some years before 1440, leaving a will indicating as his successor his son Jean and descendants, followed by Mariotte, his daughter and her descendants, followed by Guillotin Andron, seignior de Lanzac, his cousin and his offspring, followed finally by Mandrot, Elie's brother.
Jean Prévôt died shortly after his father without offspring. Normally Mariotte should become the lady of Laforce and Masduran. But at that moment Mariotte was in France. This means that she was, probably for her education, in a place belonging to the king of France, while Laforce was part of the English possessions on the continent.
Guillotin wanted to misuse the absence of Mariotte and presented a request to the council of the English king at Bordeaux to obtain the permission to occupy Laforce and Masduran. The authorisation for this usurpation was granted and he took possession these lands. He only could enjoy them for a short time, being driven out by Jean d'Abzac, the leader of a gang of adventurers.
Meanwhile Mariotte was married in France in 1440 to Jean de Beaupoil, knight, seignior de Castelnovel, "écuyer" of the royal stables of Charles VII. The expulsion of Guillotin on one hand and the news of the marriage of Mariotte on the other hand made Mandrot and Guillotin agree on a plan to present a protest to the English King. After quite a number of steps finally they got the donation of Laforce and Masduran in 1446 from the King as these lands were confiscated "because of the rebellion of Mariotte".
As d'Abzac was not prepared to leave Laforce, Guillotin and Mandrot did not reach their goal, as the English were no longer in strength to help their protégés. As a matter of fact, the French had taken over the area and d'Abzac negotiated with the Duke of Panthièvre, representative for the French.
However, in 1441 already King Charles VII of France had donated the seignory of Laforce and of Masduran to Jean de Beaupoil and his wife. So they eventually took possession of it in 1449 and Jean de Beaupoil paid his tribute in 1450 for Laforce and Masdiran, but also for the Governors house at Bergerac.
This tribute (homage) was renewed in 1469 by Elie de Beaupoil, dit Prévôt, son of Jean, acting on his father's behalf, when Charles, brother of King Louis XI, took possession of the duchy of Guyenne. In 1483 Charles VIII established two annual fairs and a weekly market in favour of Elie at Laforce and Masdiran.
Elie died in 1484. His successor was Hebert de Beaupoil, dit Prévôt, who paid his tribute to king Charles VIII in 1484.
The seigniory of Laforce and Masduran stayed in the Beaupoil family until 1554. Philippes de Beaupoil, lady of Laforce and Masduran, widow of François de Vivonne de la Chataigneraie, married François de Caumont and brought Laforce in the de Caumont family.
Francois de Caumont was the son of Charles de Caumont, seigneur de Castelnaud, and was killed in 1572 during the Bartholomew massacre in Paris.
From this marriage was born in 1558 at Laforce as son, Jacques Nompar de Caumont, who escapes miraculously from the Bartholomew massacre. Later he became duke of Laforce and General of the Army. He died in 1652, aged 94.
[Note 1] The way they governed Bergerac was not so nice: Philippe Jayle, in his book on the "Chateau de La Force" mentions a number of complaints from the town people about the conduct of Prévôt and his gang.
© Erik Laforce. All rights reserved. Rev.