On my first day in the Archives départementales de la Haute Garonne, I opened my first trial bag. This was the beginning of an adventure that took David and me to Lavaur on a sunny November day. Located 30 minutes away from Toulouse, Lavaur is a small town where in 1627 a conflict erupted between Louis de Buisson and the heirs of Raymond Garrigues, which brought them to the Chambre de l’Édit. The trial bag contained just three documents: a witness testimony and two hearings. The witness testimony was part of the case heard by the Chambre de l’Édit, which informed us of the reason of the trial. The object of dispute was a house, which used to belong to Raymond Garrigues. Upon his death, sometime before 1600, the house was supposed to be inherited by Anthoine Vintrou and Honoré Bouniol, but according to several witnesses a certain Louis du Buisson, a lawyer in the town of Lavaur, seized the house for himself. This is when Jean Bourdoncle intervened. A noble of the town of Fiac, a small community just outside of Lavaur, Jean Bourdoncle petitioned the Chambre de l’Édit on behalf of the heirs of Garrigues to obtain ownership of the house in Lavaur. The witnesses, who swore a Catholic oath, all testified against Louis du Buisson, asserting in vivid detail that the latter had completely trashed the house.
The Impasse du Boeuf in Lavaur, where the disputed house was located.
Photo: David van der Linden.
The next two documents were hearings of two men involved in a second incident, which occurred a few weeks after the initial sentence of the Chambre de l’Édit. According to the first hearing, the Chambre de l’Édit had ruled that Louis du Buisson had to hand over the house to the heirs of Garrigues. The second incident opposed Jean du Buisson, the son of Louis du Buisson, and Paul Bourdoncle, the son of Jean Bourdoncle. Although these hearings described the incident from different perspectives, both agreed on the fact that a fight had broken out between the two men regarding the house, which Louis du Buisson allegedly refused to surrender.
Hearing of Jean du Buisson by the Chambre de l'Édit, 15 November 1627.
Source: ADHG, 3B 56. Photo: Sherilyn Bouyer.
After this first read, there were many unresolved questions. We wondered in particular who the Protestant in this case was. Each person interviewed had sworn a Catholic oath, but the intervention of the Chambre de l’Édit suggested that at least one of the people involved had to be a Protestant. This is why we assumed that Louis du Buisson was the Protestant litigant in this affair, as the Catholics witnesses had united against him and were in favour of the claimant. Louis du Buisson was also the one we had the less information about. Furthermore, we did not know much about Lavaur during the Wars of Religion.
These questions – and our sheer curiosity about this intriguing case – prompted us to visit Lavaur, and in particular the municipal archive, located in the town’s library. We had made an appointment with the curator at 9h30 on a Monday morning. We had enough time before to take a stroll around the town, with a precise mission in mind: finding the house which caused the dispute almost 400 years ago. While doubts remain on the precise location of the house (we did find the street though), our walk allowed us to discover the beautiful cathedral of Lavaur. In front of the church we encountered a statue commemorating the “town’s deliverance from the plague in the fourteenth century and from the Protestants in the sixteenth century by the intervention of Mary”. The tone was set.
The statue of Mary in front of Lavaur's cathedral, thanking her for the "delivery from the Protestants" during the Wars of Religion. Photo: David van der Linden.
Our visit to the archive confirmed that Lavaur was indeed a Catholic stronghold throughout the seventeenth century. Our mission was threefold: tracking down the mysterious Protestant in our case, obtaining more information about the house, and contextualising the case by finding out more about Lavaur in the 1620s. Thanks to the parish registers, the cadastral register, and the deliberations of the consulat (town council), we had a productive day with many questions answered. I also have to acknowledge the curators of the archives, who were happy to help us with our queries. At the end of the day, however, our main question – who was the Protestant litigant? – remained unanswered, as we quickly find out, to our surprise, that Louis du Buisson was a Catholic and an important person in Lavaur, who served as consul on the town council. The search is therefore not over.
What’s most important, however, is that this excursion to Lavaur showed the opportunities of local research, preparing me for future expeditions into other towns of the Midi where cases heard by the Chambre de l’Édit happened.
– by Sherilyn Bouyer