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de la Bastide Family History

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The Surname

The surname de la Bastide is what remains from the titles of a prominent French family forced to flee their homeland during the French Revolution. The family's actual surname was de Jacques, as described below. It appears that their title, "de la Bastide", which followed their surname, was adopted as their surname in the English fashion.

The Family History

On this subject, I will defer to the writings of Karl de la Bastide. The following was extracted from his notes, dated 15 May 1951, by another de la Bastide descendant, Claudette Leotaud.

In considering the history of any family, the accuracy of the many stories, myths, and legends, handed down from generation to generation cannot really be guaranteed or even vouched for, unless there is, of course, some form of creditable evidence to support them. The de La Bastide family is no exception to this general rule.

It should be here noted that a considerable amount of enquiry and research into the family’s background has undoubtedly been carried out by Compte Charles Pierre de Jacques de La Bastide, and also by his late son and heir, Compte Joseph Paul Raymond de Jacques de La Bastide, and to a much lesser extent, by myself.

While the family’s origin is lost in antiquity, legend, supported to some little degree by fragments of other evidence, tends to indicate that its first known member was a soldier, and probably a follower, of the Emperor Charlemagne of France. With these Expeditionary Forces he set out for Asia Minor to do battle with the Turks and other infidels in what is historically known as the Third Crusade.

It would seem that this soldier did somehow distinguish himself during the military campaigns, which resulted in his being honoured by being knighted when he received from the King the Title of “Ecyuyer” Raimondus Jacobi. The first definite and proved reference to the family was in the year 1214, where the French Historical records, then written in Latin, refer to Raymond de Jacques (Raimondus Jacobi). This soldier and his descendants were apparently very loyal to the Kings of France, rendering distinguished military serviuces and receiving in return various honours and perquisites, including quite a number of titles in addition to their title of “de La Bastide”

The family apparently increased in power, influence, and wealth, until the dawn of the French Revolution, which made it expedient, if they were to survive the guillotine, to flee France in order to live to fight another day.

It would appear certain that the Compte de Jacques de La Bastide and another member of the family (his brother), believed to be the Chevalier Antoine de Jacques de La Bastide, left Marseilles on a ship bound for the French West Indian Colonies of Martinique and Guadeloupe. Their ship somehow arrived first at Trinidad, then a Spanish possession, where the two noblemen were inter alia most cordially received by the Governor don José Maria de Chacon with all honours due to their rank. The Governor don José was at that time very anxious to colonize Trinidad, and, by means of varous inducements, persuaded not only the de La Bastides, but several other families of French descent to settle in Trinidad. The de La Bastide brothers were granted two large tracts of fertile land, one of which, situated near Sangre Grande, was cultivated as a cocoa and coffee estate, while the other in Icacos was made into a coconut plantation.

It is interesting to note that at Chapter XIV (Page 561) of Part II of Histoiere de la Trinidad (1622 a 1797), by a well know French author Pierre Gustave Louis Borde, the name Chevalier Antoine de Jacques de la Bastide appears among a list of about 60 French names, many familiar to us even now, of colonists then living in Trinidad. This list makes no mention of the Compte de Jacques de La Bastide, but Borde very frankly admitted in his history that his list was quite incomplete.

That the Compte de Jacques de La Bastide did actually settle in Trinidad subsequent to the date of the French Revolution, and was at that time the titular head of the family, cannot be in any doubt. Actually this is supported by correspondence of Compte Charles Pierre, and as a result of correspondence with and his visits to the Director of the College Heraldique de France where is was stated with reference to Compte Charles Pierre de Jacques "vous en etes le seul chef actuellement" de la famille.

The actual line of descent of the title to Compte Charles Pierre de Jacques, and then to his son and sole male heir, Joseph Paul Raymond de Jacques, and finally to Karl Phillippe de Jacques, is therefore fully established by fact and by the operation of the Salic Laws of descent, which are and have been always applicable to the French Nobility, as well as the nobility of most other European countries. Very briefly, this means that descent must always be traced through the eldest male heir of a family, and never through females, no matter how highly placed they may be in the family hierachy.

Several other important points have surfaced as a result of the investigations above referred to, and are here stated for general information. They are:

  1. It is quite clear from the historical background that the family’s surname is not, and never has been either, de La Bastide, de la Bastide, or de Labastide. Its surname is definitely “de Jacques”, the name de La Bastide is merely one of the family’s many titles conferred by various Kings of France. Strictly speaking, only the legal heir who is the holder should use such title, which in its proper form is de La Bastide, which identifies him as Lord of the Manor of La Bastide, which as most people would know is a small town in the upper Rhone valley.

  2. The Family’s arms which are described in the Office Heraldique are as follows:

    D'Azur a deux etoiles d'or en chef et un croissant d'argent en pointe

    There seems to be no doubt that this description is correct, and it seem to confirm that the arms were conferred as a result of participatioion of an ancestor in the Crusades. I can find however no justification whatever for what apears to be an addition since the family’s arrival in the West Indies. I refer of course to the appearance of the two supporting Amerindians, or are they supposed to be Arawaks, the original inhabitants of Trinidad, who were slaughtered by the Spaniards. It must be noted that there are two other known de La Bastide arms which bear no resemblance to the above, and belong possibly to other branches of the family who lived in France.

  3. It seams clear from fact, customs, and conventions, that only the actual living Compte is strictly speaking entitled to bar the arms which were originally embossed upon the breastplate of his suit of armour, so that he could be readily identified in battle by his friends.

The arms were used only as a means of identification.

Furthermore, Karl's notes indicate that records in the Peerage List of Limousin apparently can be used to trace the family's genealogy from Bernard de Jacques de la Bastide back to the reign of Charles VI in 1453. In addition to the arms described above, the crest contains the Latin motto "fais ce que doit advienne que poura" (do your duty, come what may).

The French Creoles in Trinidad were always very elitist, even up until the early part of this century. As a result, the families often inter-married. I am descended from the Compte de Jacques de la Bastide along two lines, as my Great Grandparents were also first cousins. My Grandmother, being a member of this elite group, was originally forbidden to date my Grandfather, as he was a lowly Portuguese. It didn't matter that my Great Grandfather was a prominent citizen and Mayor of Port of Spain. As modern society in Trinidad has become more homogenized, this elitism is much less prevalent.

The family has always been prominent in Trinidadian Civil Service and law. As a matter of fact, the current Chief Justice of Trinidad is a de la Bastide.

The Family Today

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