The « Pays
de la Force » is situated along the Dordogne River
between Bergerac and St Foy
la Grande. It is bordered to the north by the canton of Mussidan
and the Landais forest. In 420 the Visigoths settled in the
region and ruled until Clovis’ conquest in 507. In the 8th
century Dagobert brought the « Pays de la Force » under the wing
of the kingdom of Toulouse whereupon it was administered by
Charlemagne and his descendants.
In the 10th century the « Pays de la Force » passed into the
hands of Adalbert of Périgord renowned for his rebellious
attitude towards Hugues Capet. In 1131, following the marriage
of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry Plantagenet, the English took
possession of the area. The Prévôt family first appears in the
12th century, following the First Holy Crusade. The Caumont
family came to La Force in 1554 with the marriage of François de
Caumont with Philippine de Beaupoil, a direct descendant of the
Prévôts. These seigneurs were to become marquis, barons, dukes
and peers of the crown (in 1637).
The land was ravaged umpteen times by the Black Prince during
the Hundred Years War and only became French soil again
following the 1453 Battle of Castillon.
During the Reformation the House of Caumont-La Force joined the
House of Navarre in the Huguenot’s fight against the Catholics.
Jacques Nompar de Caumont, Duke of La Force and a great friend
of Henry IV, defended Montauban against Louis XIII in 1631
before fighting - in his role as field-marshal - in the Thirty
The fifth duke of Caumont, raised by the Jesuits, renounced his
faith in 1683 and persecuted the Protestants of his duchy.
During the Revolution the people of La Force embraced the
revolutionary movement and complied their own « Book of
Grievances ». The château, built in 1604, was demolished in
1793. Today only a small section of the central ‘counting house’
still stands. Among the other famous personages of the family,
we will mention Miss de la Force, grand-daughter of the first
duke and 17th century libertine narrator, Monseigneur Belsunce,
archbishop of Marseilles at the time of the great plague of
1721, born at La Force Château, the countess of Balbi, born
Caumont La Force, muse of the Count de Provence, future Louis
The John Bost Asylum was founded in 1848 by the pastor of the
same name. These days the
John Bost Foundation
employs 1200 people and 1000 patients in its 22 centres which are mainly based in
the communes of Prigonrieux and La Force.
We will not forget the Marquis de Lavalette, who was Napoleon
III’s ambassador and minister, and his Cavalerie Château, where
he lived with his American wife, his adopted son Samuel Welles
de Lavalette, the mayors of the 3rd Republic: Mr. Clament (deputy)
and Mr. de la Chapelle in La Force, Mr. Blanc and Mr. Guichard
in Prigonrieux, the Boudet family, owners of St Martin Château,
whose members would be mayors of Lamonzie St Martin and
Gardonne, Dupuy au Fleix, etc…
The Dordogne River was used for trade from as early as the
Bronze Age; a winged spearhead dating from the first Carolingian
era was found at the Bourgatie ford in the commune of Lamonzie.
Palaeolithic, Gallo-roman and medieval sites have all been
discovered around Prigonrieux and St Pierre d’Eyraud. Le Fleix
owns the Domaine de Gillet where, next to a burial mound, is a
small tower quite possibly related to Celtic water ceremonies.
There is also the Gaulish ‘Villa de Melle’ not far from the «Via
Limovicensis » - the Roman road linking Limoges to Port St Foy
via Périgueux, Mussidan and St Géry (situated in the « Pays de
La Force »).
It is thought that a Neolithic site was situated between
Gardonne and La Force and that a sarcophagi necropolis could
have existed at Lamonzie St Martin in the spot on which a
Benedictine priory was later built (Benedictine priories also
settled at Monfaucon and Le Fleix). St John’s Hospitalers (the
Order of Malta) had a hospice at St Pierre d’Eyraud while the
Knights Templar set up their « Preceptoria de Lespau » at
Fraysse. Glassworks gave their name to the hamlet, « Verrière »,
and two pottery works prospered in Fleix in the 18th century.
The remains of an old residence were updated, in the place known as
Guel in Prigonrieux, when the bypass west of Bergerac was built.
To conclude : archaeology and history have left behind traces
which it is our responsibility to preserve - for our own sakes
and for those of our children (and to remind us where we come