Rightful Heir to Chateau Badette, Saint Emilion, Compensated for Loss

Last year I wrote about ‘The Curious Case of Chateau Badette‘ – an 8 hectare chateau that lies in Saint Christophe des Bardes, one of the satellite wine producing communes of Saint Emilion. Badette is at the centre of a legal battle that has been taken to the European Court of Human Rights.

Badette was owned by William Arreaud who had a relationship in 1960 with a local girl that resulted in him fathering a son, named Christian. The rumour goes that Arreaud’s father talked him out of marriage and that the local girl then married a Mr Pascaud in 1961.

Christian said that he had been told at a very early stage (and that it was common knowledge) that his real father was Arreaud. His mother and her husband divorced in 1981.

Apparently Christian met Arreaud in strictest secrecy for many years and Arreaud had promised him that he would regularise the situation on his mother’s death.

In 1993 Arreaud suffered severe brain damage from a stroke and cut a deal with the Town Hall to pay for Chateau Badette’s upkeep until his death in exchange for the property. In 2000 Christian began to fight for his right to be officially acknowledged by his father. Christian initiated proceedings to have Arreaud’s name put on his birth certificate and DNA tests were ordered.

According to the AFP Arreaud did not surrender to a DNA test on 3 occasions because of “repeated pressure and intimidation from the commune of Saint Emilion.”

When the DNA test finally took place in 2001, it found that the likelihood of Christian being Arreaud’s son was 99.999%. Arreaud died in 2002.

However despite battling through the courts the French courts never recognized Christian’s descent and the municipality of Saint Emilion tried to sell Chateau Badette in 2007, having had it valued at 3.7 million euros. The auction was conducted in traditional manner ‘a la bougie’ (literally, ‘by candle’) at the Town Hall.

A candle is lit to mark the beginning of the sale and replaced by others during the bidding. The extinction of two candles without further offer announces the last and successful bidder. However, not one person bid for Badette.

A successful sale did occur last spring when Saint Emilion sold Badette for 4.7 million euros last spring to Jean Philippe Janoueix from the renowned wine making Janoueix family who own several chateaux in Saint Emilion the neighbour Badette (Chateaux Haut Badette, Close de Sarpe . . .), Pomerol and Côtes de Castillon.

Jean-Philippe personally owns Chateaux La Confession, Haut Sarpe, La Croix, La Croix Mouton and Haut Pontet. It will be interesting to see what becomes of Badette in future vintages under the Janoueix family’s management as Badette has good potential but needs significant investment, which it will hopefully now get.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in a judgment that Christian had suffered damage to the “right to respect for his private and family life” in violation of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights and ordered that he be paid € 2.75 million compensation.

Christian’s legal battle has taken over a decade and there is criticism that the case was not settled earlier. The French government has three months to pay or file a final appeal to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.

Leave a Comment