Most people visiting Las Cases barely glance at the château. Instead, they dive straight inside the farm shop to buy dried hams, sausages or fresh pork.
The farm and château sit beside the main road from Revel to Castres, and before the Malinge family started making charcuterie, Las Cases had enjoyed a curious succession of occupants.
From Stone Age to Romanisation
The oldest objects discovered at Las Cases include flint arrow heads and polished stone axes from Neolithic times when humans were domesticating their first pigs. One day, Jean-Luc Malinge also discovered Roman relics while he was ploughing a field. He called in the archaeologists from Puylaurens, and more careful excavations unearthed a tilemaker’s workshop from the 1st century BCE. They also found pits where clay had been extracted and a building where the tiles were dried before being fired.
The next year, Jean-Luc went looking for more remains and found an oven. Although it had been used by a tilemaker, he wasn’t a Gallo-Roman. Instead, the oven dated from the 13th century CE. People were making tiles at Las Cases for at least 1,400 years!
We don’t know the names of the tilemakers, Roman or medieval. But in 1765, a young man was born in the Château de Las Cases whose name would be immortalised thanks to Napoleon.
The Memorial of Saint Helena
In 1823, Las Cases published an eight-volume work in both French and English, drawing on his conversations with Napoleon. With Bonaparte dead, fear of the Corsican Ogre had already begun to turn to fascination, and thanks to its timely appearance, ‘Mémorial de Saint-Hélène’ became an international best-seller and remained popular into the 20th century. It also made Las Cases a very rich man.
How much of ‘Mémorial de Saint-Hélène’ is truly based on Napoleon’s own words, and how much was imagined or embellished by the author, remains a matter of debate. Several people featured in the book were less than delighted with their portrayal, and Las Cases, fearing prosecution, made amendments or added further justifications in subsequent editions.