Lineage from Navarre whose nobility, according to some essayists, ranks highest among ancient feudal families which, deriving from the Dukes of the Basque Country, established a hierarchical system of sovereignty and later depended1 on the Kings of Navarre, Aragon, Castile, France, and England.
From the legendary and patriarchal family of Basque dukes emerged the ancient lineage of the Lords of Baïgorry, later entitled Viscounts of Baïgorry. They had their primitive house around the year 1015 A.D. in the Valley of Baïgorry2, in France, in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department3, district of Mauleon, alongside the Spanish frontier, with an area of 12.3x9.9 square miles. The valley has copper mines and is irrigated by the Nive river. Echauz is the name of the main castle, which was eventually adopted as surname by the Viscounts of Baïgorry. Later, the Palace of Echauz was founded next to the Castle of Echauz, which was one of the exempt houses in Navarre.
García López, the third son of Lope Iñíguez4, is regarded as trunk of the Baïgorry house. He was named first Viscount5 of Baïgorry by the King of Navarre, Castile, and Aragon, Sancho "the Eldest," who transferred him the Valley of Baïgorry, adjacent to the Valley of Baztan, in 1033. In 1030, García López married Jimena Sánchez, very likely an illegitimate daughter of Sancho"the Eldest." The title Viscount of Baïgorry was passed down 25 men and 2 women, who are listed next. Each successive relationship is that of father and son, except when stated otherwise. The numbers in square brackets give a typical date when the person probably lived; d. means deceased:
Bishop of Bayonne in 1599, later Archbishop of Tours, First Chaplain of the King, Commander of the King's Orders, and confidential clerk of Henry IV and Louis XIII. He is mentioned in the history of witch hunting.
Juan de Echauz
Spanish soldier in the seventeenth century, captain of the royal armies, and knight of the San Juan of Jerusalem order. He took the place of Castillo as governor of Costa Rica in 1662. Due to the country's state of poverty, he strived and succeeded in having Costa Rica join the jurisdiction of Panama. He pacified the Boruca indians who resisted commerce, distributing them among two villages which he named Diego de Acuña and San Juan de Calahorra. He built a temple, city halls, named mayors, and favored the country as much as possible.
Friar Juan Jerónimo Echauz
Spanish writer and monk from Zaragoza 1646-1696. He practiced at the Convent of Mercy in 1662. He obtained a doctorate in theology from the University of Huesca, where he later taught philosophy. He was school regent of Mercy College, knight commander of Calatayud and Zaragoza, general lecturer, and prominent preacher. His works include Glories of the birth of Christ (Zaragoza, 1667); New World of Grace, 1670; Sacred eulogy to the glorious image of the holy virgin of Puy, patroness of Estella (Zaragoza, 1680); and Funeral prayer honoring Reverend Father Master Brother Francisco Antonio Isasi y Guzmán, general of the Mercy order (Zaragoza, 1686).
José Manuel de Acedo de Echauz
In 1784, King Carlos III granted him the title Count of Echauz in Navarre.
The primitive arms boasted by the Viscounts of Baïgorry were: on a silver background, three blue bands.
The Echauzes from the Palace of Echauz, who possessed the Seigneury of Arizmendi, bore: on silver, three black bands.
The Echauzes spread throughout Navarre, Calahorra, Alava, Catalonia, Valencia and Andalusia, carried: on silver, three green bands.
The Echauzes located in Guendulain (around Pamplona) had: on silver, three blue caldrons arranged vertically.
Others, according to Cadenas-y-Vicent: a green bunch of grapes.
The Castle of Echauz was founded as main house of the Viscounty of Baïgorry around the year 1033 A.D., being the oldest castle in the Basque Country, older than the Windsor Castle in England, and one of the oldest in all of France. Upon extinction of the viscounty, the castle was sold in 1848 to the d'Abbadie d'Arrast family and passed along several other families successively. Charlie Chaplin frequently stayed in this castle, Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast being his scriptwriter. French physician Monsieur Pierné bought the castle in 1995, and since then he has splendidly embarked on the faithful restoration of the castle. In 1997, the castle was awarded the Antique French Houses National Grand Prize. As of February, 1998, there was only one floor yet to be restored, with four rooms available for bed and breakfast, and four more to come. Each bedroom is specially painted and has special furniture. It boasts an armoury, medieval stairs, the room of Marshal of the Empire and Peer of France Jean-Isidore Harispe , the room of Archbishop Bertrand d'Echaux , the room of the fourteenth Viscount of Baïgorry, Merino of Estella and Knight of the Order of Saint John, Juan de Echauz , and the suite of the King of Navarre, Sancho "the Eldest" . In 2003, the castle was acquired by the lovely couple Ajit Asrani and Marķa Alicia Urrutia, who made significant improvements including gardens, hotel baths in all rooms, luxurious bar, historical documents, Internet infrastructure, and a professional kitchen.
Built by skilled Viking workers, the roof extends as high as a five-story building (20 meters) above the second floor. The Castle of Echauz stands among centenarian trees like an architectural jewel in the history of Navarre and France. Dr. Pierné's information brochure on the castle in French, Basque, English and Spanish:
In Euskarian (Basque), "etxa" means "house", and "uts" means "empty" or "uninhabited."
In the Middle Ages, the people of Baïgorry spoke Basque, but the written language was Spanish, continuing until the seventeenth century when the language gradually became French. In Euskarian, words are atonic with all syllables pronounced uniformly, except for a slight stress on the last syllable. Thus, the name of the castle was probably pronounced as eh-tcha-OOTS ("eh" as in Edward, "tcha" as in chapter, and "oots" as in boots) or eh-tcha-OOS. In modern days, Echauz sounds like eh-tcha-OOTH or eh-TCHA-ooth in Spain, eh-SHOH in France, eh-cha-OOS or eh-TCHA-oos in Latin America, and eh-HOUSE (or eh-TCHA-oos) in the Philippines.
The surname has been written with several variations in Spanish, Basque, and French. The most frequent form found throughout history is Echauz, followed by Echaus. The Basque spelling is Etxautz, Etxauz, Etxaus, or Etxaux, and in French sources it has been seen as Echaoz, Echaux, Etchaux, d'Echauz, d'Etchaux, d'Echaux, D'Echaux, or D'echaux (ignoring case, the last three are the same). Many documents signed by the Viscounts of Baïgorry themselves confirm the fact that the original form, and the one always used by them, was ECHAUZ. There is also the French surname Dechaux. However, it has apparently no relation with Echauz. The geographical distribution of Dechaux in France suggests that its origin is far from Baïgorry, and the number of contemporary people with that name (over 1000 with a telephone number) is much greater than the number of Echauz. Similarly, the form Echau is related to Echausta, Echasti, etc., but not to Echauz.
1 Feudalism was a system of relationships among members of the nobility in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. Through the fief, the vassal depended on another nobleman, thus receiving land, labor, and rents. In exchange, the grantor received an oath of fidelity, and political and military services. It is often confused with seignorialism, the system of relationships between lords and peasants. [back]
2 The Valley of Baïgorry lies on then's Kingdom of Navarre, which is between today's Spain and France. [back]
3 French territorial division. [back]
4 Back then, surnames were patronymic, that is, descendant's surnames were derived from the father's name, and were often repeated. [back]
5 In this context, Viscount does not stand for "count's substitute" (there was no count), but "the title used by lords to distinguish someone." [back]
6 Here, the use of mothers' names starts becoming customary. [back]
7 Here, Echauz is the name of the house, not a father's or mother's surname. [back]
8 Blue blood, nobleman. To earn this title, the candidate's fame and reputation had to be established through sacramental certificates, notarial documents, and declarations from numerous witnesses. In fact, the procedure was initiated as a criminal case against the aspiring applicant. The reason is that the title entailed tax exemptions to the applicant, his children, and his legitimate descendants. [back]
9 Only the head of the family had the right to inherit his parents' arms without changes. Secondary family ramifications differentiated themselves by changing certain colors or figures on the escutcheon. [back]