Martel family

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Jean Martell, founder of the famous Cognac house

Jean Martell.jpg

Jean Martel, his parents' seventh son, was born in Jersey, worked in Guernsey and then set up a merchant's business at Bordeaux, before moving to Cognac.

The name Martel has been recorded in Jersey since 1299, but the family first appeared in St Brelade in 1525 when Brelade Martel, son of Lorans (1564-1631) bought "les terres de la Sergente" from Pierre Laell. It is believed that he demolished Laell's old house in the meadow, and built a new house on the present site. The west gable wall, which is eight feet thick, speaks of great antiquity, but the date 1681 and the initials of Francois Martel indicate a considerable restoration.

Brelade's only son Philippe married Catherine Balleine of St Peter, and one of his daughters, Richarde, married Jean Orange at St Brelade in 1635. Philippe and Catherine had six children, including the Philippe who married Marie Gibout, whose son Francois seems to have renovated La Sergente

One of Philippe's other sons, Thomas (1652-1698), married Marthe Herault. He signed the "Oath of Association", was a Deacon of St Brelade, but is primarily remembered as a trader. His ship was called La Fidelite. Thomas and Martha had two daughters, Marthe and Catherine, Marthe married William Kastel and Catherine married Henry Maret. Francois's brother Edouard had a daughter Ann who in 1769 married Jean Le Boutillier (1740-1823). They were godparents to Anne de Caen (1781- )


The Brandy connection: Jean Martel, the seventh son of Thomas and Martha, worked for seven years in Guernsey in the counting house of Lau Martin. Then he and a friend, Jean Fiot, set up in business as English merchants at Bordeaux. This proved a failure, and in 1727 they had to come to terms with their creditors. When, in 1720, Martel emigrated to Cognac with Kastel and Maret, all three decided to double the last letter in their names to prove their British nationality.

Martel(l) had also opened a business of his own as brandy merchant. This was more successful. He developed a large export trade to the Channel Islands, where the Jersey and Guernsey smugglers were his best customers, and carried his brandy to England and America, and indeed all over the world. As a sideline he imported into France Jersey-knitted stockings, collected for him by his mother.

He married twice. His first wife was Jeanne Brunet, of Cognac, who died childless. He then married her cousin, Rachel Lallement, by whom he had four sons and five daughters. He died on a voyage on 23 January 1735 leaving his young wife, who was only 33, to bring up their large family, of whom the eldest was 14, and to manage the business. She, however, proved to be a first-class business woman, and under her direction the firm became the leading house in the brandy trade, a position it never lost.

When Jean Martel emigrated, members of the Kastel family went with him. William Kastel married Marthe Martel in December 1706 and they lived in a house in St Aubin's High Street. A gable stone, initialled WK and dated 1700, can still be found high on the house L'Esperance, formerly known as L'Armistice.

Family tree

Brandy business founder Jean Martel's family tree makes fascinating reading. Several of his descendants married first cousins and the family married into the Hennessy brandy firm as well as the Martini family. They must have made amazing cocktails!

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