The château de Montaigne in the Bordeaux region saw the birth in 1533 of Michel, the eldest living son of Pierre Eyquem and Antoinette de Louppes. The Eyquems were an old Périgord family; Antoinette de Louppes was of recent Spanish immigrant stock, of almost certain (though remote) Jewish origins. Michel Eyquem, whose father, by fighting in the Italian wars, had fully consolidated the family's standing as small provincial nobility, was the first to drop the Eyquem family name, taking the surname he was to make world-famous from the château of his birth. While he did, at least on two occasions, bear arms in the king's cause, it was as a magistrate that he spent the years of his prime. He studied law in Toulouse or perhaps in Paris before taking up a seat purchased for him by his father on the Tax Court of Périgueux, soon melded into the Bordeaux Parliament (a body with mixed judicial, legislative, and administrative duties).
Montaigne's early schooling, however, is as incontrovertible as it is distinctive. Pierre Eyquem clearly wanted the best for his heir presumptive, and he put his heart and mind into the method of his upbringing. “The best father who ever was” had him roused from sleep to the sound of music to spare him the pain of waking with a start, and he consulted local authorities on the best way to inculcate a knowledge of Latin, gateway at the time to all further learning. Hence that remarkable early experiment in “Latin without tears”: the hiring of a German tutor who knew no French and could communicate with his infant charge in Latin only. Father, mother, servants, and neighboring farmers were all drawn into the scholarly charade. Armed with Latin as his mother tongue, when he was admitted at the age of seven to the Collège de Guyenne, whose cosmopolitan faculty included the Scottish humanist George Buchanan and the Portuguese headmaster André de Gouvêa, young Michel rather intimidated his