Anglo-French Relations The Cloak of Secrecy A personal voyage of detection


My name is Despard. Richard Despard. The surname seems to be unique to our family. There are detailed family records from 1692 showing that for 200+ years we had a presence in Queen’s County, Ireland. From there various members of the family sallied forth to make their mark in the world in numerous areas of activity including:

William Despard – was a Member of the Irish Parliament for Thomastown 1715-20. His son

William Despard – was High Sheriff of Queen’s County 1739-42 and his son

John Despard – Was in Quebec in 1775, then was captured in 1776 and held with Major André in Philadelphia; he went on to fight as Deputy Adjutant-General in South Carolina and was present at the surrender of Charleston in 1780, serving under Cornwallis until 1781. He then rose to the rank of Major-General and became Governor of Nova Scotia, having been in 24 engagements where two horses were shot from under him. His brother

Andrew Despard – led a company at Bunker Hill in 1775 where he was wounded; then in 1780 he was with his brother Edward Marcus in the Caribbean. He retired as a Lt. Colonel.

Edward Marcus Despard – first making his mark with Nelson on the Mosquito Coast, he became Governor of Belize. Being egalitarian, he fell out with local vested interests. Returning to London he was badly treated by members of the Government and he was eventually involved in a plot to kill King George III and assume control of the Government. In 1803 he was the last man to be sentenced to be hanged drawn and quartered in England.

William Despard – Lt. Colonel in the Royal Fusiliers, fought in 1813 with Wellington at the Battles of Albuera (awarded the Army Gold Medal for gallantry) and Vittoria in Spain, where he died. Sir Edward Packenham kindly supported his widow and William’s younger son Rev. George Packenham D was named for him. George was a missionary in Patagonia and Tasmania.

Henry Despard – commanded British forces in New Zealand In the 1840’s, granting honour to the Maori warriors. It seems that he was promoted after each lost battle, ending up as Major-General and as a CB.

Charlotte Despard– the wife of Maximilian Carden Despard, a successful trader in Asia. She was in the early 1900’s a fearsome Suffragette and Sinn Feiner who promoted these causes with vigour.

Charles Beauclerk Despard – Fighting on the western front with the Royal Irish Fusiliers, he was awarded a Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, and this was followed by the Distinguished Service Order. He was killed in April 1918.

Maximilian Despard – my grandfather won the D.S.C. when he was Gunnery Officer of H.M.S. Broke, in the famous night action on 20-21 April 1917, between Swift and Broke, during their spectacular encounter with five German destroyers, two of which were sunk. He gave the order which resulted in one of the destroyers being torpedoed, then they rammed one of the enemy at 27 knots, the impact hurled the German destroyer practically over on her beam-ends  but retaliatory fire eventually reduced the Broke to a ‘smoking shambles’, her decks in places ‘literally running in blood’. Later as a Lieutenant-Commander he was from 1928-35 a Military adviser to Mannerheim in Finland and later Naval Attaché in Bucharest and Belgrade. He worked there for Naval intelligence at a time when the Germans were seeking to secure the Romanian oilfields. Max contributed to the founding of the first golf club in Finland and his cousin, Vandeleur Despard founded the first one in Sweden.

All that was inspiring and interesting, but information prior to 1692 was limited to the following: we had been Counts in France who had given up titles and estates for our Protestant religion in the time of Queen Elizabeth 1, and that we had won favour at her court. With nothing recorded from 1570 to 1692, I was suspicious of this legend. As a result I have delved into the records of France and England and the Despard name does not show before 1692. We must have existed as a family, so did we have another name? Surely we must have left some markers prior to 1692?

‘The Cloak of Secrecy’ details my exploration of this mystery and of Anglo-French relations from 1000-1714. The Articles on this website have been extracted from the book. I have no great writing skills, but I am a reasonable investigator.

The purpose of publishing is to invite constructive commentary and feed-back which I will post on this site.