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

The Characters of Balzac's 'La Comédie Humaine': Fact or Fiction?

There were many other characters that Balzac created for which I found no backgrounds. Hence my belief that there was a mix of fact and fiction used for their creation. In reading the roles given to the Marquis d’Espard, I feel that Balzac was generous with this character. He nobly took on the role of educating his children in difficult circumstances. More than that, he recognised the wrongs done by his forebears to the family of Jeanrenaud. He did not need to, but he felt honour-bound to attempt to rectify this.

As a result he laboured for many years saving money while he wrote his book, and the proceeds enabled him to pay the Jeanerauds the substantial sum of eleven hundred thousand francs. His wife, a Blamont-Chauvry, rich in her own right, contributed nothing but lived her social life with all the glamour and intrigues of the Paris salons. Little thought did she give to her family. I was not able to identify any Blamot-Chauvrys.

This takes us back to the question ‘Why did Balzac and Ferdinand de Grammont make the transposition from the Grailly/Foix family to d’Espard?’ Given the extent and the accuracy of Balzac’s clues relating to the background of the de Foix and Nègrepelisse families, one must conclude that this was not mere chance.

This means that he was aware of our family’s existence in Ireland at the time of his writing. But more than that, he must also have been aware of our earlier lineage. How he came by that information I have not discovered for certain. What I did discover was as follows. The first evidence of the use of the Despard name was in 1692 when two sons were enrolled at Trinity College, Dublin. One was the son of William and the other was the son of Henry, both living in Queen’s County, Ireland. Other records show that a John Despard was at that time based at Bantry Bay. These must have been brothers or cousins. Here I will focus on John who together with his business partner Richard White, was granted between 6-10,000 acres (2,500 – 4,000 hectares) at Bantry Bay, where they carried out fish farming and trade with France (contraband). Property at Bantry and Queen’s county was granted to them by the Annesley family (Earls of Anglesey). Richard White came from a family long established in Ireland and he eloped with and married Margaret Hamilton. She was the niece of Philibert de Gramont.



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