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

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

Philibert was the Uncle of Antoine, Duc de Gramont who was Viceroy of Navarre and Bearn, and Governor of Bayonne. He owned the Château de Lesparre, north-west of Bordeaux and overlooking the Gironde. Thus he had effective influence over the French coast from La Rochelle down to the border with Spain.

The de Gramonts were extremley well-placed to cooperate with the Irish partners for mutual commercial benefit, as the following extract (and please note the date) shows:

From ‘Corsairs and Navies’ by John S. Bromley (1987) – ‘The Duc de Gramont, who prided himself on being the ‘Director’ of the Basque ‘corsairiat’, complained in 1693 that the minister was according vessels to ‘tous les courtisans qui vous en demandent’…….. He further mentioned ‘the Comte de Gramont (Philibert), to whose ‘gens’ the intendent of Dunkirk also referred, though it is not clear whether they were his agents or theirs.’

The de Gramonts had a direct Foix-Grailly descent (Tree 1). Added to these connections was the fact that in 1611 Charlotte, who was the daughter of Francois-Nompar de Caumont, Comte de Lauzun and Catherine de Gramont, married Frederic Foix-Gurcon. Their Grandson, the last of the legitimate Foix-Grailly family, Henri-Francois Foix-Gurcon, Duc de Randan, died in 1714.

Hence in 1692-1700 the Despards of Ireland had a strong trading connection with France, and a connection to the de Gramonts. However this does not explain the name superimposition effected by Balzac and one can only speculate about this.

I have written a book (The Cloak of Secrecy) that concludes that we had a different name prior to that date – Kendall. It was a name used by us in England over a long period of time; an English name that avoided the discomfort of the use of a French name when the two countries were so frequently at war. During that period we had maintained our connections with France, principally through trade. These two factors gave us value to the English Government as intelligencers.



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