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

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

It was certainly interesting reading family diaries and records, but what really drew my attention and interest was the very limited information on our activity prior to 1700. It was not enough to read that we had been Counts in France who had come to England in the time of Queen Elizabeth 1, winning favour at her court as Huguenots who had forsaken land and titles because of our faith, and that two brothers had then returned to France. There had to be more to our history than that.  As a result I set out to discover this earlier history and this involved research into many different areas. One of these was literary references.

S. Miles’s ‘Huguenot Refugees’ written in 1876 merely records elements to be found in the family papers, presumably supplied by Despards at that time. Other authors include commentary based on this same background.

The internet was more productive. Despards as ‘characters’ featured in the writings of a number of authors Viz:

  • Agatha Christie features the intrepid hunter/explorer Major Despard in ‘The Pale Horse’ and ‘Cards on the Table’
  • Charles Despard appears in Isak Dinesen’s ‘A Consolatory Tale’
  • Arthur Conan Doyle has a fierce Major Despard as a sword for hire in ‘The Refugees’
  • Andrew Despard appears in W. J. Hamilton’s two Dime Novels (1800’s) ‘Maid of Montreal’ and ‘Despard, the Spy’ as one of the pseudonyms for Charles Amand (he apparently upset the English government, fled to France with some wealth, had a dangerous liaison; falsely accused of murder, he escaped to Canada to spy for the English against the French in 1760, at the fall of Montreal)
  • A villain – Despard – appears in the Buffalo Bill series
  • The Lady of Blossholm’ by Rider Haggard, set circa 1540, has an unfavoured but wealthy Lord Despard as a potential suitor for the good lady who was based at Cranwell Towers – which is actually four miles south of Bloxholm


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