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

Irish Despard Origins

Sir John Thompson was a controversial MP during King James II’s time, and no less so following his ennoblement as Lord Haversham in 1696, when, during William’s reign, he actively attacked corruption and government inefficiencies. He originated the first printed debates in parliament, edited by the orator. He died in 1710 and was succeeded by his son Maurice who had married Elizabeth Annesley.

The marriages of Sir John’s daughters are interesting (Tree 2). I have mentioned the marriage of Mary who married the younger Arthur Annesley, but in addition Catherine married Edmund White (of St Paul, Covent Garden) and Frances married Thomas Armstrong, Althamia married Matthew Priaux and their daughter Althamia married Thomas Armstrong’s son Charles. Close and trusted family connections! Thomas Armstrong was kin to the Sir Thomas of the Rye House Plot. From the Armstrong family in King’s Co., he settled in Ampthill, Bedfordshire in 1717 following a career in the army. Thomas Armstrong was therefore the great-uncle of the Elizabeth Armstrong who married a later William Despard of Coolrane, Queen’s Co. Who Edmund White was and whether he was a relation of Richard White, John Despard’s partner, I have not discovered.

Then we come to a letter from the State Papers dated 30.8.1670 – Anne Thompson to Viscount Conway. ‘I would have answered your letter before, but have been so ill through being so great with child. Thanks for your charity; I am ready to secure you from any trouble that you may follow, but hope there will be none, as it cannot be known what you had from my husband, “whose dead ashes if able, would pray for your lordship from the grave, for your kindness to his widow and the fatherless who are in want”. If you want any Bordeaux wine, I have a relation a merchant in Bordeaux, who will serve you as faithfully as any, and who has supplied your brother-in-law. Remember me to her ladyship.’

Could this be Elizabeth Anne Despard who married a Thompson, or is it another Anne? Clearly her husband had died during the previous, probably, six months. She could of course be any age under forty but could just as easily be in her early twenties which would put her birth within the target years for Elizabeth Anne. Also if she had married Thompson in 1668-9 then this was when John Thompson married Elizabeth Annesley and it was in the period when the Treaty of Dover negotiations were taking place. (It was also when William Despard probably married Elizabeth Armstrong in accordance with the Parliamentary records.)



  1. Please don’t publish my name or email. I have not read everything here, so perhaps I missed this information, but the reason that the Despards in Ireland are traced only to the date you mention is that the family, as Huguenots had fled to Ireland from France after The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

    1. Thank you for that. However – from 1572 until 1692 there are no records showing the use of the Despard or d’Espard names in either Ireland or England. There are no records of the use of that name in France before that date. Balzac, writing in circa 1840 used that name in a coded fashion which I analyse in my article.

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