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

Irish Despard Origins

Edward, Viscount Conway, was a member of the Irish Privy Council from 1660, and married Anne Finch, daughter of Heneage Finch. (After her death in 1678, she was preserved in spirits of wine, with a glass over her face in her coffin above ground, that her husband, who was in Ireland when she died, might see her before her interment.) Heneage Finch was Attorney General in 1670 and Lord Chancellor 1675 and was created Earl of Nottingham in 1681. Nottingham’s son Daniel was one of the Privy Councilors who in 1685 signed the order for the proclamation of the Duke of York, but during the whole of the reign of James II he kept away from the court. At the last moment he hesitated to join in the invitation to William of Orange. After the abdication of James II, he was the leader of the party who were in favour of James being King in name with William as regent. He declined the office of Lord Chancellor under William and Mary but accepted that of Secretary of State until December 1693. Nottingham continued to be consulted by William on naval affairs – he had been an Admiralty Commissioner under Charles II.

In June 1688 the birth of a son to King James brought Philibert de Gramont to England again as an envoy with Louis’ congratulations to the happy parents. While de Gramont might not have been a spy before, this time he had definite secret instructions (dated 25.6.1688) to ascertain the state of readiness and strength of the army and navy and the condition of strongholds as well as the disposition of the commanding officers; he was also instructed to discover who were the principal opponents to the King and the Catholic religion and then get some knowledge of their plans ‘using his insinuating manners’. His report indicated a low level of awareness of the potential risk from an invasion by William, and that James did not understand Louis’ concerns (even though Louis had practical experience of fighting William of Orange!). De Gramont also offered James, on behalf of Louis, French naval support against a potential attack by William, but James turned this down.

Some of Philibert’s leisure time was spent in the Duchess of Mazarin’s salon where he encountered a number of the recent Protestant exiles from France, including Henri de Ruvigny (the exiled General of the Huguenots in France, who was later created Earl of Galway after he distinguished himself at the Battle of Aughrim, and who was granted considerable forfeited estates in Ireland) and Armand de Bourbon (whose mother was Louis Durfort Duras, Lord Feversham’s sister; Armand was an ADC to William and also served in Ireland). Philibert seems to have returned to France in September.



  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.

Add comment

1 + = 10

Please note that your comment will be reviewed and may be edited before being published.