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

Irish Despard Origins

It is possible that William Despard was using another name or that he was engaged in intelligence work, which would explain the lack of a record. If Balzac’s connections linking the de Foix to the Despards are valid, then Tree 3 shows a set of interesting relationships at this point in history. Antoine de Caumont, Comte de Lauzun, who rescued King James’s wife and led King James’s army in Ireland, would have been kin to the French de Foix family through marriage. Frederic de Foix, who carried and defended the standard of Henri de Navarre with great and much admired valour at the Battle of Coutras in 1587, married Charlotte de Caumont, aunt to Antoine. Their grandson was Henri-Francois de Foix-Gurcon, Duc de Randan, but known as the Duc de Foix. He was a party to the sale of Bernard d’Epernon’s estate, Lesparre, to de Gramont in 1672. He died in 1714 and was also the last Comte de Foix-Candalle. Philibert de Gramont and his nephew Antoine IV de Gramont would have been kin through marriage to both to him and to Antoine de Caumont. If Balzac’s linkage is correct, then the Despards would have been distant relations of all three of these families. If these connections are correct then I would have expected Despards to have been used as intelligencers by King William. (I do not think that they would have had the Bantry and Queen’s County properties from the Annesley family if they were not Protestants supporting King William.)

There were Hamilton relations of Philibert active in both armies, and Henry Stafford-Howard accompanied James to Ireland and then was at the Boyne, whence together they departed in some haste back to France. Stafford-Howard’s marriage to Philibert de Gramont’s daughter lasted 21 months – in his will he leaves her ‘the worst of women, 45 brass halfpence which will buy her a pullet to her supper’ (Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 1953 V.71-2 p.96)! Other commentators on her were more generous. His brother John was appointed Comptroller of the Household to James at St Germain.

1692-3 was a critical time in both England and Ireland. With King James in France receiving support from King Louis, the threat of invasion was a real and immediate danger.



  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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