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

Irish Despard Origins

John Cornelius O’Callaghan in his (slightly biased) ‘History of the Irish brigades in the service of France’ (1870) gives a clear description of the trade in men and wool from Ireland to France and the, perhaps more exotic, return cargoes. He also illustrates the build-up of Irish and French forces for an invasion of England in the first half of 1692 which might well have succeeded except for the ‘Protestant winds’. I extract the following:

‘The maritime intercourse of France and Ireland had been increased beyond what it ever was by the War of the Revolution. After the termination of the contest (the war in Ireland), the French privateers from the ports of Bretagne, or Brest and St. Malo, that were very active on the look-out for the rich English merchant-men making for the Munster harbours of Cork, Kinsale, &c, were not without aid in these enterprises, through a communication with the native population of the sea-coast; sympathizing with those belonging to a nation, so recently the ally of theirs, and the enemy of their enemies, the Williamites.

Privateers likewise from France, manned with Irish and Scotch exiles, the adherents of King James, and acting by his commission from St. Germain, were so animated by the successes obtained against the Williamite trade, that they extended their operations into the Bay of Dublin; and Irish Jacobite officers, commanding French vessels, are mentioned as very injurious to the same commerce in their cruises. Hence the communication went on between Ireland and France, where there were many Irish, besides the flower of the nation engaged in the service of their exiled King and Louis XIV. But, through the arbitrary suppression by England of the Irish woollen manufacture, her other legislation for the injury or ruin of Irish commerce, and the continued limitations to employment in Ireland by the constant additions to the Penal Code, the causes for such intercourse with France were necessarily increased.



  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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