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

Irish Despard Origins

Well-equipped smuggling vessels, freighted with brandy, claret, laces, and silks, consequently plied to the coasts of Kerry, Clare, and Connaught, having Irish officers, and occasionally friars, on board, speaking the old language, which was still that of far the greater part of the country, and possessing a proportionable influence with their countrymen. For these arrivals from France, cargoes of wool were returned, accompanied by suitable numbers of hardy recruits, whose periodical emigrations were fancifully styled, ‘the flights of the wild geese.’

According to estimates, stated to be deduced from the Bureau de la Guerre, or War Office of France, between the troops of the Irish regiments in her service, and the Irish in other corps of the French army, from October, 1691, to May, 1745, or, from the Treaty of Limerick, to the battle of Fontenoy, those military exiles amounted to above 450,000.

The first service appointed for most of the Irish troops after their reorganisation in France in 1692, was an expedition to England. That invasion was concerted between James II and Louis XIV, as equally for the interest of both; of the former, as the means of effecting his ‘restoration’ and of the latter, as his best resource against the League of Augsburg; unless William, its chief, could be dethroned, then that great confederacy would be stronger than ever, from his being enabled, by the Treaty of Limerick, to employ, on the Continent against France, so many of the regular force of 67 regiments, absorbed, by the last year’s war, in Ireland.

The ‘Armé de Normandie’ for James’s service, was, including his household and officers, to consist of 30,000 men, with 50 guns. Of these, the Irish – as exclusive of the three Regiments of Mountcashel’s Brigade, and the Regiment of Athlone, appointed to serve elsewhere – would amount, in round numbers, to 12,400 infantry, and 800 cavalry, or above 13,200 men and officers. The whole were to be commanded, under the King (James), by the veteran Marshal de Bellefonds, to whom Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan, was Marshal de Camp, or Major-General. (Some 300 transport ships were gathered for the invasion.)



  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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