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

Irish Despard Origins

The French, by their accounts, had but 44 sail of the line, 22,451 men, and 3216 cannon, with no more than 13 fire-ships – the strength of the Allied armament, between men-of-war and minor vessels, consequently being, as compared with that of the French, in the proportion of more than 2 to 1!

Nevertheless, from 10 in the morning till 10 at night, (except while interrupted by a fog) Tourville maintained a noble engagement, against such enormous odds; not losing a single vessel himself, and disabling several of the enemy’s; so that never was the glory of the French marine higher than that day! The result, however, from May 30th, to June 3rd, was, that, obliged to retire towards his own coasts, where there was not due harbourage for his fleet, which he would otherwise have saved, 15 of his principal men-of-war went aground at Cherbourg, Fort Lisset, and La Hogue, and, with some small craft, were burned by the enemy. This action, though honourable to the French, was a fatal blow to their navy. ‘The defeat of La Hogue,’ remarks an English contemporary of Louis XIV, ‘was such a shock to his naval power that he was never after able to put out a fleet, to meet the English and Dutch fleet in the Channel.’

The expedition against England was consequently given up; King James returned to St. Germain; and the Irish troops were ordered to join the Armies in Flanders, Germany, Spain, and Italy.

Francis Annesley, writing to Sir Arthur Rawdon, on May 29th 1692, on the defeat of the French, observes – ‘It is concluded their design was, to have taken the advantage of Admirals Carter and Delavalle’s squadron, which consisted but of 36, and to have managed them, so as to have made way for the safe conduct of their transport-ships, with their army, to have poured in upon us here; and we may thank our Protestant winds for the escape.’

O’Callaghan comments – ‘On this engagement, and circumstances connected with it, I have availed myself of French official sources of information; besides more generally-known authorities. There can be little, if any, doubt, from the very gallant contest maintained by Tourville under such disadvantages, that, if joined by his entire force, or the Toulon fleet, he would have beaten the English and Dutch, as formerly; and a disembarkation, and second Stuart “restoration,” in England, would then have been certain.’



  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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