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

Irish Despard Origins

Fresh troops were ordered to Ireland, and all officers on furlough in England were commanded to return forthwith. Sidney had become so alarmed by the report of a French invasion in the winter of 1692-93, and he had invited Roman Catholics to enlist. Details of the movements of the French navy kept alive strong apprehensions of an invasion of Ireland in 1693.

On the 4th of November 1693 the Lords Justices, among other things, asked Lord Nottingham to appoint such a number of ships as should be necessary to guard the coast of Ireland, and begged that the fortifications and garrisons, especially Kinsale, should be with all convenient expedition placed in a position of effective defence.

The remarks contained in Bishop M.’s (i.e. Moreton’s) memorandum on Connaught, Munster, and Leinster shed much light on this topic. Connaught, he thinks, contains more Roman Catholics in it than any of the other provinces, and they are richer, and generally well disposed to English interests. Munster (south-west Ireland) deserves careful watching because of its contiguity to France, and because many of the fishermen maintain communications with that country.

When the French privateers surprised English ships – and they frequently did so – they not only ruined the exporters, but they also supplied the enemy, then in want and necessity. In 1693 thirty-two ships had sailed to the West Indies, and twenty-eight of these had been captured by the French.’

King William III was in Holland in 1693 and at that point in the war there was a balance of power between France and the Alliance, which heightened the need for good intelligence on fleet movements. Intelligence reports were supplied to William privately by Nottingham. Since 1691 the main allied espionage network in France had been run secretly from Rotterdam by a well-known public figure, the French protestant controversionalist, Pierre Jurieu. The latter recruited and paid a network of agents in France, and these expenses were reimbursed by the English Government. (From: ‘Friends and Rivals in the East’ – A. Hamilton, Groot, M.H. Van Den Booggert (2000)).



  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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