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

Irish Despard Origins

And how were these payments effected? Well, step forward the Merchants:

Letter: Nottingham to Jurieu 1692 April 8. Whitehall. ‘Je vous envoye icy une lettre de change pour les mille guilders que je vous promis par la derniere poste, afin que vous puissiez prendre autant qu’il faut pour payer ce qui est deu au correspondent de Paris, et vous servir du reste pour rembourser les depenses necessaires sur cette occasion selon ce que vous jugerez le plus a propos. Monsieur John Thompson est le marchand francois a qui j’ay donne les cent livres sterling pour estre remis au correspondent de Xaintogne don’t je vous priay par la derniere de l’aventir’. And Jurieu’s reply April 15 ‘……..Quant a la somme de cent pieces que vous avez mise en main de Mr Jehan Thompson, j’en ay donné avis a l’ami de nostre correspondent de Xaintonge, nominé Monsieur Charron. Je vous supplie donc, Milord, de faire averter le dit Sieur Thompson d’accepter et payer une letter de change de cent pieces qu’on tirera sur luy signé Charron cet ordinaire’. (Jurieu provided information up to 1708.) The Saintonge was a large province to the north of Bordeaux and the River Gironde up to and including La Rochelle.

The continental spy networks were run by Nottingham through Jurieu based in Rotterdam, and through Portland’s continental network. Henri de Ruvigny, as Ireland’s military Governor, ran Desarres who was travelling from Ireland to France to obtain his information, which was routed directly to him. The network of continental agents used the on-going Protestant trade connections as the conduit for intelligence reports, and these worked successfully (and largely undiscovered by the French) until 1696. Most of these reports came either through Jurieu or directly to Nottingham.

The quality of the agents and the information varied considerably. As a result from 1691-96 the networks were extended to obtain corroborating reports. Where initially intelligence gatherers would make arduous and lengthy journeys to visit ports and emplacements, this changed to secure informants in each critical location. Most agents operated with one or more cipher names, and invisible ink was frequently used.



  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.

Add comment

9 + = 11

Please note that your comment will be reviewed and may be edited before being published.