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

Irish Despard Origins

The English victory at La Hogue in May 1692 initiated considerable reaction against the newly converted Protestant merchants in La Rochelle and Rochefort, two towns of critical interest. This increased the hazards for the intelligence gatherers.

Following the victory, Ruvigny pressed for an immediate attack on Rochefort, but Admiral Russell would not support this. However with the information that he received from Desarres in early 1693, further consideration was given to an attack on either Brest, St. Malo or Rochefort. This did not happen, but St. Malo was bombarded from the sea in November 1693 and an attack was made on the Charente estuary in 1696.

Jurieu was not paid – he acted to secure the Protestant cause. His network of agents were paid at varying rates depending on the value of the information and the expenses involved in acquiring it.

The trusted merchants were used for the routing of monies to Jurieu and agents, via bills of exchange, as well as for transmitting the actual correspondence. John Thompson of Bordeaux was one of these.

Henri de Massue, Marquis de Ruvigny, was leader of the French Protestants, and he served in the army of France. In 1678 he was sent by Louis XIV on a mission to persuade King Charles not to accept the English parliament’s money to facilitate England’s entry into the war in support of the Netherlands against France. The French Ambassador Barillon reports in detail on his efforts in that regard. He also reports on Ruvigny’s approaches to Lord William Russell (the Rye House Plotter who was executed and who was married to Ruvigny’s cousin Rachel) with a view to hindering the passage of the bill granting the finance.

Mr. Montague to the Earl of Danby. Paris, ‘January 1678 – ‘I give you the best light I can into the reason of Monsieur Ruvigny’s son’s journey into England, who will be there perhaps as soon as this letter. If his father’s age would have permitted it, I believe they would have sent him; for they have chosen the son, who is to make use of lights his father will give him.



  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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