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

Irish Despard Origins

Having been to see Bantry and the surrounding area, the land used by White and Despard must have included well in excess of 6,000 acres. Whiddy Island was a further 800 acres. Glengariff was 6,065 acres. It is not clear when all this was granted but presumably also in the 1690’s. I think that it is probable that it was granted in 1692 after Elizabeth Annesley’s grant to her son Altham in 1691, following the death of his brother. Francis Annesley, the Lawyer, who I suspect was present at the Portsmouth meetings in June 1692, may have been the facilitator in arranging this Despard/White grant. He had a seat in the Irish Parliament of October 1692, and had been educated at Trinity College Dublin. Also of note was the fact that Arthur Annesley (brother to James the Earl of Anglesey) was from 1689 a Gentleman of King William’s Privy Chamber, and went on to serve in many important governmental roles, becoming a confidant of Nottingham. Judging from the later will of the younger Arthur Annesley, he regarded Francis as a responsible and capable individual.

What would have justified such extensive land-grants to Despards? Given the trading partnership with White, it seems certain that they must have had existing strong trading contacts with France. Were these land-grants given solely on the strength of their trading skills? Bantry was a strategically important harbour, and it is difficult to imagine that at that critical time grants would have been made to anyone who was not considered a reliable supporter of King William; and hence alert to the danger that this ‘the back door to England’ represented.

The ‘close’ community in south-west Ireland, and the delicate nature of trade there, must have meant that John Despard had been known to, and trusted by, Richard White prior to the commencement of their Bantry partnership. This was most likely to have been through an existing trading relationship. White had been previously active in Cork and had contributed 800 pounds for the defence of Brandon against the Jacobite forces. They probably both had an established set of relationships at the French end. The direct trade from England to France had been halted, so all trade was illicit. It was not a time for amateurs. Despard must have successfully avoided capture on his many trading/smuggling runs to France, possibly because at the Irish end he was fed information on naval movements, and the same must have been true at the French end.



  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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