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

Irish Despard Origins

There too was Ambassador Ralph Montagu who was also involved in the Treaty negotiations. Montagu’s wife was Elizabeth Wriothesley, half-sister to the abovementioned Rachel, cousin to Henri de Ruvigny who was also a confidant of Henriette in the Treaty negotiations. Sir John Thompson had gone to France in May 1670 almost certainly to set up the funding route for the provisions of The Secret Treaty of Dover, arranged in part by Henriette. Philibert de Gramont was involved in the negotiations and was at the signing of the Treaty, and was a close friend of Henriette.

At the time of the Rye House Plot (1683), Armstrong had connections to both Arthur Annesley and John Thompson. Elizabeth Anne Despard married a Thompson (also probably around 1670). John Despard had Richard White as a business partner, and White had Philibert de Gramont as an uncle. These three Despards were of the same generation (See Trees). These are factual connections. Chance, perhaps, but they increase the probability that Despards had earlier involvements with these families. If so one would expect a trace of the Despard name to be evident in England – but there seems to be no trace.

If John Despard was gathering intelligence for King William, was Richard White aware of this activity? Whites of Limerick had an established track record as spies, but with Stuart leanings. Was Richard White focused solely on trade or did he also have an intelligence role? If so, was it for William or James? If the former then his relationship with Despard would have been more open. If the latter, then Despard would have been showing his (probable) Stuart credentials, but without declaring his intelligence gathering role for William.

I note from ‘Intelligence and Espionage in the Reign of Charles II’ by Allan Marshall (2003) that Ignatius White and his brothers Richard and Andrew (all Catholics from Limerick) had from the 1650’s on, made spying a family business. At various points they represented the interests of Holland, France, Spain, and England too. Ignatius was engaged by Arlington as a spy in the second Anglo Dutch war (1665-7). (£1,000 per annum of land of inheritance was settled on him and his heirs.) Then King James sent him as special Ambassador in January 1687 to William of Orange. William had hoped for someone who would improve Anglo-Dutch relations, instead he took this appointment as a calculated insult, White being a Catholic spy with a very dubious past.



  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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