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

Irish Despard Origins

From Dagenau’s ‘Memoirs of the Court of France’ (1689) – ‘M. (Colbert) de Croissy has received news from England stating that the Prince of Orange has liberated Lord Feversham. The lords, assembled at London, propose bringing the King (James) their master to trial upon four capital charges, Viz. the death of the King his brother to which they assert he was a party; the death of the Earl of Essex, who cut his throat in prison; the supposition of the Prince of Wales; and the treaty of secret alliance with France. It appears, from this expression of malignity that the King of England has acted wisely in coming to France (!). There are, however, some noblemen who do not fall in with the views of the Prince of Orange; the Earls of Pembroke and Nottingham maintain that no judiciary process can be undertaken neither against the King nor the Prince of Wales’.

Those involved in the routing of the funds paid by King Louis to King Charles, especially those with French connections might well have felt insecure at this time. Sir John Thompson’s time in Holland in 1685 and his early support for King William clearly insulated him. If Despards were involved in the funding, and if they had the connections to the Stuarts and the families in France implied by Balzac, then they might well have felt uneasy, even though they had protestant credentials. However, if Balzac’s connections are correct then Despards had an unquestionable loyalty to England.

If my conclusion that Despard was a new name assumed in 1692 with supporting Huguenot credentials, how did John Despard explain the need for this name change to Philibert de Gramont and other contacts that he met on his visits to France? There were many Huguenots settling in Ireland, and especially around Portarlington at that time, but I did not feel that represented sufficient reason for a name change, even given the fact that the de Foix-Candalle and their cousins the de Nègrepelisse had been leading Catholic activists in the French wars of religion in the 1500’s. With the many new arrivals from different parts of France this was more likely to have been a good basis for part of the newly created legend; and suggesting that Despards had arrived in Queen Elizabeth’s time accounted for the fact that they had English sponsors/friends.



  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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