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

Irish Despard Origins

The Trinity College admissions of the two Despards in 1692 are likely to be accurate. This implies that Henry’s son William who was at Trinity may not have had children, and that may also be true for Henry’s brother John (of Bantry). The appearance of the William who married Elizabeth Armstrong is new to the existing family tree, and it is not clear what his relationship was to the others in that time line.

A further son of William D of Coolbally, Richard D, described as of Cranagh and the Manor of Villiers, married Elizabeth daughter of Richard Cochrane of Cuddoghmore. William D of Coolbally also had a sister, Elizabeth Anne, mentioned in his will, who married a Thompson.

Armstrong, Gray or Grey, and Cochrane are all names associated with the Rye House and subsequent plots. While these families living in Ireland may not have been involved themselves, the coincidence of names causes one to wonder about earlier Despard associations. These marriages would also indicate that Despards were Protestants as claimed in the Diaries.

The ‘Rye House Plot’ of 1683 consisted of two objectives; the first to assassinate King Charles II and his brother James, Duke of York on their way back from Newmarket; the second to take over the English government to avoid the succession of James and the inevitable resurgence of the Catholic religion. Charles’s illegitimate son, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth was the protestant leader who supported the second objective. His friend and companion was Sir Thomas Armstrong (the son of the above mentioned). Co-ordinating from Scotland was John Cochrane. The plot failed and the consequences for many of those involved were severe. Armstrong was executed, Cochrane fled to Holland, Lord William Russell and Algernon Sidney were also executed. Thomas Grey (Earl of Stamford) was imprisoned and Ford Grey escaped from the Tower of London. James ascended to the throne on the death of King Charles in February 1685 and Monmouth landed in June to rally forces in rebellion. He was captured and executed.

Both Sir Thomas Armstrong and his father were absolutely loyal and trusted supporters of both Kings Charles I and II until the threat to a Protestant continuity appeared, and then Monmouth seemed a necessary alternative. It is also interesting to note that Armstrong was in 1670 with King Charles’s sister Henriette in France, a couple of weeks after her return from the Treaty of Dover signing ceremony.



  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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