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

Irish Despard Origins

One cannot help but note too, the fact that the Ambassador to France involved in the Treaty negotiations, Ralph Montagu, thought that Sir Thomas Armstrong was sufficiently familiar with King Charles to be trusted to break the news of his beloved sister’s death. King Charles must have felt seriously betrayed by Sir Thomas’ subsequent involvement in the Rye House Plot. If the Philip Armstrong who posted the surety for Sir Thomas’s father was the father to the Elizabeth Armstrong who married William Despard, then Sir Thomas would have been kin to William Despard – an interesting thought. I make the point here that Philip Armstrong was of Westminster, as would have been his daughter. Hence this is perhaps persuasive of William Despard’s London residency prior to his move to Ireland.

Sir Thomas Armstrong was one of the Earl of Shaftsbury’s most active agents in the Rye House Plot, and he and Lord Grey were willing to take part in any hazardous undertaking. The Earl of Shaftesbury was Anthony Ashley Cooper, the leader of the opposition or Whig party in the House of Lords (member of the ‘Cabal’, he was Chancellor of the Exchequer 1661-72, Lord Chancellor 1672-3, he was created Earl on 23.4.1672; I speculate that this was a reward for his role in the Treaty of Dover funding). He was arrested on suspicion of treason in July 1681 and bail was posted by William Russell and Francis Charlton (who seems to have been paymaster-general for the Rye House plotters, and was a cousin of Shaftesbury and confident of Monmouth). Shaftesbury was released in February 1682. Following the decision not to proceed with the rising on 19 November 1682 he departed to Holland where he died in January 1683.

On the fringe of these plotters was Arthur Annesley (Tree 2), who was Earl of Anglesey and Viscount Valentia, an old puritan with close ties to the Dissenters, and a close friend of Shaftesbury. (Shaftesbury’s son married Dorothy Manners on 22.9.1669, and her sister Elizabeth Manners married Arthur’s son James Annesley on 17.9.1669.)  He was much impressed by John Locke and his pupils that included John Owen, a frequent visitor to his home. Owen’s assistant was Robert Ferguson who became chaplain to Shaftesbury, with Locke as his assistant.



  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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