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

Irish Despard Origins

The penning of pamphlets on political thought reached new heights in 1681-2 and the Earl of Anglesey wrote: ‘there is a mustering of parties in the conflict between the Whigs and the Tories and appeals are made to the people, who can neither meet nor judge in a body.…without parliament where the collective body of the people meet by representation, it was extremely dangerous to direct appeals to an entity (the people) who could neither meet nor judge as a distinct collectivity’ (from Richard Ashcraft’s ‘Revolutionary Politics’ (1986)).

The government kept a watchful eye on all the dissidents and employed agents for this purpose. One of these was Sir James Hayes who was close to Shaftesbury and frequently dined with Anglesey from whom he may have gained information on Monmouth’s activities, since Monmouth was also a close friend of Anglesey. As the plot developed so more people became involved. Ashcraft again: ‘Anglesey is very likely to have been a major source of Court intelligence for the radicals until he was replaced as Lord Privy seal in August 1682. Throughout 1682, his diary shows him meeting Essex, Monmouth, Howard, Alderman Wright, Macclesfield, Grey, and Francis Charlton. Moreover, although Anglesey was in London, there is a suspiciously unexplained break in the diary between 6-18 November, just when plans for the insurrection reached a critical point. The regular entries resume on 19 November, the night of Shaftesbury’s departure, and during 1683 they show Anglesey meeting frequently with Russell and Monmouth. On the night of 13 June 1683 he dined with Russell and between 13-19 June, there is another unexplained gap in the diary, precisely the time when the conspirators learned that the plot had been discovered. Anglesey left town and went into hiding; when he returned in July he found that his house had been broken into and his papers searched (warrants were issued for this on 1 July). Although Anglesey appeared as a witness at the trials of Russell and Sidney he was never arrested as a conspirator, though the evidence clearly suggests that he did at least know of the Rye House Plot.’



  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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