Edward Marcus Despard - Encyclopedia

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EDWARD MARCUS DESPARD (1751-1803), Irish conspirator, was born in Queen's Co., Ireland, in 1751. In 1766 he entered the British navy, was promoted lieutenant in 1772, and stationed at Jamaica, where he soon proved himself to have considerable engineering talent. He served in the West Indies with credit, being promoted captain after the San Juan expedition (1779), then made governor of the Mosquito Shore and the Bay of Honduras, and in 1782 commander of a successful expedition against the Spanish possessions on the Black river. In 1784 he took over the administration of Yucatan. Upon frivolous charges he was suspended by Lord Grenville, and recalled to England. From 1790 to 1792 these charges were held over him, and when dismissed no compensation was forthcoming. His complaints caused him to be arrested in 1798, and with a short interval he remained in gaol until 1800. By that time Despard was desperate, and engaged in a plot to seize the Tower of London and Bank of England and assassinate George III. The whole idea was patently preposterous, but Despard was arrested, tried before a special commission, found guilty of high treason, and, with six of his fellow-conspirators, sentenced in 1803 to be hanged, drawn and quartered. These were the last men to be so sentenced in England. Despard was executed on the 21st of February 1803.

His eldest brother, John Despard (1745-1829), had a long and distinguished career in the British army; gazetted an ensign in 1760, he was promoted through the various intermediate grades and became general in 1814. His most active service was in the American War of Independence, during which he was twice made prisoner.

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