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Lieutenant Superintendent Edward "Ned" Marcus Despard was an Irish solider and abolitionist who supported the end of the slave trade.

He served in the British Army for many years. He was a colonel in the American Revolutionary War where he led a force to victory at the Battle of the Black River and secured the British hold in Miskito Kingdom. He became superintendent of British Honduras.

He was eventually imprisoned by the Crown when Ralph Hanson, whose business was failing due to Ned's freeing of slaves, falsely accused Ned of treason. Ross Poldark secured Ned's release, and together they became a revolutionary force.


Revolutionary War

Ned Despard was a Colonel in the American Revolutionary War. He found a wounded Ross Poldark on the battlefield and was impressed by the fight's sole survivor. He took Ross to Dr Dwight Enys and told Dwight he needed to save this one.[2]

Later, Ross woke up and Ned explained that the war wasn't over for him yet and that he was now a Captain. In 1782, towards the end of the Revolutionary War, Ned successfully led troops to victory in the Battle of Black River. He secured British control in Miskito Kingdom from the Spanish and became a decorated war hero.[2]

British Honduras

At the end of the Revolutionary War, Ned was made Superintendent of the Bay of Honduras. He would eventually marry a former slave, Catherine Despard and staked a high reputation on giving the same rights of freedom to other slaves. This proved to be unpopular for some of the settlers and especially Ralph Hanson, whose family timber business was failing due to the lack of free labour that slavery provided.[2]

Ralph was bitter about Ned's power in Honduras, because the Hanson family were old colonists who had long had land and power there beforehand. The settlers sent a letter of protest to the British government, and Ralph accused Ned of betraying the Crown by purposely depriving it of the profits the slavery industry and noted that depriving the Crown of its share made that person an enemy of the Crown.[2]


Ned was called back to London where he was arrested and imprisoned. He sent letters to powerful friends for help, but they couldn't. Getting involved in Ned's business would mean becoming evolved in a wider purpose: a fight for social justice. Ned's last hope was eventually Ross Poldark, an old friend and solider he knew during the Revolutionary War.[2]

Catherine took a letter to Cornwall and Ross agreed to help. He travelled to London to find a way to secure Ned's release and spoke to someone to find out who had accused Ned of betraying the Crown. He spoke to Ned and he told Ross the story. Ross later saved the King's life at the theatre and vouched for Ned, securing his release.[2]

Ned was introduced to Demelza, Jeremy and Clowance Poldark. Ned joined Ross and Demelza and Kitty to think of a plan to get him back into good favour. He needed someone valuable to speak up for him and Ned suggested they find James Bannantine. He had no idea where Bannantine was now but Ross would go and search. Ned thought that Ralph was behind his imprisonment but he had help.[3]

Ross searched for Bannantine but was failing at first. He had to tell Ned to be patient. He was persuaded to attend a party but he and Kitty were given bad looks. They eventually saw Ralph who teased and insulted them, and Kitty had to hold Ned back when he went to punch Ralph. He and Kitty soon left the party.[3]

Ross and Ned spoke to Joseph Merceron who was a magistrate at Ned's trial. He told them he hadn't heard of a Bannantine, who Ned explained could have gotten him back in favour and to Honduras, but a man was called to speak in Ned's favour and failed to show up. He was angry about what Ralph's conspiracy had taken and was determined to get it back. Ross later told Ned he needed to accept help and inaction for the time-being, instead of fighting on his own.[3]

Ned was glad when Ross found and spoke to Bannantine, and impressed that Ross had put Bannantine's letter in favour of him into a book to pass round. He later helped pass it round to important people in power. James Wickham thought the book was foolish because it embarrassed the Crown, and gave further cause to think Ned was causing a violent revolution against them. Ross told Wickham he wasn't, but he now had to spy on Ned and Kitty instead.[3]

Ned and Kitty joined the Poldark family in heading back to Cornwall and stayed at Nampara. He saw Ralph in the Red Lion and was upset. He had to be held back again when he confronted Ralph.[3]

Fighting Ralph

Behind the scenes

  • Ned doesn't appear in the novels by Winston Graham.
  • Edward Despard was a real historical figure.[4]
    • Events in Despard's life were not portrayed by the BBC production of Poldark in a chronological way:
      • He was recalled to England by the Crown in 1790, not 1800. He was investigated for two years, and later imprisoned in 1792 to 1794. He was imprisoned again twice: in 1798, and then again in 1802 to 1803. In the TV show, he was just imprisoned in 1800 and 1801.
      • He was imprisoned for the third time and executed because he was named by the government in a conspiracy to kill King George III in 1802.
      • He was executed on 22 February 1803. In the TV show, he was executed in 1801 instead.
      • He and Catherine had their child before 1790. In the TV show, she doesn't have a child until 1801.

Notes and sources

  1. Even though he died in real life in the year 1803, he died in Poldark in 1801 according to Poldark, Season 5, Episode 6,
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Poldark, Season 5, Episode 1
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Poldark, Season 5, Episode 2
  4. Wikipedia: Edward Despard