Patrick Delaforce & Ken Baldry

'The Delaforce Family History'
Chapter 20 - The Secret Agents

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Chapter 20

Baroness Orczy 1865
"We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere
Is he in Heaven? - Is he in Hell?
That dammed, elusive Pimpernel."

The Secret Agents

The family deriving from Sir Bernard (chapter 24), Sir Anthony (chapter 23) and then the two sons James (chapter 21) and John (chapter 22) were living in turbulent times of political and religious wars. But also they were faced with problems of patriotism and conscience. Where they French or English? They spoke French as their natural tongue but they all spoke English and used it as frequently. For two hundred years they served English, French and Spanish Kings. Anthony's four sons were divided in their religious loyalties; two were fervent early Huguenots and the other two probably stayed Catholic. This made for additional stresses within the family.

There is evidence in the British state papers in the British Library and Guildhall (well indexed) that for another 150 years into the 18th century, Delaforces were secret agents for the British government. Travel between France and England was easy and possible in wartime.

The first scene opens in the middle of the 16th century:-


28 November 1552 Mr Killigrew a senior politician of Chelsea had a discussion about 'the defences of Metz with one De Force, a banished man'. Six years later Calais surrendered and the English had no base in France.


In 1583 the Harleian MSS show "original memorial of the baron of Sance and the Sieur de (la) Fos, agents of Monsieur de Soubize'. This relates to John shown as Jehan Forteau (in Latin) de Soubize, one of the Huguenots condemned to death in 1569 at Bordeaux.


In 1588 the Catholic Duke of Guise was assassinated in Paris, and this was witnessed by a John De la Fosse, the Paris 'curé ligeur.'


The Cecil Papers Vol. V of the Salisbury MSS show some remarkable evidence of the Delaforce involvement in power politics. there are three letters addressed to the Earl of Essex. 14th September 1595 Edmund Wiseman to his Master, the Earl of Essex, "Senor Peres hath showed one of your Lordships first letters to M de la Force and others of the French. He hath not received any crowns of the French. I think crowns can not make him stay. His fear is more than any man that lives. He is lodged in a house that was the Duke of Mercuryes given by this King to the last King's wife. His sister, Madame, is come to this town from St. Jarmanes (probably St. Germain, west of Paris)... useth Senor Perez kindly."

22nd September 1595 Edward Wylton to the Earl of Essex, "The cause why Monsieur de Force courteth him, more than the rest is that hee hopeth the King may be drawn by his counsels to invade Spayne, by way of Navarre, by which course hee promiseth great honor and advauncement to himself, as his followers stick not to affirme by reason of his government in those frontiers."Late September 1595 Edward Wilton to the Earl of Essex, "The King arrived at Paris the last of September. M de in Force and Antonio Perez went to meet him at Fontainbleau. The King used him well and means no doubt to gratify him with many honourable courtesies if he could be content to frame his humours to accept of such as France."

The way the letters are written by two of Queen Elizabeth's envoys to the Earl of Essex suggests that Antonio Perez, a Spanish agent of the English government, and M de la Force were in partnership to persuade the French King to attack Spain (via the French King's own territory of Navarre). France making war on Spain would be to England's advantage. The quotes "he hath not received any crowns of the French. I think crowns can not make him stay" (i.e. in France) indicate that he was pro-English. He was one of the distinguished Anglo-French Delaforces of Paris, Rouen, Dieppe, Calais and London. They had sufficient rank and position to write direct to Queen Elizabeth and Cecil. He was probably therefore a grandson of Anthony called Jean De la Fosse one of King Henri IV's ministers.


In 1604 there was a major political spy scandal in Paris. An Englishman or perhaps more accurately, a Welshman called Morgan together with Sieur de Fortan (the same man in league with Antonio Perez in 1595 onwards) were accused of plotting treason against Henri IV. Apparently de Fortan had been in France for about a year and amongst other things was living with Madame la marquise de Verneuil. She not only had a distinguished husband the Sieur d'Antrague, Marquis de Verneuil, but she was also King Henri IV's mistress. For instance in 1601 the King was paying her for favours rendered £1,500 per quarter!

Of course there was the usual Capucin monk lurking in the corridors called P. Archange (believe it or not!) who supplied information to all and sundry.

The lady's husband and her brother the Comte d'Auverge were in the plot. De Fortan's cover was that he was teaching the Spanish language to various nobles including Monsieur de Villeroy for five or six months.

The plot was to encourage the Spaniards to invade France either from south or north for which the rewards would be tremendous. Castles in Portugal were offered to the French nobles in the plot. They were betrayed (of course) and charged with an assassination plot against Henri IV. The nobles De Fortan and Morgan were sent to the Bastille where the latter confessed (Cependant les prisoniers sont fort interrogez afin que par leu declaration l'on puisse connoistre toute la verite' de cette action). The plotters had apparently received at various times dix mille pistolle du Roy d'Espagne par les mains du Sieur de Fortan, prisonnier detance a la Bastille'. The lady talked herself out of trouble and resumed (a little later) her relationship with the King. Morgan was assuredly on King James I secret service payroll.

It appeared that the French nobles escaped with their lives, perhaps because of the Marquise's undoubted charms (she died in 1633 aged 50). The Sieur de Fortan was Jean De la Fosse. minister of the Army for King Henri IV but temporarily disgraced in the period 1604-1607.

(The source for this story is unusual Reccuil de pieces interessantes' published in Amsterdam in 1699 - republished in 'Archives Curient de l'histoire de France'. series 1 book 14. P.166 by P. Danjou.).


Now for a mystery. From 1580 to 1599 a Francois le Forte with a brother Jaques appears in the State papers. He corresponded with Sir Robert Cecil. He was a wealthy Huguenot, Married in Antwerp to Mary de Moncheron with 10 children. He was a wily, shrewd merchant who supplied Sir Walter Raleigh and many others. His main business was dealing in white cloths from Normandy and imported oils. He was on familiar terms with Cecil and the Earl of Essex. He supplied the King of France with Spanish wines (from Navarre). He certainly supplied the English ministers with secret information from France.


26th May 1606 Captain Ersfield to the Earl of Salisbury "A ship from Bordeaux with 150 soldiers, all Gascoignes, bound to serve the states, all voluntairies, under M de la Force their Captain to Dover." This small force were on their way to the Low Countries to fight the Spanish catholic invaders.


1614 James de la Forca/Force and Claude de le Fos involved in English-French diplomatic services (Claude de la Fos/Fors married Mary in 1653).


6th June 1621 M de Foreside Fos/de Force from La Rochelle visited England to ask King James I for help with the succour of Huguenots besieged at La Rochelle.


1622 a Daniel and David de Fos wrote to the Duke of Buckingham at Portsmouth from Dover, requiring assistance.


26th November 1625 M de la Force (John born 1600) was the British Government agent in Calais.


9th July 1627 letter to John le Force merchant of Lisle near Chatelirault "their friend from Portugal with his man landed in the Downs - had been imprisoned at Dover - hopes for their release and their letters were safe.'


1657/58 M. de la Force (Jean) was the British Agent in Calais. Certainly John (2) born about 1620.


Isaac Doriflaus, 13 March 1654 wrote to Secretary of State John Thurbe. "One Jeniper (the alias for the Delaforce family in Calais) hath been employed in that place (Calais) for many years and was put in by the Earle of Suffolk, being his servant, the said Earl being then Admiral & the place being at his disposal."


The Clarendon State Papers showed three more news items. Colonel Blampfield wrote to Sir John Hobart from Paris on April 28 with this enclosure for Secretary of State, John Thurbe. "At Callaice (Calais) left some cloth in pawn at Mr De La Force's house where he (Blampfield) lay sick and here owes for meat and lodging and not having had one penny except by pawnning or selling some of his necessaries".


January 1658, the year of Cromwell's death. William Thomas, alias Sir J. Grenville writes to Sir Edward Hyde 'Remarks in disguised language upon the King's affairs, his agents annd friends in England. Mention of M. de Fosse and others' (Vol.59).


August 1658 'letters sent to Calais a' M. Bamfield chez M. de la Force a la Syrenne' (Vol.58).


28th April 1672 Lord Arlington, another politician, writes "Monsieur La Force junior (this is John(2) of Guisne') a merchant at Calais to be recruited as an agent: M De Foy at Boulogne also a correspondent." John Carlisle writes to Joseph Williamson, Secretary of State "I have again written to Monsieur La Force junior a Merchant of Calais to keep a correspondence with you. If they have any occasion (need) at Whitehall, you will be their friend." The Guisne' church registers of 24th April 1673 showed John as "Jean Jennepin (alias) dit de la Force junior".

Joseph Williamson, Secretary of State to Lord Arlington, Clerk to the Kings Council "We shall lodge in Calais at the Golden Dragon, Mr La Force and hope to be there.. shortly." The 'we' referred to were the Navy Commissioners (State Papers Cav II 435 No.59)


31st October 1689 a curious and funny episode is recorded in the William and Mary State Papers "3 square glass bottles in 2 leather cases were brought from London and delivered to Mrs La Force at the Kings Head in Dover and His Majesty's service requiring that Mrs La Force be shortly searched and transmit the bottles with all speed to me with an account of the proceedings". From Whitehall the Earl of Shrewsbury to Deputy Governor of Dover. We will never know whether the lady was smuggling good French cognac or perfume or whether there were secret papers concealed within the flasks.


22 August 1691. Admiral Russell to Lord Nottingham "The master of one of these French vessels tells me that they've constant intelligence from England about the fleets. Mr Forty of St. Malo an English merchant with brother merchants in London, well-known by an officer in the Fleet who tells me they are very busy inquisitive men." This can be interpreted in several ways. Disinformation is a modern word. False information is a phrase which may have been more appropriate.


In 1691 Simeon Lafosse, and in 1697 James Defors, a French Protestant, received official passes to go to Holland.


On 21st November 1691 Charles de la Fosse, Elizabeth his wife, Elizabeth his mother, his daughter Margaret and 2 servants received a pass to go to France.


1699-1702. The Historical Manuscripts Commission 8th Report 1881, Vol. 7 P.14 "Other correspondents were French refugees, the chief of whom was M Caillaud and M de la Force. The latter seems to have acted in concert with Hopkins and remittances were sent for division between the two. Caillaud was expected to discover amongst other matters the movements of the French Navy.


11th January 1701/2. The Earl of Manchester, Secretary of State wrote to M de la Force to divide a sum of 100 Louis 1400 Francs with Mr Hopkins and stimulating him to increased exertions. On 22nd January 1702 he wrote again to M de la Force "expressing esteem for frank and honest manners." An elaborate system of code names was set up in London - Gardiner, Wilton, Peterson and Ford merchants in trade. The Post Master would then deliver the letters from M de la Force direct to the Earl of Manchester. This was probably Sieur John de la Force, whose father was recruited in 1672 - a merchant of Calais.

It is clear that the Anglo-French family were secret agents for about 150 years with frequent visits across the channel on behalf of the English government.

Sieur Jean/John DELAFORCE (1506 - 1572) Wealthy goldsmith, lawyer of Amiens, Protestant = (1524) Catherine de ST. THOUAY

Sieur Jean DELAFORCE (1525-1609) Cure Ligeur of St. Bartholemew, Abbot, wrote professional political Journal = (1546) ?

See the next tree below

Anthoine DELAFORCE (1526 - 1557) = (1546) ?

Anthony DELAFORCE (1547- ?) = (1566) ?

Anthony DELAFORCE (1567 - ?) & son were Prosperous traders of Paris & Rouen = (1586) ?

Anthoine DELAFORCE (1587 - ?) = (1606) ?

Marie DELAFORCE (1527 - ?) = Anthoine LENGLES

Francois DELAFORCE (1530 - ?) = (1550) ?

Francois DELAFORCE (1551 - ?) = (1570) ?

Sieur Francois DELAFORCE (1570 - ?) Sieur Du Fosse, echevin of Rouen = (1590) ?

Sieur Francois DELAFORCE (1590 - 1670) Procurue General for Louis XIII, served French Kings for 50 years = (1610) ?

Francois DELAFORCE (1612 - ?) Captain in Huguenot Horse Regiment in Ireland = (1630) ?

Sieur Jean DELAFORCE (1525 - 1609) Cure Ligeur of St. Bartholemew, Abbot, wrote professional political Journal = (1546) ?

Sieur Jean DELAFORCE (1547 - ?) Minister of War and Camps to Henri IV, disgraced 1604, reinstated 1607. More about King Henri = (1570) Mary de CANTELEU

Sieur Jean DELAFORCE (1574 - ?) Court Clerk Poitiers in his youth, alderman of Paris, St. Gervaise, Boisard, Collot = (1596) ?

Sieur Jean Jennepin DELAFORCE (1600 - 1678) Calais. Fervent Huguenot, merchant, member of Rouen Parlement = (about 1620) ?

See next family tree below

Louis DELAFORCE (1548-?)

Sieur Jean Jennepin DELAFORCE
(1600 - 1678 Calais) Fervent Huguenot, merchant, member of Rouen Parlement = (about 1620) ?

Sieur Jean Jennepin DELAFORCE (about 1621 probably Guisné) 'marchand' & secret British Agent in Calais = (1642 Guisné) Judith de BOUCQUOI

see chapter 13

Hester DELAFORCE (1623-?)

Mary DELAFORCE (1622-?)

Jennepin was a pseudonym adopted by the Delaforces to protect them from Catholic persecution.

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Contact: Ken Baldry for more information, 17 Gerrard Road, Islington, London N1 8AY +44(0)20 7359 6294 but best to e-mail him
©1980-2004 Patrick Delaforce & Ken Baldry. All rights reserved Last revised 18/12/2005