The trial of Colonel Edward Marcus Despard for High Treason in 1803 was the culmination of years of unrest as a result of the war. Despite his early acquaintance with Horatio Nelson, Despard’s actions in Honduras were to lead to unemployment and debt, and finally to close involvement in attempts to achieve political reform. During his trial details were revealed of a plot to kill the King, and in fact Nelson’s appearance as a witness to Despard’s good character was a weakness, not a strength of his defence. While in gaol awaiting the execution of his sentence, Despard wrote a petition to the King and to Admiral Nelson, praying that his ‘services and sufferings’ would be considered kindly.
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