Television| Kerri McLean to Appear as Catherine Despard in Poldark Season 5

In the last season of hit television series Poldark, we will meet the first black character Catherine Despard. After some research I found that Catherine/Catharine Despard is in fact a historical figure. Could the lovely Kerri McLean be playing this oft forgotten historical figure?

Source: @kerri_mclean_creates on instagram

Who Is Catherine Despard?

Historians do not know Catherine’s exact background. Many accounts have her listed as the daughter of a Jamaican preacher, while others say her father was an educated Spanish creole. If her last name Despard sounds familiar that’s because you most likely have heard of her infamous husband, Colonel Edward Marcus Despard. He is best known for his involvement in the failed Despard Plot of 1802. He had a promising career and was made Superintendent of the Bay of Honduras (nka: Belize). In 1790 he had married a young black woman. Catharine. After marrying her, he vowed to give the same rights to freed slaves as to white settlers. This of course did not end well for him.

Fast forward 12 years and many mishaps later. Despard is found guilty of high treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Catherine (now a mother to their son James) begins a public campaign defending her husband against all charges of terrorism and sedition, taking the fight to the highest authorities in government and the judiciary. She enlisted the help of MP Sir Francis Burdett. However, government minister George Canning could not believe that Catherine was leading this campaign of her own accord stating: ‘it was a well-written letter, and the fair sex would pardon him, if he said it was a little beyond their style in general’.

She continued in her campaign getting character witness Lord Nelson to petition the Prime Minister. Unfortunately, all of her hard work and dedication towards her husband was for naught. Catherine got to see her husband one last time before his execution. In one last effort to honor her husband’s memory, she petitioned for (and won) his hereditary right to be buried in St. Paul’s cathedral.

Later, she immigrated to France or Ireland with their son James and were supported by a pension from Sir Francis Burdett. Records indicate James served in the French army, returned to Britain after the Napoleonic Wars, and was last seen with a beautiful woman in a fancy carriage by his uncle General John Despard.

Source: @kerri_mclean_creates on instagram

Kerri as Catherine Despard on Poldark

I have not seen anything stating that this is the Catherine Despard that will appear in season 5 of Poldark. This is purely speculation at this point. Whether Kerri McLean is playing this amazing historical figure or not, I am looking forward to her presence in the series ( Episode 5.1 and 5.6)!!

Reources/Suggested Reading


A Caribbean Coupling Beyond Black and White by Bernadette M. Gillis

Wikipedia Page

The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic  by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker  

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