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LORD GRENVILLE AND THE ‘SMOKING GUN’: THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE THE FRENCH DIRECTORY IN 1798–1799 RECONSIDERED

  • MICHAEL DUREY (a1)
Abstract

This article re-examines the evidence that has been used to claim that, in the aftermath of the collapse of the British secret service's counter-revolutionary plans in France in September 1797, foreign secretary Lord Grenville supported a French royalist plot to assassinate the Directory. It concludes that, although his agent James Talbot was actively involved and probably thought he had official permission to proceed, Grenville remained ignorant of the plot until December 1798. He subsequently ordered Talbot to withdraw from the conspiracy. Emphasis is placed on communications difficulties associated with undercover secret service activities in this era and on bureaucratic failures within the foreign office, together with evidence to suggest that Talbot was temperamentally unsuited to the role of intelligence officer.

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I would like to thank Greg Brotherson, Simon Burrows, Thomas Munch-Petersen, and Ian Waterston for their advice and assistance. The research for this article was funded by a Large Grant from the Australian Research Council.
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The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
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