William Lamport

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For the U.S. Representative from New York, see William H. Lamport.

William Lamport (1615–1659) was an Irish Catholic adventurer who according to at least one historian gained a nickname of El Zorro, the Fox, due to his exploits in Mexico. The attribution of the nickname, however, is disputed.

Birth and education[edit]

William Lamport was born in 1615 in Wexford, Ireland to a family of Catholic seafarers. He received Catholic education from Jesuits in Dublin and London. By the time he was twenty-one he spoke no fewer than fourteen languages.

In 1627 Lamport was arrested in London for sedition for distributing Catholic pamphlets. He escaped, left Britain for Spain and became a pirate for the next two years. He also fought for the French at the Siege of La Rochelle against the Huguenots.

In 1633 he joined one of three Spanish-sponsored Irish regiments and took part in the combat against Swedish forces in the Spanish Netherlands. His accord in the Battle of Nordlingen in 1634 attracted the interest of the Duke of Olivares, chief minister to Philip IV of Spain, who eventually helped him to enter the service of the King. By that time he had hispanised his name to Guillén Lombardo.

Exile[edit]

Exiled from the royal court, allegedly because of a scandalous love affair with a noblewoman, Lamport was sent to Mexico, to spy for the Count-Duke of Olivares. Here he began to sympathize with local Indians slaves and studied native medicine. Inquisition documents merit him with bravery, a love affair with one Spanish noblewoman and the support, if not the initiation of, a burgeoning independence movement.

Arrest and execution[edit]

In 1642, when he was about to be engaged to the noblewoman Antonia Turcious, the Mexican Inquisition arrested him and accused him of plotting a war of independence against Spain. He was sentenced to ten years in jail. He escaped in 1650 and survived just two days as a fugitive. He sneaked out at night and plastered anti-Inquisition pamphlets on the walls of Mexico City. In 1659 the Mexican Inquisition condemned him to death as a heretic and sentenced him to be burned at the stake. Legend holds that he struggled out of his ropes before he would burn to death and strangled himself by his iron collar.

The Real-life Zorro[edit]

In the late twentieth century it was suggested by an historian that Lamport was the inspiration for Johnston McCulley's fictional hero "Zorro". The treatment of this claim in the popular press led to Lamport being labelled in the popular imagination as "The Irish Zorro". Such claims, along with many others such as the idea that he was either a Latin lover, a famous swordsman, the secret lover of the viceroy's wife, or the subject of a painting by Rubens are disputed by Irish historians. Apart from his amazingly adventurous life, his only undisputed claim to fame probably lies in the fact that he was the author of the first declaration of independence in the Indies, a document that promised land reform, equality of opportunity, racial equality and a democratically elected monarch over a century before the French Revolution.

Books[edit]

The first book ever published to portray the adventures of Lamport was published in 1872, it was written by Vicente Riva Palacio, one of Mexico´s most important historians, it was titled Memorias de un impostor: Don Guillén de Lampart translated to Memories of an impostor: William Lamport. It was this book that in 1919 inspired Johnston McCulley to write The Curse of Capistrano with principal character Diego de la Vega, who is best known to be El Zorro, based on William Lamport.

  • Gerard Ronan - The Irish Zorro: The Extraordinary Adventures of William Lamport (1615–1659) [1]
  • Fabio Troncarelli - El Mito del "Zorro" y la Inquisición en México: La aventura de Guillén Lombardo (1615–1659)" (Spanish)

See also[edit]

References[edit]