Monday, September 9, 2013

Who were Mary Dyer's parents?

Sorry to break it to you: Mary Dyer was not a Tudor, not the secret child of Arabella Stuart and William Seymour

© 2013 Christy K Robinson

 How do you stop a very old rumor, especially if it's hit the internet? I'm going to try, by telling you, repeating it, and saying it again. I will be overly redundant on the matter. Why do I try? Because this blog has received hundreds of search inquiries on this very subject.

Many genealogy pages (and Ruth Plimpton's book) say Mary Dyer's ancestry was royal by virtue of being the secret child of Lady Arabella Stuart and Sir William Seymour. If you've copied that to your records, it's time to erase the false legend now. No researcher has found proof of Mary's parents or her birth or christening record. They have, however, found proof that Mary Barrett had a brother named William Barrett who in the custom of the times was probably named after their father. Please read researcher Johan Winsser's articles at this link.

The pure fiction that Mary was the daughter of nobility and potentially an heir to the throne of Great Britain, was created by a Dyer descendant, Frederick Nathaniel Dyer, in the 1800s, the romantic Victorian era. It resembles many other attempts by conspiracy theorists to create some sort of connection to European royalty, perhaps to explain why a girl with no known background (as yet discovered) had an above-average education and stood out among other women of her time. The romantic notion was that a commoner from Westminster could never have risen socially without a royal background. 
Henry VII of England,
NOT Mary Barrett's ancestor,
therefore not your ancestor.

 The false story is that Mary was the child of Lady Arabella Stuart (3x great-granddaughter of Henry VII), aged 35, and William Seymour (4x great-grandson of Henry VII), aged 22 at time of their secret and illegal marriage. King James forbade their marriage, but they married in secret in early July 1610. The secret was revealed, and by 9 July 1610, Arabella and William were arrested and imprisoned. Separate quarters, as you must imagine! William was in the Tower of London; Arabella was at Lambeth Palace under house arrest. History records that there was no issue from this marriage. That means there was no secret child who would be raised as Mary Barrett.
Lady Arabella Stuart, probably about the time
of her illegal and short-lived
marriage to William Seymour.

 Age 35 was very old for first-time pregnancy in those days. It's called "elderly prima gravida" even today. If Arabella had become pregnant during her one week of married bliss and borne a baby while in custody and under a doctor's care for several maladies, it would have been noticed by servants, royal household personnel, Anglican clergy, or any of the hundreds of Tower of London employees like, oh, say, prison guards--it was impossible to hide something like that, especially since Arabella was a prisoner under a royal-watcher microscope! What about the laboring mother's screams or groans? What about a newborn baby's cry?

But according to FN Dyer's legend, the newborn Seymour child was spirited out of the Tower of London (a prison, remember, with security) and named after and raised by her nurse, the original Mary Barrett or Mary Dyer, and hidden from King James I while he searched for the child who had a better claim to the throne. What a crock of snooty bias! Another point against FN Dyer is that Arabella was not even in the Tower at this time--she was across the river under house arrest.

In early June the next year, the young William Seymour escaped the Tower and fled to France, having missed his connection with Arabella, who also escaped from her journey north to captivity in Durham. She traveled in men's clothes, but was delayed by weather, captured, and returned to prison. If Arabella and William had a child born in March 1611, would they not have taken that child with them to their exile in France? After all, the child was supposed to have had a better heritage for the throne than King James. But King James, a middle-aged man, had been on the throne for years, and had heirs by now, so there was no need, no chance for a Seymour baby to knock him out. That's just not logical.

I've read a false rumor that Arabella Stuart Seymour was killed by King James in 1615 in the Tower of London. No, Arabella actually died--childless--from a self-imposed hunger strike in 1615. You can read their story in detail, which cites letters of all the players involved, here: http://archive.org/stream/arbellastuartbio00harduoft/arbellastuartbio00harduoft_djvu.txt

After Arabella died, there was no reason to keep Seymour in prison, so (no doubt after a large fine paid by his family) he went back to England, and married Lady Frances Devereux in March 1617. They had seven children. Seymour took up a political career, and was a royalist supporter of his much-removed cousins, King Charles I and II. Again, if he had a baby by Arabella, wouldn't he have taken over the upbringing?

Let me be clear: it's impossible for Mary Dyer to have been a Stuart-Seymour daughter.

Really, isn't it MORE remarkable that Mary Dyer was brilliant and accomplished on her own, without a privileged background? Now, please go to your ancestry or genealogy files and DELETE the Stuarts and Seymours from your records. Arabella Stuart Seymour had no issue. No Mary.

Celebrate that you are descended from a brilliant and beautiful woman who became great not because of whose child she was, but because of her conscious choice to lay down her life for her friends.

MARY DYER ILLUMINATED, a fact-based novel by Christy K Robinson, is now available:
To join hundreds of friends and descendants of Mary and William Dyer in a discussion of their culture and experiences, follow this Facebook group and the following blog:

Friday, June 28, 2013

Pilgrim pastor's signature on seditious book

© 2013 Christy K Robinson

Source: Pilgrim Hall Museum, Massachusetts
 My direct ancestor, Rev. John Robinson, 1575-1625, was senior minister to the Separatists who were known, even to themselves, as the Pilgrims. His signature appears in the center panel around the printer's logo in this image of an unauthorized 1605 edition of a book by Sir Edwin Standys. Robinson wrote many papers and books on religion, and was much more evangelical, progressive, and grace-aware than his hard-liner Calvinist colleagues and flock. In his farewell sermon to the departing Pilgrims, he was adamant about giving no offense to others, being slow to take offense, and to be careful of offending God with ungrateful attitude or speech when it seems that things go against us.

His son Isaac Robinson was born in England shortly before the Separatists fled to the Netherlands. Isaac emigrated to Plymouth Colony, Mass., in 1631, and moved around the colony several times. In the late 1650s, though he was not a Quaker, he protested their persecution to his own economic loss in heavy fines. He was assigned to root out heretical Quaker influence, and instead he became "convinced" (converted) of their principles sometime before 1665. At a time when Quakers were fined, whipped, and imprisoned for sharing their beliefs, it looks like they spared Isaac Robinson those punishments. Did they still hold Isaac in high regard because of his father's status in their hearts, even though John had been dead for 40 years?

What a journey of beliefs and principles between father and son, over 60 years' time.

Leiden's Pieterskerk, with the quadrangle of the Jean Pesijnhof
in the foreground. That almshouse replaced the house of
John Robinson in 1683.
Source: Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, Jeremy Bangs.