Mary Dyer was not a Tudor, not the secret child of
Arbella Stuart and William Seymour.
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 Arbella 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. Read my proofs at the end of this article.
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 late 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.
|Lady Arbella 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 Arbella had become pregnant during her two weeks 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 Lambeth Palace or Tower employees like, oh, say, prison guards--it was impossible to hide something like that, especially since Arbella 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 Dyer, and hidden from King James I while he searched for the child who had a better claim to the throne. Was there even a lady-in-waiting for Arbella? The only "lady" Arbella mentions in her letters, a woman who needed to be paid for her services, was a Lady Chaworth. 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. FN Dyer said the baby was spirited from the Tower of London, but Arbella was at Lambeth in March and April 1611 (her presumed due date), and then King James sent her on a long journey north to Durham, which Arbella delayed and claimed her inability to travel and need for recuperation at manor houses along the way. The journey and northern confinement meant she would be isolated from Seymour forever. Nevertheless, she was sent.
|The odd couple: Stuart and Seymour, ages 35 and 22.|
In early June the next year, the young William Seymour escaped the Tower and fled to France, having missed his connection with Arbella, who also escaped from her journey north to captivity in Durham. She traveled in men's clothes, but was delayed by weather, captured at sea, and returned to prison. If Arbella 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 Arbella Stuart Seymour was killed by King James in 1615 in the Tower of London. No, Arbella actually died--childless--from a self-imposed hunger strike in 1615. She may have been mentally impaired by porphyria, a blood disease. You can read their story in detail, which cites letters of all the players involved, here: http://archive.org/stream/arbellastuartbio00harduoft/arbellastuartbio00harduoft_djvu.txt If you still doubt, read the biography at that link, and form a timeline. It just doesn't work for Arbella to bear a secret child.
After Arbella 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 Arbella, 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. There was no pregnancy, no cover-up, no baby, no servant named Mistress Mary Dyer who adopted a baby. The Stuart-Seymour historians and biographers never, ever, had an inkling that Arbella might have been pregnant or had given birth, because the story was invented in 1890, which was 280 years after Mary was supposed to have been born. Our Mary Barrett Dyer was born to a family named Barrett, with an older brother named William Barrett (for whom she was executrix in 1634 when he died abroad), and married William Dyer.
Really, isn't it MORE remarkable that Mary Dyer was brilliant and accomplished on her own, without a privileged background? If she was invited to court events (and there's no proof of that, either), perhaps it was because of friends or her guardian. Now, please go to your ancestry or genealogy files and DELETE the Stuarts and Seymours from your records. Arbella Stuart Seymour had no issue. No Mary. Do you really want pure fiction in your pedigree or family tree? (And if so, why??)
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.
Please click the colored links to see for yourself that the "tradition" of Mary Dyer's royal ancestry is the fantasy of a Victorian man who was creating his own royal pedigree.
NEHGS, July 1940 issue (Vol. 94) published the marriage record of Mary Barrett (not Stuart-Seymour) and William (Latinized to Guglielmo) Dyer
NEHGS, April 1944 issue (Vol. 98) The New England Historic and Genealogical Society's Register published an article by Alice Eugenie Ortiz entitled "Tradition of Mary Dyer, Quaker Martyr" which had been contributed by Mrs. Harry Clark Boden. Mrs. Borden herself stated that there was no proof whatsoever for her theory - simply that it was one conceivable way to account for Mary's early whereabouts.
From http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/DYER/2002-03/1015093032 : Andrews Moriarty refuted this theory quite soundly in his article, "The True Story of Mary Dyer" (NEHGS Register, Vol. 104, January 1950). He states that "no proof is offered that the Lady Arabella ever "had" issue except a vague statement from Mr. Hardy's (Life of Lady Arabella Stuart) of a rumor that such was the case." Furthermore, Moriarty points out that "there never was such a tradition [of this lineage] among Mary Dyer's descendants, but that it was a quite modern story, emanating from an English gentleman, Mr. F. M. Dyer of Macclesfield [sic -]. for "Frederick Nathaniel" Dyer who was an American - his father was born in Rhode Island - and who moved to England to do research]....who, not so many years ago, sent the story of his beliefs to the descendants of Mary Dyer in this country. ... This 'tradition' does not even have the authority of age ... this being so, the story, without more evidence, is not worthy of serious consideration." Moriarty further takes the (then) editor of the Register to task for even accepting the article for publication, as it appeared four years after the July, 1940 issue (Vol. 94) which published the marriage record of Mary and William Dyer from the parish register of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, which clearly identified her as Mary BARRETT. [I have jpg scans of these articles! This is not hearsay.]
Biography of Arbella Stuart, includes her letters, no mention of a baby.
Arbella's letters to her uncle beg for money to pay servants (she didn't have the servants she thought she deserved, but she had a Lady Chaworth--not Dyer). Arbella's 1610 letter to her husband on page 120 says, "Rachel wept, and would not be comforted, because her children were no more; and that indeed is the remediless sorrow, and none else. And therefore God bless us from that, and I will hope well of the rest, though I see no apparent hope." She wanted a child, but didn't have one (no pregnancy had resulted from their short union), and wished God would bless them with children--though she saw no hope. https://books.google.com/books?id=RjhLAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA121&lpg=PA116&ots=QUnv5Jfa7G&focus=viewport&dq=Arbella+Stuart+servants+in+1610&output=text#c_top
British Monarchs: Arbella Stuart, no pregnancy. http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/stuart_24.html
The fiction was repeated in the opening pages of Ruth Plimpton's 1994 historical novel, Mary Dyer: Biography of a Rebel Quaker, Branden Publishing Co., Boston, 1994, pp. 10-13, "The Tradition of Mary Dyer & Lady Arabella Stuart." From there, the "tradition" or legend was copied thousands of times into internet genealogy sites as if it were the truth. But it was never the truth. It was a lie from the very beginning.
Lady Arabella Stuart No mention of pregnancy or baby.
Sir William Seymour No mention of baby. BECAUSE THERE WASN'T ONE.
THIS ARTICLE IS PUBLISHED ON THE WEBSITE William and Mary Barrett Dyer, by Christy K Robinson, at http://marybarrettdyer.blogspot.com/2013/07/who-were-mary-barrett-dyers-parents.html
Christy K Robinson is author of these books:
We Shall Be Changed (2010)
Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)
Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This Vol. 2 (2014)
The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport Vol. 3 (2014)
Effigy Hunter (2015)
And of these sites:
Discovering Love (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)
Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)