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 for life at the Tower of London. Separate quarters, as you must imagine! 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 the Tower or in the custody of the Bishop of Durham, 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 tight 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. What a crock of snooty bias!
The young William Seymour escaped the Tower and fled to France, leaving Arabella behind. Arabella also escaped, and traveled in men's clothes, but was delayed by weather, captured, and returned to prison. 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.
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.
Let me be clear: it's impossible for Mary Dyer to have been a Stuart-Seymour daughter. I told you I'd be redundant.
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.
Christy K Robinson is the author of two biographical novels (paperback and Kindle) on William and Mary Dyer, and a nonfiction anthology of her research into their culture: Mary Dyer Illuminated, Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, and The Dyers of London, Boston, and Newport.
The Dyers is a lively nonfiction account of background color, culture, short stories, personality sketches, food, medicine, interests, recreation, cosmic events, and all the fascinating life-and-death drama that made up the world of William and Mary Dyer in the 1600s. More than 70 chapters, and all-new, original, exclusive content found nowhere else!