It wasn’t Lady Mary Seymour as claimed on the family’s website.
What follows is a tale that illustrates the difficulty of researching history without the benefit of a costly subscription to one or more authoritative sources.
I have been exploring the history of the family that established the small town in which I currently reside, in anticipation of a post I hope to put up in a day or two. Meanwhile I have uncovered what is, almost certainly, a false claim about the family’s ancestry.
The claim is that the first member of the family to arrive in Ireland was the husband of Lady Mary Seymour, daughter of Edward, Earl of Somerset and Lord Protector of England during the reign of the boy King Edward VI, Henry VIII’s only son.
The problem with this claim is that the marriage of Lady Mary’s parents took place in 1535. Lord Edward was executed in January 1552. During those 17 years the couple had ten children. According to the Wikipedia entry for Lord Edward, Lady Mary was born in 1552 as was Lady Elizabeth, suggesting they were twins.
Elsewhere, Lady Mary is referred to as the couple’s fourth daughter. This would make her the seventh child, because three of the first four children were sons. That places her birth year as 1542 or 1543, between Lady Jane and Lady Catherine.
The Cosby family also claim that Francis arrived in Ireland following the death of Lord Edward, ‘accompanied by his son Alexander.’ If it is the case that Lady Mary was Alexander’s mother, she would have had to have been born very soon after her parents’ marriage and had her first child at a very young age.
There is a further problem. Francis died, aged 70, in battle, in 1580. Lady Mary is known to have married Andrew Rogers, who died some time between 1599 and 1601. She subsequently married Sir Henry Peyton (in 1607). Sir Henry’s entry in the Dictionary of National Biography also records Lady Mary’s death: “she was buried in Westminster Abbey on 18 Jan. 1619-20.”
It is possible that both of these marriages took place after Francis’s death. That would mean, however, that she was over 70 when she married Peyton, who was probably about 30 at the time, and that she was about 85 at the time of her death.
None of this is impossible. However, the available biographies of each of her husbands (other than Cosby) indicate she was the fourth daughter. According to the online history of parliament, Rogers graduated from Oxford in 1567, suggesting that he was born some time in the mid 1540s. That he and Mary were about the same age when they married is far more likely than that he was already over 35 and she ten years his senior.
The claim, in the Wikipedia entry, that she was his second wife, is not confirmed by the cited source. That source does, however, refer to a dispute “between his father and the Earl of Hertford, father of Lord Beauchamp, who had married Andrew Rogers’s sister Honora against the Earl’s strong opposition.”
The Earl was none other than Lady Mary’s older brother, and the Lord her nephew, born in 1561.
She still would have been much older than Peyton, marrying him when she was around 62 and dying aged around 75. This is, to me, a much more plausible scenario than any suggestion that she, or any of Lord Edward’s daughters, was ever married to Francis Cosby.
The family history article in which the claim was made was compiled by Major E A (Ashworth) S Cosby in April 1951. I have no idea what research tools he had available to him back then. Nothing to match what is available to us in the twenty first century, with or without a subscription, for sure. The present owner of the estate, the major’s eldest son, was at Eton at that time. Management of the estate has been in the hands of his son, Thomas, these past number of years.
There is no doubt that Francis curried favour with the Lord Protector. He was instrumental in establishing ‘Fort Protector’ as one of the first English outposts beyond the Pale, so named in Lord Edward’s honour. It would later be renamed Maryborough and the surrounding territory as Queen’s County, after Edward VI’s successor to the throne, his half-sister Queen Mary. Cosby retained his influence during her reign and that of her sister Elizabeth, but that is a subject for the next post.
Has anyone reading this researched the Seymour’s, or have anything to add regarding the life of Lord Edward’s daughter, Lady Mary? Let me know in the comments.