Early Modern Documents: Mary Robinson, delinquent

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 10:33 am, 20 March 2013]

Last month’s post was about sequestration (Parliament confiscating the estates of its enemies). Later in the First Civil War, Parliament developed a new system called compounding, which allowed sequestered delinquents to get their estates back if they paid a fine and swore an oath that they wouldn’t help the King. This process was managed by the Committee for Compounding. I’ve written a brief guide to the committee and its records which is available under CC-BY just like the other content on this blog.

This month’s documents are from the compounding case of Mary Robinson, a widow from Branston in Lincolnshire (no relation as far as I know – my Robinson ancestors were coal miners in Yorkshire, and didn’t move to Lincolnshire until the early 20th century). As usual, the quoted text is all in Crown Copyright and released under Open Government Licence. Click the thumbnails to see page images on Flickr (non-commercial use only).

Following the standard procedure, Mary first sent a petition to the committee, asking to compound.

TNA: PRO, SP 23/184, f. 918

184 918 Mary Robinson

To the honorable Comittee at Goldsmithes Hall

The humble petition of Mary Robinson of Braunston in the Countie of the Citty of Lincolne widdowe

Most humblie sheweth.

That yo[u]r pet[itione]r havinge bene longe before and since the beginninge of theis unnaturall Warres possessed of a small estate in lande lyeinge in little Steeping in the Countie of Lincolne and Braunston aforesaid hath given ample testimony of her good affecc[i]on to the Parliam[en]t, and hath bene willinge to serve the same w[i]th her estate from the beginninge, by lendinge of money upon proposic[i]ons and contributinge accordinge to the ordinance of the fift and Twentith p[ar]te and div[er]s other wayes. Yett nevertheles her said land[es] have bene for a yeare last past sequestred and the profitt[es] thereof receaved to the States use accordinge to a Compasic[i]on made w[i]th the Comittee of Sequestrac[i]ons at Lincolne. Yo[u]r pet[itione]r havinge for two years past bene infirme and lyne bed ridd.

Now for that yo[u]r petic[i]on[e]r is alltogether ignorant wherefore her estate should be soe sequestred Shee humblie beseecheth yo[u]r honors in comiseracon of her distresse to afforde her yo[u]r order or other direcc[i]on to the said hono[ra]ble Comittees for Sequestrac[i]ons for the Countie of Lincolne and the County of the Cittie of Lincolne forthwith uppon due examynac[i]on to certifie to yo[u]r good honors the cause of her said Sequestrac[i]ons together w[i]th a p[ar]ticuler of her estate, whereby in case yt shall ap[per]e shee ought to be sequestred shee may be admitted to a favourable composic[i]on for her saide estate, w[hi]ch is her humble suite to yo[u]r honors And as in duety bounde shall ever praye &c.

Marie Robinson hir Marke M

24: Martii 1645[/6] a l[ette]re certifie &c.


Mary Robinson

This is quite evasive, admitting the possibility that she needs to compound without admitting exactly why. It could be seen as a more formal way of saying, ‘I’m a guuurl! I don’t understaaand!’. In this situation, playing up to gender stereotypes of a helpless and ignorant woman could have some advantage, or at least slightly less disadvantage. Emphasising her disability also makes her look less threatening and implies that she couldn’t have done anything wrong. But in her next petition, she told a slightly different story…

TNA: PRO, SP 23/184, f. 916

184 916 Mary Robinson

To the hon[oura]ble Com[i]ttee att Goldsmiths Hall for Composic[i]ons with Delinquents.

The humble petic[i]on of Mary Robinson of Bramston in the County of the Citty of Lincolne. widdowe


That yo[u]r Pet[itione]r is a very aged woman, and hath for this two yeeres or thereabouts bin bed ridd, but haveinge sent her sonne with a horse and armes into the kings Armye, and maintayneinge him in that service, her estate is therefore sequestred; and beinge hartily sorry for this her offence;

Shee humbly prayes this hon[oura]ble Com[i]tee to take her distressed condic[i]on into Considerac[i]on, and that Thomas Rushworth her sonne in lawe, (beinge by her thereunto authorized) may in her behalfe be admitted to compound and that he payinge such Fine as shall be imposed, yo[u]r Pet[itione]rs estate may be freed and dischardged,

And shee thereby bound to pray &c.

Thomas Rishworth in the Pet[itione]rs behalfe

This shows that a disabled old woman could still play an active role in the civil war. Both sides relied on voluntary contributions of money and horses in the early years of the war, so Mary’s action was quite significant and certainly grounds for sequestration according to the relevant ordinances of Parliament. Many compounders claimed that they only helped the King under duress, but Mary didn’t use this strategy.

Finally, this is the committee’s decision in the case. The fine suggests that her estate wasn’t all that small. There could be more documents relating to the case, including details of the estate, but I haven’t looked for them and don’t have easy access to the calendar at the moment.

TNA: PRO, SP 23/184, f. 913

184 913 Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson of Bramston in the County of the Citty of Lincolne widdowe.

Her Delinquency, that shee furnished a man and horse for the Kings service, against the Forces raised for the Parliam[en]te and maintayned him in that service for two yeeres togither, but the woman is an aged and infirme woman and Bedridd, and stirrs not abroad her selfe./

Thomas Rushworth her sonne in Lawe prosecutes her Composic[i]on in her behalfe./

Shee compounds upon a perticuler returned out of the County, by which it doth appeare,

That shee is seized of a Franckten[emen]te for life, the remainder to the heirs of Ephraim Robinson deceased of and in certaine Lands and Ten[emen]ts lyinge and beinge in Bramston in the County and Citty of Lincolne and in little Steepeinge in the County of Lincolne of the yeerely value before theis troubles over and above 6li.11s.11d. issueinge – 105li.19s.6d./

Shee is willinge that Rushworth her sonne in lawe shall pay her Fine and enjoye the land for that and other debts of 300li. and upwards that shee owes him, and hath declared this under her hand./

30 July 1646


fine 100li

[D?] Watkins

So don’t let anyone mansplain to you that early-modern women aren’t interesting or important because they had no power…


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