‘Records Are Remorseless As Regards Theory’

(So Why Hasn’t the Regicide Theory Been Laid To Rest?)

By J. Weeden, S. Johnpeter and R. Nelson August 1998


For nigh unto 300 years, many bearing the Whaley surname have claimed descendancy from Edward Whaley, notable for having been the third person to sign the death warrant of Charles the First (Oliver Cromwell was second). With the restoration of Charles II in May 1660, a price was set upon all the judges’ heads. Some were granted amnesty, others were beheaded. Whaley, it is recorded, fled to America with his son-in-law William Goffe and John Dixwell.

Much has been written and speculated about Whaley’s years of hiding in Connecticut and elsewhere. With a price on his head, keeping a low profile meant saving his neck. Hard evidence by way of empirical documents (court and otherwise) are sadly lacking during these years and for obvious reason.

However, there is a court document, a will written by Edward Wale of Somerset County Maryland in April 21, 1718, that many researchers erroneously have taken for that made by the Regicide. Unfortunately, 20th Century researchers have overlooked a series of important articles that sets up and then ultimately squashes the Wale-as-Regicide theory. We will add an additional punch.

One promoting Wale-as-Regicide was Robert Patterson Robins. In the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (Vol. I, 1877 p. 55), Robins includes his own ancestor’s affidavit as to the identity of Edward Wale:

"As most men wish to know something of their ancestors, and as I have from authentic documents and direct tradition, collected a number of facts relative to my ancestor Edward Whalley, otherwise Edw. Middleton, ye regicide, I desire to set down here ye facts concerning his life and death in Maryland.

Edward Whaley was born in Northamptonshire, England, about 1615, and married Elizabeth Middleton: soon after he joined in ye rebelion, under Oliver Cromwell, and was one of ye judges yt condemned king Charles ye first, and at ye restoration of Chas. ye second (1660), he fled to America with many of his misguided companions: he went to Connecticut, and there lived in concealment until ye reward offered by ye Crown of England made his residence amongst ye Yankees unsafe, and he then came to Virginia in 1681, where two of his wife’s brothers met him with his family: he then traveled up to ye province of Maryland and settled first at ye mouth of ye Pokemoke River, but finding yt too publick a place, he came to Sinepuxent, a neck of land open to ye Atlantic Ocean, where Col. Stephen was surveying, and bought a tract of land from him, and called it Genezar; it contained 22 hundred acres, south end of Sinepuxent, and made a settlement on ye southern extremity, and called it South Point, to ye which place he brought his family about 1687 in ye name of Edward Midleton; his owne name he made not publick until after this date, after ye revolution in England (in ye yeare of our lord 1688) when he let his name be seen in publick papers and had ye lands patented in his owne name.

He brought with him from ye province of Virginia, six children, three sonnes and three daughters. He had one daughter, ye wife of his companion Goffe, in England. His sonns were John, Nathaniel and Elias, his daughters were Rachel, Elizabeth and Bridges. Nathaniel Whaley married and settled in Maryland, John Whaley went to ye province of Delaware and settled, and his family afterwards removed away from ye province to ye south. Elias Whaley married Sarah Peel, daughter of Col. Thomas Peel, and died leaving one darter, Leah Whally, and she married Thomas Robins 2d of ye name, and died leaving one son Thomas Robins 3d of ye name, ye deponant. Edward Whalley’s darters all married; Rachel married Mr. Reckliffe, Elizabeth married Willm. Turvale, and Bridges married Ebenezer Franklin. Col. Whaley lived to a very advanced age and was blind for many years before his death. He died in ye yeare of our Lord 1718, age 103 years. His will and yt of his sonne Elias, we have here in ye records. His descendants are living here in ye province but hold to ye established church, for ye which they ever pray ye divine protection. So died Whalley ye regicide. Had he received yt due to him, he would have suffered and died on ye scaffold as did many of his traitorous companions. Viva rex."

Thomas Robins, 3rd of ye name July 8, in the year of our Lord 1769

In Vol. 1 #2 of the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (1878), doubt is cast upon the Wale as Regicide due to many inconsistencies as pointed out by W. H. Whitmore and Edward Neil, which prompts Robert P. Robins, great-great-grandson of Thomas Robins, to respond. By the time Vol. IV #1 pp.258-260) issue of the Pennsylvania Magazine rolls off the presses in 1880, Robert Robins RETRACTS what he and his ancestor have maintained, that Wale was the Regicide:

"In No. 1 of vol. I of the Magazine, I put before you certain facts relating to the History of the celebrated Edward Whalley, including among them a paper written by my great-great-grandfather Thomas Robins, 3d, of South Point, Worcester County, MD. Upon the assertions made in this paper I based, as may be remembered, an argument tending to prove that the Regicide died, not as was formerly thought in New England, but rather on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In a later note upon the subject I claimed for this first paper that it was purely tentative in its nature, and intended to bring out, as indeed it did, certain evidence which was unattainable to me in any other way. It was in this spirit that I answered all the arguments which have been brought against my theory opposing them only in that they did not sufficiently meet the facts upon which my argument was based. But at the same time I could not but see that there were certain points in which that argument was weak, either from a deficiency of concurrent evidence, or from too great a demand upon possibilities. For this reason I have never regarded my theory as satisfactorily proven, although to my mind, it was worthy of more investigation than I had been able to give to it.

For this reason, I entered into a correspondence with the clerks of Somerset and Worcester counties, Md., to ascertain, if possible, whether the deed conveying Genezar to Edward Whalley was in existence. It will be remembered that Genezar was a tract of 2200 acres, bought by Whalley of MD from Col. Stephen (or Stevens) and in which South Point Whalley’s house was located. Both Mr. Geo. T. Brattan, the clerk of Worcester Co., and Col. Levin L. Waters, who occupies a like position in Somerset, wrote me that they were unable to find any such deed of transfer. I had therefore given up as an impossibility the idea of using such collateral evidence, when a few days ago I received a letter from the Rev. L.P. Bowen, of Newtown, Worcester Co., Md., which contains data which cause me materially to modify my statements in my first paper.

Mr. Bowen is a descendant of William Bowen, who was a witness to the will of Edward Whalley (see Penna. Magazine, vol. I, No. 1, p. 66) and also of Ebenezer and Bridget (Whalley) Franklin. In the course of some researches he has discovered several documents which throw some light upon the history of the Whalleys of Md...:

"1. Deeds of a division of a tract of land between Edward Wale and Charles Ratcliff dated 1681 (‘near ye heads of ye branches of ye Assateaque River’) patented to the same two in common in 1679.

"2. Another division of another tract of land called Jenezar (so spelled) of 2200 acres, granted to the same in 1679 and also divided 1681.

"3. A parcel of land on north side of Pokemoke patented to George Wale in 1658, another part in 1668, and both conveyed by George Wale and Lewis his wife to Edward Wale in 1678."

Now as far as these deeds go the dates tally sufficiently well to support the Maryland theory as to the burial place of the regicide. It will be remembered that the last accounting of Whalley in New England is contained in Goffe’s letter to his wife in 1674 (Penna Magazine vol. I. p. 58) and that it was claimed by the writer that Whalley left New England and appeared in Virginia in 1680 or thereabouts. This George Whalley mentioned in the deeds of transfer might have been a cousin who was holding the lands for Whalley and his heirs, and so the theorizing might have gone on ad infinitum.

But records are remorseless as regards theory, and Mr. Bowen has discovered still more evidence to the detriment of the Maryland hypothesis. This consists of the entry in the Court Records of the marriage of Edward Wale; it reads as follows:-

"Edward Wale and Elizabeth Ratcliff were married at Pocomoke by Mr. Wm. Stevens, one of his Lordship’s Justices of the Peace, for ye county 29th of January, 1669."

i.e. five years after the removal of Whaley and Goffe to Mr. Russell’s house at Hadley (Ma.) and five years before the mention by Goffe in his letter of Mr. R (presumably Richardson, the name assumed by Whalley).

Appended to this entry is another containing the dates of the births of the nine children born to his marriage, viz.:

1) John b. at Pocomoke, Dec. 2, 1669; 2) Sarah b. at Pocomoke Feb. 4, 1671; 3) Elizabeth b. a Sinepuxent, Aug. 25, 1677; 4) Charles b. at Sinepuxent Feb. 20, 1679; 5) Bridget b. at Sinepuxent Oct. 8, 1681; 6) William, b. at Sinepuxent Dec. 26, 1683; 7) Nathaniel b. at Sinepuxent April 8, 1686; 8) Rachel b. at Sinepuxent Nov. 15, 1688 9) Elias, b. at Sinepuxent, Jun. 28, 1691.

Such is the case which I have made against myself. But I cannot persuade myself to disregard entirely the evidence contained in Robins’ Narrative of 1769. However full of error it may be, it is evident that Thomas Robins 3d in writing that paper was penning only what was current tradition with regard to his ancestor and the ancestor of so many families on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Independent of the account furnished by this narrative it has always been believed and it is even now universally accepted on the "Eastern Shore" today that the regicide died and was buried at South Point. But like all traditionary evidence it has been confused and much that is untrustworthy has been added to it. For this reason I have always carefully refrained from introducing any such evidence into my arguments on the subject, trusting only to the documentary evidence which was available.

But where there is so much smoke there must have been some fire. Undoubtedly the Edward Wale of Maryland was of the family of Edward Whalley, the regicide, and most probably he was his son (as has already been suggested...). The fault, then, of the Robins Narrative would be that of confusing two generations, of losing sight of the father in 1664, and of confusing him with the son in 1678; a not unnatural mistake after the lapse of a century.

Were I inclined to go a step farther, I would state the case as follows: In 1660 at the Restoration Whalley was obliged to fly from England to the Provinces to escape the vengeance of the King. After many times narrowly escaping capture, he settled at last at Hadley at the house of Mr. Russell. In 1665 Edward Whalley, the younger, followed his father to this country, but avoiding New England, settled in Virginia, and afterwards in Maryland. In 1680 Edward Whalley, the elder, left Hadley, journeyed to Maryland and joined his son, with whom he lived until his death a few years later. Edward Whalley, the younger, died in 1718. But this would be all theory without any facts save alone possibility to support it. It would be safer to say that Edward Wale, of Maryland, was a near relative, presumably a son of the Regicide, and that we know nothing certainly of the latter after the date of Goffe’s letter in 1674. So much I think may safely be conceded."

Robert P. Robins, M.D. Phila. May 24, 1880

So it would seem that this Robins in 1880 admitted from the facts presented that the paper his ancestor wrote in 1769 was incorrect. However, Robins was wrong in inferring that the two Edwards were being confused one with the other. In the Rev. Samuel Whaley’s "English Record of the Whaley Family and Its Branches in America" (1901), the author writes that the Regicide’s son Edward was born in 1657 (p. 88). The Somerset Co. MD marriage records show that Edward Wale/Whaley married Elizabeth Ratcliffe in 1668/69. The Regicide’s son would have only been 12 or 13 years old.

So who was this Edward Wale?

In a publication of abstracts of Lancaster Co VA wills is a July 1674 accounting of George Wale’s estate, part of which was in Pocomoke, Somerset Co MD. It mentions Edward Wale, his brother. If this were the Edward Wale who married Elizabeth Ratcliffe -- and IF we are to believe the designation of brother as we know it today -- this would establish a relationship between those two men. From published accounts of the names of children of Edward the Regicide, there was no son listed by the name of George. The Edward Wale/Whaley who died 1718 in MD had among his children, a son named Charles. Would the Regicide or his son have given a son the same name as the Monarch from whom all their problems originated?

The Robins Narratives further were referenced in Clayton Torrence’s 1935 book, "Old Somerset on the Eastern Shore of Maryland," in which he writes: Edward Wale was in the Pocomoke section when Somerset was created August 1666. He first owned and lived on lands ("Aquintica" and "Springfield") on Pocomoke River which had been conveyed to him by George Wale and Lewis, his wife. These lands Edward Wale sold to Thomas Newbold and removed about 1678 to the Sinepuxent section on the seaboard side. Edward Wale (d. 1718) m. January 29, 1668/9 Elizabeth Ratcliff (sister of Charles Ratcliff of Somerset County), and had issue 1) John, 1669; 2) Sarah, 1671; 3) Charles, 1673; 4) George, 1678, 5) Elizabeth, 1677; m. William Turvile (or Turvill); 6) Bridget, 1681, m. Ebenezer Franklin; 7) William, 1683; 8) Nathaniel , 1686; 9) Rachel, 1688; 10) Elias, 1690-1720 (IKL; O 5, p. 358; O 18, p. 18; Md. Cal. Wills, IV, p. 165, and V, p. 44). The Wale, or Whaley, family, of Somerset County, for many years made claim (traditionally) to descent from the celebrated Edward Whalley, "the Regicide," but finally abandoned the claim. In Penna. Mag. Of Hist. And Biog. IV, p. 258, appears a letter by Dr. Robert P. Robins, May 24, 1880, in which the evidence against this claim is well summed up.

In 1956, William B. Barton wrote A Limited Study of Descendants of Maj. Gen. Edward Whaley, promoting Edward Wale as regicide, but making no mention of Torrence or the LAST Robins letter, which abandons the lineage set forth by others for Edward.

There may be no way of finding out the absolute truth for any of this early Whaley line. Certainly, most people want to establish direct descendancy from Edward, the Regicide, for it has great sex appeal civil rights, kings, beheadings, manhunts. Great copy, but unsourced and unsubstantiated.

Recommended Reading:

1) "A History of Three of the Judges of King Charles I" by Ezra Stiles (1794)

2) "The English Regicides in America" by Charles E. Lindsley, 1893, reprinted 1931 W. Abbott.

3) "The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 1 #1 1877; Vol. 1#2, Vol. 1 #3; Vol. 2 1878

4) "Old Somerset on the Eastern Shore of Maryland" by Clayton Torrence (1935)

For further information, SUEjp55@aol.com