J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Elizabeth Royal: sergeant’s wife and refugee

The records of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress’s Committee of Safety for 21 June 1775 contain this intriguing resolution:

That Joseph Adams, driver of the stage from Newbury, be, and he hereby is directed, to transport back to Newbury, Elizabeth Royal and her child, who, as she says, is wife to William Royal, first sergeant in the 63d regiment of foot, now in Boston, and deliver her to the care of the selectmen of said Newbury, who are hereby directed to provide for her and her child, at the expense of the colony.
I haven’t been able to turn up anything more about this situation or these people. (A Joseph Adams set up a stage service between Haverhill and Boston in 1793 and engaged in an advertising war with a rival; but that Adams appears to have been new to the coach business.)

Was Elizabeth Royal a native of Newbury who had married Sgt. William Royal? Had she and her child been living in Newbury, separate from her husband? Had Elizabeth been captured on a ship that came into Newbury harbor, and then the local authorities had to figure out what to do with her?

Most important, if Elizabeth wanted to go into Boston to reunite with her husband, why did the Committee of Safety send her away and take on the expense of maintaining her?

More about this story might exist in manuscript form—the Newbury selectmen’s records, the 63rd’s muster rolls, the state’s expense accounts, &c. But for now it’s a mystery.

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