This year sees a completely different type of
migrant settling out across the Atlantic, bound for the territory of the London Virginia Company. These latest potential colonists
are English but their home for years has been in Holland, in the town of Leyden. They are also unlike most of the settlers
who have gone before who sought their financial fortunes in the Jamestown area. These newcomers are Separatists who, though
loyal subjects of King James, are seeking freedom to worship as they choose, safely away from his persecution. How then did
they come to live in Holland? And, why leave now?
James hates Puritans and Separatists. Puritans are Christians who disagree with
many of the doctrines and practices of the established church, namely the Church of England and want to change it from the
inside. Separatists however want to literally separate from it completely, hence their name and whilst at first, early in
James’s reign around 1604, both groups were tolerated but despised as Nonconformist killjoys, eventually they became
hated and finally, persecuted.
A law was passed whereby everyone was required to attend church and take communion at least once
a month or be imprisoned. If they did not ‘repent’ within three months they were executed. Church leaders were
required to sign a document known as the Thirty Nine Articles which really meant that no one was allowed to dissent from the
views of the Church of England. 300 ministers refused and were sacked. Not even the dead were safe from persecution: corpses
of Nonconformists were exhumed, brought to trial in Court, sentenced, then subjected to the gross indecency of being hung,
drawn and quartered.
Realising that they would pay for their beliefs with their lives, the Separatists fled to Holland in 1607 and for
thirteen years rejoiced in the religious freedom they found there. However, though grateful to their tolerant hosts, they
have been increasingly concerned about their children becoming Dutch so, as Englishmen, have decided to make a fresh start
in Virginia. This brings events up to the present time, 1620 and this scene. It is 22 July. The Separatists are shown bidding
farewell to their Pastor, John Robinson before leaving Holland aboard the tiny vessel Speedwell to join up with their
second chartered ship Mayflower awaiting them in Southampton.