Puritan lawyer John Winthrop is shown standing outside his chambers in Gray’s Inn in London. (His likeness is based on a portrait now in the
State House in Boston, Massachusetts). It is 1629. Winthrop is 41, at the peak of his career, with a lucrative Crown
appointment in the Court of Wards adding to a considerable income deriving from rents received as Lord of the Manor at Groton
in Suffolk in eastern England. East Anglia has been a hotbed of sober-sided Puritan zealots and Adam Winthrop, John’s
father, was no exception. Adam had also been a lawyer with chambers in London and was involved with the financial affairs
of two Cambridge colleges. He made sure that John as a boy was very strictly churched, sent him to his old college Trinity
in Cambridge, then in case his maturing son might succumb to enjoy the dreaded sins of the flesh, married him of at seventeen.
The chosen bride, Mary Forth, was four years older than John but came with a sweet smile and a large, most agreeable dowry.
Her father owned extensive estates in
The marriage produced four children but only lasted ten years when Mary died. Six months later
Winthrop remarried. She was Thomasina Clopton, a Groton girl and heiress to Castlins Manor. Tragically she died in childbirth
a year later, the baby only surviving one day more. Wife number three, from nearby Essex was and is Margaret Tyndale, the
deeply religious daughter of Sir John Tyndale a master of chancery. Married on 29 April 1618, to date she has added three
more sons to John’s family.
Over the last eleven years, as King Charles and Bishop, later Cambridge), increased pressure
on dissidents to conform to the rules and rites of the Church of England, so Winthrop and fellow Puritans have become more
political. They actively back Puritan Members of Parliament’s attempts to ‘purify’ the church and question
Charles’ ‘Divine Right of Kings’ to rule as absolute monarch. Laud is shown haranguing
Parliament, to no effect. Charles has had enough, dismisses Parliament and is shown imprisoning two of its leaders. Valentine
and Strode in the Tower of London. They’ll languish there for eleven years.