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The Separatists

The Mayflower Pilgrims were also known as Separatists because of their controversial religious views. Their key belief was that people should not be tied to their local parish church and should be free to gather with other like-minded Christians to form independent autonomous churches. So what made this so controversial?

During this time religion was very closely associated to the power of the monarch under the principle of Divine Right. The king or queen was the representation of God's will and to be an independent church, meant being independent from the state, a view which was seen as threatening at a time of religious conflict.

Being around the time of the war against Spain under Elizabeth I and the pretension to the throne by Mary Queen of Scots, there was a real fear of a Catholic crusade and a rising in northern England attempted to put Mary on the throne. The infamous Gunpowder Plot kept that threat very real under James I, and religious control for the state was hugely important.

Persecution of the Separatists lead to the group fleeing the country to the Netherlands and eventually founding the Plymouth colony in America.

The Separatist movement continued in the UK and was most influential politically under the Commonwealth after the English Civil War. Oliver Cromwell was himself a Separatist. 

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