Henry VIII’s break with Rome set in play a series of events that dramatically changed the island history of Britain and led to both political and religious refugees seeking safety in North America in what would one day become know as the ‘The Land of the Free.’
The next two hundred years of British history were riven with religious divisions between Catholics and Protestants, that still haunt parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland today. If we wish to understand the origins of American character, then we have to first understand the rich fertile soil from which it sprang in England.
In the immediate aftermath of the ‘Break with Rome’ England changed it’s state religion several times, whilst both sides persecuted each other, accusing the other side of being heretics. The most famous, but certainly not the most bloodiest, resulting in the deaths of 280 Protestant Martyrs during the reign of Queen Mary. Her sister Elizabeth I executed far more Catholics whilst trying to come to a compromise through the Elizabethan Church Settlement Act, which left many feeling very unhappy. This ultimately led to the English Catholics trying to kill King James I and Parliament in the now infamous Gunpowder Plot in 1605. Later in 1620, fearful of Catholic plots and further persecution for refusing to attend the Church of England, the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ left England never to return in the hope of finding a place where they could freely practice their faith in North America.
Later of course these divisions would implode into the English Civil War in 1642 and result in the execution of Charles I.The resulting conflicts would see thousands seeking religious toleration in North America.
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