King For a Day

Dorothea Mordan
5 min readJun 7, 2022

In 1604 King James of Scotland was super pumped to be getting another country. His cousin Elizabeth I, Queen of England, had died, leaving him first in line of succession to the British throne. He was on his way to London to impose his will on his new subjects, when on a stopover, he was approached by a group of clergymen, who presented him with their Millenary Petition. This petition asked for changes in some of the righteous religious laws created to support the Church of England. This merry band of petitioners (just kidding, they were pretty self-righteous and serious themselves) wanted to practice their own reformed version of Christianity. The Church of England was founded by Henry VIII in the previous century, moving just far enough from the Catholic Church so Henry could legally divorce his wives as needed. Our intrepid petitioners wanted more austerity and to move farther from papist practices. They wanted to separate from the Church of England, becoming known as Separatists.

The history of religious practice in England, and much of Europe, was fueled by groups loyal to God, but even more devoted to their version of worshiping God. In 1604 there were already generations of families who had plotted how to take power and impose their “right way” to practice religion. Groups in power hunted, arrested, prosecuted and killed people who believed in God in a different way.

The Millenary Petition did not go over well. Most requests were denied, except one. King James agreed to have the Bible translated into English, allowing every literate Englishman to have access to the scripture. The other laws of the land remained in force, and as the Separatists would not disavow their beliefs, they became a new religious group to be shunned and persecuted by the ruling class. The Separatists formed the group that fled England for Holland and then sought a new land to build their vision of a community in the Americas. They were the group who contracted with investors to sail on the Mayflower in 1620, becoming the Pilgrims who settled in the future Massachusetts.

The descendants of these early immigrants learned hard lessons about religious persecution, and when a group of leaders rebelled against the British Crown and prevailed to form a new country, they used these lessons to articulate the principles in the US Constitution — the backbone of their new…