Background – Puritanism

The word Puritan comes from ‘purity’ or ‘purify’. These were extreme Protestants who wanted to purify the Church of England by returning to the simple and uncomplicated worship and way of life of the earliest Christians.

Puritan beliefs

  • That the rituals, ceremonies and teachings developed over centuries by the Catholic Church went against God’s original intentions for his people.
  • That congregations could organise themselves and a Church hierarchy was not needed, especially bishops.
  • Some believed that things such as dancing, theatres and enjoyment were sinful.
  • People should dress modestly.
  • Sunday was the Lord’s Day and should be devoted to religious study.
  • All felt the Elizabethan Church was still too much like the Catholic Church.

Many Puritans had fled abroad when Mary I, a Catholic, was queen and had become influenced by Calvinist ideas. When Elizabeth, a protestant, came to the throne these 'exiles' began to return.

Elizabeth’s Religious Settlement meant that the country was now officially Protestant, but allowed some traditions of Catholic worship. At first, many Puritans seemed to accept the Settlement, but they soon started organising campaigns to make it more Protestant.