10 THINGS you might not KNOW about PILGRIM ROMANCE 

Love and marriage aren’t the first things that spring to mind when considering the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’. But now we’re more familiar with the stories of women, children and whole families, what can we find out about romance amongst the Separatists?

Here are ten things about pilgrim romance that you might have known, and might change your mind about what it was like to be a pilgrim – especially to be a Pilgrim Mother. 
1. Pilgrims did not usually wear wedding rings. Religious groups such as the Puritans were often suspicious of a practice that dated back to ancient societies, and thought the exchanging of wedding rings harkened back to those eras of idolatry.

2. Many Separatists had picked up on the Dutch practice of treating weddings as a civic rather than a religious event, and so were not married in churches. In England, wedding banns were published in church, in Leiden, they were announced in the market place.

3. The first wedding in the new settlement at Plymouth was between Susanna White (nee Jackson, from Scrooby) and Edward Winslow. Both had lost their spouse in the first winter, and Susanna had new born Peregrine to care for. It was a civil ceremony, conducted by Governor Bradford.

4. Orphaned Priscilla Mullins is often seen as a romantic heroine with the story of military man, Miles Standish, asking John Alden (the ship’s cooper) to propose on his behalf – and her asking John to speak for himself instead.

5. However, this legend may not be entirely accurate. It was not written until their descendant Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem in 1858, which he claimed was inspired by stories passed down through the family. 

6. Katherine Carver (born Katherine White in Sturton-le-Steeple) was the wife of the first Governor elected by the company at Plymouth. When he died of sun stroke in the spring of 1621, she died a few weeks later of what was said to be a broken heart.
Bradford wrote:
‘Whose death was much lamented, and caused great heaviness amongst them, as there was cause. He was buried in ye best manner they could, with some vollies of shot by all that bore arms; and his wife, being a weak woman, died within 5 or 6 weeks after him.’
7. Large families were very common amongst the Mayflower passengers. They boast some 35 million descendants today! Several of the young girls who travelled on the ship eventually had more than ten children each – Constance Hopkins had 12 children, Priscilla Mullins had 11, and Elizabeth Tilley had 10.

8. Tragically, William Bradford (of Austerfield, longest serving Governor and chronicler of the pilgrims) was bereaved when his wife Dorothy fell overboard from the Mayflower in Province Town Harbour. He married again, when the Anne brought Alice Southworth (Carpenter) to America. It is likely they knew each other before, as Alice had been married to Edward Southworth, who was from Clarborough (also in the Pilgrim Roots region) and they were part of the Leiden congregation.

9. Although men were seen as the head of the household and only men signed the Mayflower Compact, Separatists had some awareness of the importance and influence of women. Marriages were often made between members of the same congregation, because a Separatist wife, in raising their children, ensured the continuation of strict Separatist morality.

10. Several men decided to leave their wives behind when they went on the Mayflower, deciding it was too dangerous for them to join at the outset, and hoping they would travel to meet them eventually. Francis Cooke, Thomas Rogers, Samuel Fuller, Richard Warren and Degory Priest felt it was better if their wives Hester, Alice, Bridget, Elizabeth and Sarah stayed behind. However, the majority (18 husbands) on the Mayflower brought their wives with them.