“Story of Mayflower part of Dutch History” – Dutch Ambassador to the UK joins commemoration ceremony of Mayflower 400 in Plymouth

16 September 1620, 400 years ago. On this day, the Pilgrims (a group of English Puritans) set sail from the port in Plymouth (UK) on a ship called the Mayflower, to travel to the free colonies in Massachusetts (US). Apparently, it was sunny day. But the voyage of the Pilgrims across the transatlantic was harsh. It took them 66 days, as they left the UK in September their crossing was afflicted by winter storms and long bouts of seasickness.

The Pilgrims had already been travelling for a long time. To escape religious persecution, they decided to flee England for the Netherlands from 1609 onwards - back in the days, the Dutch republic was seen as a liberal nation where they could live peacefully. The Pilgrims settled in Leiden, where they lived and worked for 12 years. They built land near the spectacular Pieterskerk church and built houses in what is today known as Engelse poort (English Alley). Another astonishing fact that shows just how much impact the arrival of these European settlers has had on America: no less than nine US presidents are descendants of these Leiden Pilgrims. Throughout 2020, museums in the Dutch cities of Leiden and Rotterdam – as in the UK and the US – have been dedicating exhibitions to the Mayflower. This commemoration is not solely focused on the time the Pilgrims spent in the Netherlands or their stories on the boat. The perspectives of Native American communities on the consequences of the arrival of the Pilgrims form an integral part of the story.

On 16 September 2020, the Dutch Ambassador to the UK, Mr. Karel van Oosterom, joined the commemoration ceremony in Plymouth, together with the American Ambassador to the UK, Mr. Robert Wood Johnson, along with Admiral Tony Radakin (First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy) and online representation of the Wampanoag. The crew of IBM and MSubs also joined the ceremony, as they were involved in the building of The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS), a highly innovative project to design, build and sail the world's first full-sized, fully autonomous unmanned ship across the Atlantic Ocean. The sailing of this ground-breaking new ship reflects the voyage undertaken 400 years ago, when the original Mayflower left Plymouth to journey to America. At over 100ft in length the Mayflower Autonomous Research is powered by state-of-the-art wind and solar technology. The revolutionary trimaran vessel will carry on board a variety of drones through which it will conduct experiments during its voyage. It was officially launched at a naming ceremony in Plymouth on 16 September 2020, 400 years after the original Mayflower left the maritime city to cross the Atlantic.

Mayflower400 event
©Mayflower400 via Isebox

The Dutch Ambassador reflected the life of the Pilgrims in Leiden, as well as the impact of the voyage on the Native American people. Furthermore, he spoke on the importance of the shared history of the four commemorating nations. “As the Netherlands, we have always been proud of our maritime history and religious tolerance. The story of the Mayflower is part of our history. It highlights the longstanding ties we have with the four nations commemorating, but also reflects what we stand for today.” As a trading nation and partner in development, the Netherlands has a leading role in developing creative, innovative and sustainable solutions to global challenges. Ambassador van Oosterom said: “The launch of the ‘new’ Mayflower is a great example of innovation, both in the field of security and science. Together with the UK – as well as other countries, we work together to contribute to a safer and more sustainable world. Our presence here today, as well as our joint maritime activities in Plymouth are an example of this cooperation.” To the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) Ambassador Van Oosterom said: “Behouden vaart,” hoping the AI would translate it itself in English.

Interested in the activitites related to Mayflower 400 in the Netherlands? Visit: https://www.mayflower400leiden.nl/ For the full program, visit: https://www.mayflower400uk.org

Mayflower 400 event speech Ambassador
©Mayflower 400 via Isebox

An online documentary presented by well-known TV historian Dan Snow reflects the story of the colonists, the impact their arrival had on the Native American people who helped them, and the wider colonial context of this journey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DQC3S3bJc0&feature=youtu.be