The origins of Pennsylvania


Admiral William Penn


Admiral William Penn is buried in the South aisle of St Mary Redcliffe, while his armour, coat of arms and crest are displayed high on the wall at the north west end of the nave.  He was the Parliamentarian naval commander in the Civil Wars, yet later found favour with King Charles II.


Admiral Penn loaned large sums to the King for an ambitious building programme but, after Penn's death, the King could not repay the loan when requested to do so by Penn’s son (also named William, the renowned Quaker and advocate of religious freedom ).


Instead, Charles offered the younger Penn land in America, provided that it would be named after the favoured late Admiral.  Thus the state of Pennsylvania came into being.  Its arms still incorporate those of the man whose name it bears.


William Penn, the Quaker


As one of the earlier supporters of colonial unification, the younger Penn wrote and urged for a union of all the English colonies in what was to become the United States of America. The democratic principles that he set forth in the Pennsylvania Frame of Government served as an inspiration for the United States Constitution.


As a pacifist Quaker, Penn considered the problems of war and peace deeply. He developed a forward-looking project for a United States of Europe through the creation of a European Assembly made of deputies that could discuss and adjudicate controversies peacefully. He is therefore considered the very first thinker to suggest the creation of a European Parliament.


A man of extreme religious convictions, Penn wrote numerous works in which he exhorted believers to adhere to the spirit of Primitive Christianity. He was imprisoned several times in the Tower of London due to his faith, and his book No Cross, No Crown (1669), which he wrote while in prison, has become a Christian classic.


Admiral Penn's armour, coat of arms and crest  displayed in the nave