1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fifth Monarchy Men

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4820401911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 10 — Fifth Monarchy Men

FIFTH MONARCHY MEN, the name of a Puritan sect in England which for a time supported the government of Oliver Cromwell in the belief that it was a preparation for the “fifth monarchy,” that is for the monarchy which should succeed the Assyrian, the Persian, the Greek and the Roman, and during which Christ should reign on earth with His saints for a thousand years. These sectaries aimed at bringing about the entire abolition of the existing laws and institutions, and the substitution of a simpler code based upon the law of Moses. Disappointed at the delay in the fulfilment of their hopes, they soon began to agitate against the government and to vilify Cromwell; but the arrest of their leaders and preachers, Christopher Feake, John Rogers and others, cooled their ardour, and they were, perforce, content to cherish their hopes in secret until after the Restoration. Then, on the 6th of January 1661, a band of fifth monarchy men, headed by a cooper named Thomas Venner, who was one of their preachers, made an attempt to obtain possession of London. Most of them were either killed or taken prisoners, and on the 19th and 21st of January Venner and ten others were executed for high treason. From that time the special doctrines of the sect either died out, or became merged in a milder form of millenarianism, similar to that which exists at the present day.

For the proceedings of the sect see S. R. Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, passim (London, 1894–1901); and for an account of the rising of 1661 see Sir John Reresby, Memoirs, 1634–1689, edited by J. J. Cartwright (London, 1875).