Fifth Monarchy Men

A radical Puritan sect of the 17th century, driven by the belief in a final, divine government on Earth.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Puritanism
Founded: 17th century
Location: Primarily in England
Other Names: Fifth Monarchists

The Fifth Monarchy Men, emerging during the tumultuous period of the English Commonwealth and Protectorate (circa 1649-1661), were an extreme Puritan sect. Their name derives from their fervent belief in the impending establishment of the fifth monarchy, a divine government led by Jesus Christ alongside His saints, which would succeed the historical empires of the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans as foretold in the Book of Daniel from the Bible. This expectation was rooted in a millenarian interpretation of Christian eschatology, envisioning a thousand-year reign of Christ on Earth.

Initially, the Fifth Monarchy Men showed support for Oliver Cromwell, hoping his rule would hasten the advent of the fifth monarchy. The establishment of the Nominated or Barebones Parliament in 1653, composed of nominees from the Independent churches, briefly raised their hopes for the imminent realization of a godly rule. However, disillusionment quickly set in with the institution of the Protectorate under Cromwell, leading to their opposition and the eventual arrest of their leaders for inciting agitation against the government.

Key figures among the Fifth Monarchy Men included Thomas Harrison, Robert Overton, Christopher Feake, John Rogers, and others. An armed uprising led by Thomas Venner in April 1657 was swiftly quashed, as was another in January 1661, following which Venner and several followers were executed. The movement’s influence waned significantly after these events, and the distinct doctrines of the sect largely faded or merged into less radical forms of millenarianism.

The sect’s extreme views encompassed the abolition of existing laws and institutions to be replaced by a simpler system based on the law of Moses. They experienced a mixture of brief support for and eventual vehement opposition to Cromwell’s government, expressing profound disappointment and agitation when their eschatological expectations were not met. Their final attempt to seize power in January 1661, aiming to establish London as the base of the fifth monarchy, ended in failure, with most participants killed or captured, leading to the execution of Venner and others for high treason.

This movement provides a vivid example of the religious and political extremism that characterized much of the English Interregnum, illustrating the volatile mix of apocalyptic expectations and political ambition. Despite their brief prominence, the Fifth Monarchy Men left an indelible mark on the religious and political landscape of 17th-century England, embodying the era’s intense millenarian fervor and its impact on political movements​​​​​​.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *