The Fifth Monarchists were an extreme, and short-lived, religious sect formed in the aftermath of the English Civil War Period.
They took their name from a prophecy in the Old Testament that said there had been four great empires (Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman) and a fifth would be formed by the return of Christ in the Second Coming.
End of Days
Believing in the Apocalypse, the events of the English Civil War Period led the Fifth Monarchists to believe that the end of the world was in sight. In particular, the Fifth Monarchists saw 1666 as the date that coincided with 666, the mark of the devil.
However, the Fifth Monarchists themselves would not survive to see 1666.
Rise and Fall
Like many of the dissenting groups of the mid 17th century, the Fifth Monarchists were part of a new wave of thinking that saw the established order being questioned, debated and turned upside down.
In 1649, the war came to an end and King Charles I was executed. Two Fifth Monarchists, Thomas Harrison and John Carew, were among the 59 signatures on the king’s death warrant.
For many people at the time the King represented God on earth. So with the killing of King Charles I, a vacuum of lost belief opened up. The Fifth Monarchists believed that the vacuum should be filled by making England to return to the Kingdom of God.
This meant overthrowing Oliver Cromwell as the Fifth Monarchists believed he had broken several promises made to the group during the English Civil War Period by Parliment. Two plots to kill Cromwell were uncovered and broken up in 1657 and 1659.
After the restoration of King Charles II, the near defeated Fifth Monarchists made one final stand to to usher the Second Coming. on Sunday 6 January 1661, 50 Fifth Monarchist followers, all dressed in armour, marched to St Paul’s Church In London and waved their manifesto, which declared for ‘King Jesus’ alone.
A fight with troops left them unexpectedly victorious, before reinforcements swept in and most of the 50 were either killed or captured. The ringleader Thomas Venner, a wine-cooper, and ten others were hanged, drawn and quartered for high treason.