Fifth Monarchists

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The Fifth Monarchists or Fifth Monarchy Men were active from 1649 to 1661 during the Interregnum, following the English Civil Wars of the 17th century.[1] They took their name from a prophecy in the Book of Daniel that four ancient monarchies (Assyrian, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman) would precede Christ's return. They also referred to the year 1666 and its relationship to the biblical Number of the Beast indicating the end of earthly rule by carnal human beings. They were one of a number of nonconformist dissenting groups that emerged around this time.

Contents

Overview

Around 1649, there was great social unrest in England and many people turned to Oliver Cromwell as England's new leader. The Parliamentary victors of the First English Civil War failed to negotiate a constitutional settlement with the defeated King Charles I. Members of Parliament and the Grandees in the New Model Army, when faced with Charles's perceived duplicity, tried and executed him.

Government through the King's Privy Council was replaced with a new body called the Council of State. Due to fundamental disagreements within a weakened Parliament, this new body was dominated by the Army. There was a considerable political ferment in the country, much of it religiously conditioned, and no lack of proposals for alternative forms of government to replace the old order. These ranged from Royalists who wished to place King Charles II on the throne, to men like Oliver Cromwell, who wished to govern with a Parliament voted in by an electorate determined by property ownership, similar to that enfranchised before the civil war, to the Levellers, influenced by the writings of John Lilburne, who wanted parliamentary government based on an electorate constituted of every head of household (normally though not necessarily male as was acknowledged in the Putney Debates), through to other groups with smaller followings like the Fifth Monarchists, Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers, the Ranters, and the Society of Friends (Quakers).

These were not political parties as that term is understood today, but groups clustered around one or more beliefs, some of the believers attaching themselves to more than one group. Although the pre-war establishment had been split by the Civil War, both of the opposing main factions regarded all radical groups as agitators for change, and they are described as such in the Historical Collections of John Rushworth that document events of the early period, and by the Journals of the House of Commons which cover the period of the Republic itself.

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