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The rebellion of the Fifth Monarchists, 1661

The Fifth Monarchists were a group of radical religious dissenters who had initially been supporters of the Republican regime of Oliver Cromwell (but later severe critics) and who launched an armed rebellion against the restoration of King Charles II in January 1661.

The name came from their belief that only Jesus Christ was entitled to be the King of England, along of course with the rest of the world. According to the Old Testament Book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed that four great empires would arise, and the Fifth Monarchists believed that these had already come and gone, the final one being that of the Romans. That meant that the fifth monarchy, that of Christ, was overdue.

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The Fifth Monarchists were led by a former cooper (barrel-maker) named Thomas Venner, who launched his intended revolution on Christ’s behalf on Sunday 6th January 1661. His small band of men burst into St Paul’s Cathedral and announced that Christ, and not Charles II, was king. The reaction of the congregation was not to immediately join their ranks but to chase them off, aided by the Lord Mayor who called out the local militia.

The Monarchists retreated to North London for the next few days, but they returned on 9th January and caused mayhem in the streets of London. Venner and his men were perfectly prepared to use force to get their way, and Venner himself killed three men before being cornered in a London pub and captured, suffering 19 injuries in the process.

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(Thomas Venner)

The end of the rebellion was as might have been expected. Venner and the other ringleaders were swiftly tried and condemned to death. Thomas Venner was hanged, drawn and quartered (the usual punishment for traitors) on 19th January. The reign of Jesus Christ as the fifth monarch would have to wait a bit longer.

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