- Fifth Monarchy Men
- The Fifth Monarchy Men was a powerful millennial movement that emerged in the 1640s during the tumultuous times of the Puritan Commonwealth in England. They hoped to reform Parliament in preparation for the return of Christ toward the end of the century. The name "Fifth Monarchy" is derived from the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2), a crucial text for most Christian millennialists; it speaks of five successive kingdoms, the last one initiating the kingdom of God.Drawing on popular millennial writings of the period, the Fifth Monarchy movement found its greatest strength among Baptists and Congrega-tionalists (or Independents). It also made common cause with the New Model Army (a Puritan force led by Oliver Cromwell) and the so-called Levellers, a popular political movement that advocated among other things religious toleration, legal reforms, a bill of rights, and a popularly elected government. The Fifth Monarchy Men initially supported Cromwell, but turned against him after he established the Commonwealth and took the title Lord Protector.Thomas Harrison (1610-60), a former army officer and former close friend of Cromwell, became the group's leading spokesman in the mid-1650s. Cromwell had him arrested on questionable charges of subversion. Harrison was executed at the time of the restoration of the monarchy (1660). His execution provoked a short-lived violent attempt to unseat the new king. The effort failed and the leaders were executed, while several thousand supporters (many Quakers) were imprisoned. This action killed the movement, in part by associating millennial speculation and violence in the popular imagination.Further reading:■ B. S. Capp, The Fifth Monarchy Men: A Study in Seventeenth-Century English Millenarianism (London: Faber & Faber, 1972)■ Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990)■ R. L. Greaves, Deliver Us from Evil: The Radical Underground in Britain, 1660-1669 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.