If Digger’s Are The True Levellers…
This is an Excerpt from our current book in production…
Who are the Fifth Monarchists? Why would I care to know?
Named after a prophecy in the Book of Daniel that Four Monarchies would precede the Fifth or establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, the group was one of a number of Nonconformist sects that emerged during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.
Members believed the execution of Charles I in January 1649 marked the end of the Fourth Monarchy and viewed both the institution of the Protectorate in 1653 and the 1660 Stuart Restoration as preventing the coming of the Fifth. The belief by some members that this justified military action meant they were actively persecuted by both regimes and never became a mass movement. Many of their remaining leaders were executed after participating in Venner’s Rising of January 1661, and the group absorbed into other sects.
The Fifth Monarchists took their inspiration from the four kingdoms of Daniel which prophesied that the Fifth, or Kingdom of God, would be preceded by the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman kingdoms.
Followers believed the execution of Charles I in January 1649 marked the end of the Fourth or Roman Monarchy. Several became regicides in the belief his death would usher in the Kingdom of the Saints, or rule by those like who were “saved”, like the Fifth Monarchists. The role of these so-called “Saints” was to prepare the masses for the Second Coming, although exactly when this would happen was debated. Based on the Book of Revelation, some believed Christ would return in 1666, which corresponded with the biblical number of the beast, while it was also common to refer to a “Thousand Years”.
Many supported “Antinomianism”, a rejection of the legal system on the grounds that the “Saved” were not bound by the Ten Commandments, while they also believed it was their duty to resist any regime which hindered the coming of the Kingdom.
Although the movement eventually split between those who opposed violence, the “suffering Saints”, and the “insurrectionist Saints” like Thomas Venner who advocated taking up arms, these beliefs caused Oliver Cromwell and later contemporaries to see them as wild revolutionaries and enemies of the established order.
Although Millenarianism was common among Puritans and even shared by some Royalist members of the Church of England, Fifth Monarchists were unique in that the concept was central to their theology.
In general, they also opposed Religious tolerance for non-Protestants, and unlike groups such as the Diggers had no desire to end the existing social order or extend political rights, since they argued only the “Saved” were worthy of power.
Exceptions included the Levellers sympathiser Christopher Feake, and Mary Cary, who supported measures to alleviate poverty and gender equality; prior to her death in 1654, she wrote under the name “MC”, and many assumed she was a man.
The Fifth Monarchists began life as a faction of the religious Independents who dominated the post-1648 Rump Parliament, with close links to Baptists and Anabaptists. Their emergence as a separate sect is usually dated to December 1651, when a group of preachers including Feake, John Rogers, and John Simpson met in London.
Disillusioned by the apparent failure of Parliament to further the “Godly Revolution”, they agreed a programme of action to support their objectives, including active resistance to the Commonwealth government.
Among them were Major Generals Thomas Harrison and Thomas Overton, along with Colonels Nathaniel Rich, John Jones Maesygarnedd and William Goffe,[b] as well as senior administrators such as John Carew.
Many others were initially sympathetic to their views, including Cromwell and Sir Henry Vane, and the highpoint of their political influence came in April 1653 when Cromwell dismissed the Rump Parliament, an action which led the Fifth Monarchists to hail him as a new Moses.
They also supported his declaration of war on the Dutch Republic. Despite being waged against fellow Protestants, the Monarchists argued it was their duty to spread the Kingdom of the Saints to every country, whether Protestant or Catholic [c].
Cromwell replaced the Rump with a nominated body popularly known as “Barebone’s Parliament”; out of 149 MPs, 15 can be identified as Fifth Monarchists, including Praise-God Barebone, Carew and Harrison.
The inaugural session began in July 1653 but the different factions quickly became entangled in bitter disputes over tithes, which the Monarchists wanted to abolish rather than reduce, and reform of the legal system, which they argued should be based solely on laws contained in the Bible.
On 8 December, the moderate majority passed a motion urging Cromwell to dissolve Parliament, leading to the establishment of the Protectorate on 16th.
The result was open conflict between the regime and the Fifth Monarchists; Harrison, Overton and Rich were dismissed from the army, while Rogers and Feake attacked Cromwell for his Apostasy and preached revolt to their followers. This caused a split with elements of the movement like John Carew who held Baptist or Anabaptist views, notably their opposition to the use of violence.
Rogers and Feake were arrested, while the government placed other members under surveillance and thereafter alternated persecution with tolerance in an attempt to split the movement.
This policy had some success, with Rogers, Goffe, John Jones Maesygarnedd and the Welsh preacher Morgan Llwyd becoming reconciled with the regime, leaving a minority of insurrectionists like Venner who was imprisoned in 1657 for planning a rising. By the time he was released in 1659, the Monarchists had lost much of their influence and were no longer a significant force.
One reason was his justification of violent action against “un-Godly rulers”, which meant he was viewed as an ongoing threat to the re-established order. This seemed confirmed on 6 January 1661, when Venner and fifty followers based in Norton Folgate, tried to incite a popular uprising to capture London in the name of “King Jesus”.
Most were killed or taken prisoner, with Venner and ten others executed for high treason on 19 and 21 January, while its failure led to the suppression of Non-conformist sects, culminating in the Act of Uniformity 1662. Although the Great Plague of London and the Great Fire of London briefly revived belief in the end of a world ruled by carnal human beings, Fifth Monarchy ceased to exist as a separate sect, although some doctrines were absorbed by Baptists and others who believed “God’s Kingdom” could be achieved through spiritual means.
And here we are today. As we are left to consider,
that what we know and associate with,
has evolved from an earlier form and carried on some of its traits.
Scattering the tower of babel has left a multitude of sects and denominations of faith driven people. Vying for superiority by virtues, vices and viruses.
Are we in a valley? Was it flooded first? Are there dead bodies everywhere? Is the world we know and associate with, a futuristic augmentation to our senses of reality? Sent back to help and assist us less worthy?
Or were we robbed on the pathway of the pilgrimage? Caught without a license or insurance; carried by the one who created us?
This is all just information to plug into your data set for broader contrast and clarity in the real world. A world you see and determine for yourself. Eventually you’ll call it hindsight and revelation. Feel like you’re wiser than a serpent. Won’t fall for gold or glory as a lure for enrichment over others welfare.
Blind to what is happening around you. To the creatures Love created and placed here for life alongside you. I tell God, Bless Them!
Watch out for those Diggers and Levellers! If you’re not one of them; you’re just caught in the middle of a dispute over land rights. Be aware you might be an instrument or a vessel. Were you overly fruitful and multiplied?