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Thomas Venner
Ian Bone speaking at the installation of the Thomas Rainsborough memorial plaque (12 May 2013), championing Thomas Venner and the Fifth Monarchy Men. The banner is a replica of that used by the insurgents at the time.

Thomas Venner (died 19 January 1661[note 1]) was a cooper and rebel who became the last leader of the Fifth Monarchy Men, who tried unsuccessfully to overthrow Oliver Cromwell in 1657, and subsequently led a coup in London against the newly restored government of Charles II. This event, known as "Venner's Rising", lasted four days beginning on January 6, 1661, before the Royal authorities captured the rebels. The rebel leadership suffered execution on 19 January 1661.


Venner had moved to New England in 1637 and stayed for 22 years before returning to plot against Cromwell. He assumed leadership of the Fifth Monarchists after the execution of General Thomas Harrison at Charing Cross on 19 October 1660. Venner led a congregation, which included New Model Army veterans, that met in a rented room above a tavern in Swan's Alley off Coleman Street.

Incidents in the Rebellion of the Fifth Monarchy Men under Thomas Venner, and the Execution of their Leaders, illustration, 17th century

On 6 January 1661 he led a number of his men – Samuel Pepys said they later turned out to be only 50, although it had been thought they were 500 at first – to a bookseller called Mr. Johnson at St. Paul's to demand the Cathedral keys. On being refused they broke in and accosted passers-by asking who they were for. One answered "King Charles" and they shot him through the heart. A number of musketeers sent to dislodge them were beaten back and a detachment from the London Trained Bands under the Lord Mayor, Major General Sir Richard Browne, attacked them and they retreated to Ken Wood near Highgate.

On January 9 they attacked again at Wood Street and Threadneedle Street forcing the King's Life Guard of Foot (a force of 1200 men commanded by John Russell) to retreat. They then attempted to storm the Comptor Prison to liberate the inmates in order to join them, but were repulsed in fierce fighting. Venner is said to have killed three men with a halberd in Threadneedle Street.

A force of General Monck's men under Colonel Cox pursued them to their last stands in the Helmet Tavern on Threadneedle Street and the Blue Anchor on Coleman Street. Royalist troops broke through the clay roof tiles with musket butts and fired upon the wounded defenders, breaking in through the ceiling. Venner was captured after being wounded nineteen times. Others were shot out of hand.

He was put on trial at the Old Bailey and hanged, drawn and quartered on 19 January 1661. According to Tobias Smollett, Venner and his followers "affirmed to the last that if they had been deceived, the Lord himself was their deceiver".[1]


Venner's son, also Thomas (born 1641), a fellow-rebel, led the Monmouth cavalry in 1688.[2]

His grand-daughter Elizabeth married a linen draper's son, John Potter, later Bishop of Oxford and Archbishop of Canterbury.


  1. ^ According to the then prevailing Old Style calendar, the turn of the year occurred on Lady Day, 25 March. As such, Venner died in 1660 according to contemporary accounts, but in 1661 as described by modern historians who take the start of the year to be 1 January.


  1. ^ Tobias Smollett, A Complete History of England, Book VII Chap. 1, p. 406
  2. ^ Greaves, Richard L. (23 September 2004). "Venner, Thomas (1608/9–1661)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28191. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

Further reading

  • Anonymous. The Last Speech and Prayer with other Passages of Thomas Venner (London, 1660)
  • Banks, Charles. Thomas Venner, the Boston wine-cooper and Fifth-Monarchy man, New England Historic Genealogical Society (1893)
  • Burrage, Champlin. "The Fifth Monarchy Insurrections", The English Historical Review, Vol. XXV, 1910
  • Dunan-Page, Anne. "L'insurrection de Thomas Venner (1661): anglicanisme et dissidence au défi des prophéties", in Les Voix de Dieu: Littérature et prophétie en France et en Angleterre à l'Âge baroque, Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle (2008) pp. 227–239
  • Greaves, Richard L. Deliver Us From Evil. The Radical Underground in Britain, 1660–63 (Oxford University Press, 1986)

External links

5 Annotations

First Reading

vincent  •  Link

Venner, Thomas Fifth-monarchy man and there many interesting pieces to fit each point of view.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

Venner, Thomas, a wine-cooper, who, not satisfied with the business of his profession, became a fanatical preacher, and persuaded his followers, who were called fifth monarchy men, that all human government was soon to cease, to make room for the coming of Christ and his saints. From preaching he proceeded to violence, and after representing Cromwell and Charles II. as usurpers, he headed a mob, and proclaimed the kingdom of king Jesus. This popular insurrection called for the interference of the civil power, and Venner and 12 of his followers, who considered themselves as invulnerable, were executed Jan. 1660-1, exclaiming, "that if they were deceived, the Lord himself was their deceiver."
---Universal Biography, J. Lemprière, 1810.

Bill  •  Link

Thomas Venner, a wine-cooper, who acquired a competent estate by his trade, was reputed a man of sense and religion, before his understanding was bewildered with enthusiasm. He was so strongly possessed with the notions of the Millenarians, or Fifth Monarchy Men, that he strongly expected that Christ was coming to reign upon earth, and that all human government, except that of the saints, was presently to cease. He looked upon Cromwell, and Charles II. as usurpers upon Christ's dominion, and persuaded his weak brethren, that it was their duty to rise and seize upon the kingdom in his name. Accordingly a rabble of them, with Venner at their head, assembled in the streets, and proclaimed king Jesus. They were attacked by a party of the militia, whom they resolutely engaged; as many of them believed themselves to be invulnerable. They were at length overpowered by numbers, and their leader, with twelve of his followers, was executed in January, 1660-1. They "affirmed to the last, that if they had been deceived, the Lord himself was their deceiver."
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1775.

Bill  •  Link

VENVER, THOMAS (d. 1661), plotter; a cooper; resident in Massachusetts, 1638; Fifth-monarchy preacher in London; planned a rising, 1657; prisoner in the Tower of London, 1657-9; headed a rising to set up the Fifth monarchy, 1661; executed.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Ahhh, seems like Thomas Venner was against a growing English trend: the transportation of Bondslaves to the New World, and working them to death.

I found this paper today:
“Out of the Land of Bondage”: The English Revolution and the Atlantic Origins of Abolition by JOHN DONOGHUE…

In 1637, the wine cooper Thomas Venner had gone to New England, where he served in the Bay Colony militia.

Excited by the prospect of the Commonwealth reformation in England, he returned to London in 1651 and joined the radicals.

By 1654, Thomas Venner had joined the millenarian Fifth Monarchist movement, which opposed the Protectorate regime of Oliver Cromwell as just another form of monarchy.

So January 1661, Thomas Venner mobilied his Fifth Monarchist cell in a four-day rebellion to overthrow the recently-restored Charles II.

Venner’s forces at-tacked the Comptor Prison, Wood Street and tried to free the prisoners because they were potential ‘bondslaves’ bound for the plantations.

In tracts written before the rising, these Fifth Monarchists condemned the trade in the slaves and souls of men and prophesied the doom of those who engaged in this traffic.

Shortly after their capture, Venner and ten of his followers were executed.

Wood prints quickly followed, depicting Thomas Venner as a traitorous fanatic.
He was not be the last abolitionist to be vilified in such terms.

Engraving by unknown artist, 1861.
From Charles Knowles Bolton,
The Founders: Portraits of Persons Born Abroad Who Came to the Colonies in North America before the Year 1701, 3 vols.
(Boston, 1919), 3: 827

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.



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