The Man Who Saw the Future

This is the true story of the man who discovered he could see the future – and the establishment’s attempts to silence him. It’s a spellbinding tale of prophecy, power, politics and press freedom.


William Lilly enthrals a civil war-torn nation with his uncannily accurate forecasts of who will win key battles and when Charles I will die. Lauded as England’s Merlin, both the king and Oliver Cromwell seek his stellar counsel.


But when Lilly’s visions of the future threaten public order, he has to fight to save his profession and his life. Can his astonishing gift help him best those in power?


With a cast of star-gazers, soldiers and scryers; politicians, priests and piss-prophets, The Man Who Saw the Future by acclaimed author Catherine Blackledge reveals for the first time how occult leader Lilly influenced the course of war, politics and freedom of speech in seventeenth-century England.


Buy online from Amazon UK and UK bookstores.


WINTER 1641. Astrologer William Lilly is gazing at a pot of piss. Parliament has asked him to help: will leader John Pym live or die? Using an ancient technique called horary, Lilly predicts Pym will die in eight days’ time. He is correct.

In the pages of his best-selling pamphlets, Lilly enthrals the civil war-torn nation with his uncannily accurate forecasts of who will triumph in combat. Parliament’s new prophet directly influences the course of war by advising the New Model Army when to fight, based on his judgement of Charles I’s horoscope; the key Battle of Naseby is won with this insight.

Lauded as England’s Merlin, Parliament sends him to the battlefield to boost morale with astral propaganda. At the same time, mercurial and wily Lilly provides stellar counsel to both the King and the rising radical sects. His status as the nation’s arch magus is sealed when he correctly foresees Charles I’s death.

Now the most famous man in England’s republic and the leader of a growing counter-culture group, Lilly’s extraordinary influence is revealed when his warning words about a solar eclipse scare the country to a standstill. But not everyone is happy about his visions of the future and their effect on public order: ministers try to outlaw the star science and he is charged with sedition.

Worse is to come in the restoration world. In private, Charles II and the elite still seek Lilly’s guidance, but in public the establishment moves to silence him and ban prophecy. In 1666, when Lilly’s forecast of a great fire engulfing London comes true, he is suspected of starting the blaze. Can his astonishing gift help him best those in power, and save his profession and his life?


  1. ‘Lilly’s extraordinary life is enough to sway a rationalist. Hurrah and enjoy.’ Mail on Sunday

  2. ‘One could imagine turning this book into a screenplay for a movie, no doubt starring Johnny Depp as the mischievous Mr. Lilly. Blackledge is a wonderful storyteller, who seamlessly weaves the personal, the political and the historical threads together. After a few pages, the reader is hooked,’ astrologer Kirk Little.

  3. ‘This book is full of the kind of human depth and warmth one desires from a historical biography. The writing style is a joy to read: emphasising scene-setting and a flair for dramatic reveals. An important and welcome contribution to the study of the history, magic and people of this period,’ historian Dr Alexander Cummins.

  4. ‘Catherine Blackledge’s biography is not just required reading for every would-be astrologer. It stands alone as an amazing tale full of insight into pivotal history. The Man Who Saw The Future is fascinating and wonderfully well-written,’ Jonathan Cainer, astrologer and broadcaster

  5. ‘A very exciting and colourful read, which offers a unique view of the dramatic events of Stuart England through the eyes of an astrologer: and makes a plea for the enduring value of astrology on the way,’ Professor Ronald Hutton, author of Pagan Britain.

  6. ‘This book is a “must-read” for astrologers and all those interested in the subject. A genuine page-turner,’ Astrologer Kris Brandt Riske.

  7. ‘Catherine Blackledge brilliantly brings to life one of the most fascinating characters of 17th-century England – astrologer William Lilly. This book provides a richly-researched yet highly readable and engrossing account of his extraordinary life and work,’ astrologer Deborah Houlding.

  8. ‘In this vivid depiction of William Lilly’s life and practice, Catherine Blackledge brings from the shadows one of the period’s major players at a turning-point in our history,’ John Frawley, author of The Real Astrology.

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