Charles II – King of England, Scotland, Ireland and France, Defender of the Faith – had a small committee of members of his Privy Council that was known as the Cabal; some say this was the precursor of modern cabinet government; some say it was the precursor of something more sinister.
The word itself comes from the initials of the five members of the Privy Council involved who signed the Treaty of Alliance with France in 1672: Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley (Lord Shaftesbury) and Lauderdale i.e. the Cabal. Though officially it came to an end around 1674 some historians argue that it continued in secret with new members replacing the original members as time went by. Yet others argue that the Cabal still exists and that a small and secret group of privileged and highly placed individuals continue to rule the United Kingdom in their own interests.