A Note on a Conspiracy Theory

All conspiracy theories are false. One minor conspiracy theory was developed by the British mystery writer Josephine Tey. It is that there was a Tudor conspiracy against the reputation of Richard III.

The Tudors, like their enemy Phillip II of Spain, were thugs who dispossessed the peasantry through dissolution of the monasteries in preparation for 17th century enclosures of the common lands. But focusing on their efforts to discredit the Yorkists who descended from Edward III through the male line, rather than through the female line and marriage as had the Tudors, is an excellent way of not talking about posh behavior in Britain which continues today, and which has “enclosed” London, and made it a preserve for superrich Russian gangstas.

Sir James Tyrell confessed to the murder under Henry VII and Richard Gloucester benefited most directly. Gloucester as a mediaeval war-lord thought nothing of killing people in a vortex of slaughter that had broken out when his baby brother was slain by Clifford. The story is in Shakespeare, but it’s also in Holinshed and, for the most part, in modern histories because it was documented at the time.

It is nonsense, because in fact the Shakespeare narrative makes the most sense in terms of emotion and human nature, and this argues strongly for its truth.

The homophobic murder of Richard II, of which a precedent was the homophobic slaughter a century before of Edward II, was a refusal to accept the consequences of primogeniture and legitimacy itself which had enabled England to struggle out of the Dark Ages and clashing systems of legitimacy. Basically, as Shakespeare’s Henry VI and Richard II insist, and as Marlowe’s Edward II insists, if you believe in primogeniture and the Lord’s anointed, you have to accept a gay or weakling king…as an alternative to the Roman struggle to display who’s the best man, which interferes with trade and the Peace of God.

The mediaeval idea was remarkably sophisticated (CS Lewis shows us how to see wisdom we have lost). It reasons from a perception, centuries before Thomas Hobbes and centuries after Plato, that power maddens men and creates the war of all against all in which there is no legitimacy. Legitimacy through victory in war and the elimination of rivals is fleeting.

Therefore the convenient fiction, which ancient and mediaeval man could see was a fiction, that the eldest boy inherited the ability to reign along with a genetic keek about the brow, was developed to legitimize the king in a semi-lottery. But ambitious magnates such as Mortimer in Edward II’s time, or Bolingbroke in Richard II’s time, upon whom in the feudal economy the king depended for provender and soldiers, were always tempted to call the king “weak” if he did not with enthusiasm kill people such as the ever-hapless French or while on holiday in the Holy Land.

Of course, mediaeval deep homophobia played a part for the elimination of what may have been a berdache or feminized male along with paganism made Edward II’s 13th century proclivities, and to a greater extent Richard II’s, completely unmentionable…although in the 16th century play, there is a cautious discussion of Roman precedents for enduring a fruitcake King.

But comes now, Josephine Tey. What’s needed is an explanation of her zany ideas.

The key is found in the “seduction scene” which has a supernatural force, wherein Richard seduces the Lady Anne, who’s dragging Henry VI (her father in law) through the streets, Gloucester (Richard in the play until he’s crowned) having killed not only Henry but also Anne of Warwick’s husband Edward.

Tey was seduced by Shakespeare’s Richard through an almost (but not quite) occult power of the language of the scene.

And even today, Western women, and women in other patriarchal societies, eroticize patriarchy in order that they may endure it. Women today fall for liars, lager louts and villains and many who’ve never studied Shakespeare immediately connect to the Lady Anne scene.

(One popular scam in the USA being a military or CIA record you don’t have. Gets the pussy, or so I’ve heard.)

Tey was seduced by a common form of denial, another manifestation of which is the strikingly common way in which men who are victims have their victimization renarrated as a product of a defective character. She wants, against all the historical evidence, such as it is, Richard to be the Father found just.

But this is nonsense. The homophobic deposition and assassination of Richard II had, like the anti-Catholic assassination of President Kennedy, and the soft coup d’etat of Richard Nixon, not for his real crimes, destroyed the reality of legitimacy, and the ability of Yorkist magnates to serve their newly legitimate king.

Shakespeare gets their psychological conflicts perfectly right: the Duke of York, after having the attaint of his blood removed by a well-meaning Henry, doesn’t want to make trouble but allows his sons to persuade him and later there’s an attempt at conciliation in York’s allowing Henry to reign but not pass the crown to his son.

Legitimacy closes the gap between a perfect but cloud Cuckoo land of direct democracy and the real world. It plays a part in the interpretation of the American constitution: folk thinkers like to claim it has one “original” meaning, ignore the diversity of interpretations, and wind up yapping on a Web page and prophesying to the wind, because the legitimate American constitution is its black letter text plus all court cases.

But that which makes legitimacy, well, legitimate, is the superego’s check on the ego, which makes men willing to obey an election or a king, and these days the superego’s been replaced by advertisements (cf Zizek, The Metastases of Enjoyment). It stands to reason that in the 15th century, the superego had decayed as a result of Bolingbroke’s stunt and the natural result? Pure ego, in the form of an Italianate condottiere, Dickie Crookback.

And as one scarred by feminine atavism, I say that I’m tired of women making excuses for falling for liars and thugs and alienating my children based on mythical thinking. O thus, quoth Forrest, lay the gentle babes.

It stands to reason that Richard killed the princes in the absence of archeological evidence which today is impossible to come by. The motive was there and Richard’s behavior during the Wars of the Roses made it clear he was a thug.

But basically, American and British society is in the process of sacrificing the next generation in the destruction of public education, so in denying that Richard killed the Princes, we are in a twisted way getting ourselves off.

Note the common thread in conspiracy theories: the Princes were not killed or their murder can be offloaded onto Henry VII making it less meaningful and blackening the name of a relatively good king: Kennedy was not essentially the victim of a meaningless street crime: the puffs of smoke we saw on TV as the towers went down were planted explosions and not the souls and bodies of men and women: an honest man (Shakespeare) was really a liar.

And oh yes, the Jews died of cholera.

The mechanism of conspiracy theory relieves psychological pressure. The conspiracy theorist is Cain who says in response to his brother’s blood, am I my brother’s keeper? It’s a game people play to locate evil elsewhere than in their hearts.

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