Darwin and the Wars of the Roses
|A friend emailed me this article on a new study to be published in a journal called The History of the Family, a study that takes a Darwinian evolutionary approach to studying the pattern of assassinations and executions among the English royalty between the death of Edward III and the reign of Elizabeth I; in other words, roughly the period of Shakespeare's two tetralogies (and if we add Henry VIII, of course, then he covered this whole period).|
Now, the piece is on the Discovery Channel website--not exactly the place I turn first for news--so who knows if it accurately represents the study itself, but if so, the study seems pretty ridiculous to me. The major finding, according to the article: "the killings followed consistent patterns that correspond to Charles Darwin's 'survival of the fittest' theory." The study establishes this conclusion in this way:
the murdering royals never sacrificed lineal relatives. Of the 47 killed, only five were not cousins. These included one brother, two uncles and two nephews.So, let's see: rival claimants to the throne tried to kill each other so they could actually get the throne; they tended to avoid killing their lineal relatives, since close family relationships were important to them, and so political divisions tended to cleave to dynastic divisions; those who reigned longer tended to kill more people; and they tended to kill people who were perceived as threats to them. Umm ... ?? What the researchers call "Darwinian evolution," you and I (and Shakespeare and everyone in his audience) know as "Renaissance politics."