Archive for November, 2012

“The only things known to go faster than ordinary light is monarchy, according to the philosopher Ly Tin Weedle. He reasoned like this: you can’t have more than one king, and tradition demands that there is no gap between kings, so when a king dies the succession must therefore pass to the heir *instantaneously*. Presumably, he said, there must be some elementary particles — kingons, or possibly queons — that do this job, but of course succession sometimes fails if, in mid-flight, they strike an anti-particle, or republicon. His ambitious plans to use his discovery to send messages, involving the careful torturing of a small king in order to modulate the signal, were never fully expanded because, at that point, the bar closed.”

Terry Pratchett, Mort

The kingon was very busy between the death of Edward IV on 9 April 1483 and Richard III’s acceptance of the crown on 26 June. First, the particle moved instantaneously from Edward IV to his son, Edward V. There it hovered, not quite settling in, until it found itself spinning from Edward to his uncle, Richard. And, given the story of the precontract and Edward being declared illegitimate, there’s reason to think that it had never been in Edward at all. Because Edward was never King. Edward V’s kingship was a bit like Schroedinger’s cat. It both existed and didn’t exist in the boy at the same time. The only way anyone was going to know for sure was when they opened the box. (Just to round things out, I might try and squeeze Heisinenberg’s uncertainty principle in here as well. I’m not promising, mind.)

Related to the kingon, but much rarer and far more mysterious, is the treason. Not only is it instantaneous and not particularly discriminatory, but it may be the only particle that can travel back in time.

Here’s my thinking:

Between 9 April and 26 June 1483, two states co-existed in potentia.

1. Edward V was King (had been since his father’s death and would be until his own death);
2. Edward V was not King (and had never been).

The kingon, therefore, was both in and not in young Edward and both in and not in Richard. It was probably rather nervous. I can’t say I blame it.

On 13 June, 1483, William Lord Hastings was summarily executed in the Tower of London, having been accused of treason, dragged out of the council chamber and beheaded. So, what had he done to deserve this? It’s a question with a lot of possible answers, the simplest of which, and the one I hear most often, is ‘he committed treason’. In order to come anywhere close to an answer, we need to find out what treason is.

Here’s the Oxford Dictionaries definition.

The important part here for us is ‘attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign’. Who was, at this time, recognised to be Edward V. So, if Hastings was guilty of treason, it had to be against Edward V.

I’m often told this isn’t necessarily the case. I’m told that attempting to kill or overthrow a Lord Protector (that is, at the time, Richard of Gloucester) is also treason. Which it is, because the Protector stands in for the King. But attempting to kill or overthrow a Lord Protector isn’t treason against the Protector, it’s still treason against the King. In 1454, when the duke of Exeter led a revolt attempting to have himself replace the duke of York as Protector of England during Henry VI’s first illness, he was arrested and locked up in a castle awaiting trial. Had Henry not recovered and, almost immediately, released Exeter, he might have been tried on charges of treason. Against Henry VI for messing with his stand in, the Lord Protector. He would not have been tried on charges of treason against the Protector himself. This is an important point…

…because Hastings is accused of plotting against Richard in order to ensure that Edward V was crowned and took his throne. As no-one in England took precedence over the King, any duty of loyalty Hastings owed Richard (or anyone) was soundly (and royally) trumped by the expectation of loyalty to Edward V. However you slice it, Hastings simply cannot be guilty of treason.

That’s all pretty straightforward. Except…

By 26 June, Edward was no longer King (and had never been king) and Richard was (and had been since his brother’s death). The kingon that had moved instantaneously from Edward IV to Edward V had now, by some strange twist of physics, moved instantaneously from Edward IV to Richard III. And not on 26 June but on 9 April. Which means that Hastings, despite him having been acting on behalf of the King, Edward V, had been acting against the King, Richard III. Only no-one knew that at the time. And, at the time, he wasn’t.

If you know where you are but not how fast you’re moving, then you’re doing better than me.

So, the treason that didn’t hit Hastings on 13 June (on 13 June), did hit him on 13 June (on 26 June). It travelled back in time.

If you’re planning a visit to Cern any time in the near future, I’d watch out for treasons. You might have been hit by one three days before you arrived.