By Charlie Jones
We’re just moments away from the United States’ Presidential Election and the question on everyone’s mind is: “What crazy-shit, Obama-related birther nonsense will we have to suffer through before all of this is over?” We’ve already seen Donald Trump and the dead ferret masquerading as his hairpiece go on TV and stop very short of screaming into the camera, “Obama was born in Kenya! Obama’s a secret Muslim! I still matter, dammit!” Then there was the hilarious “Obama birth video” which seems to suggest that the President of the United States was born with gigantism but then got better somehow.
The saddest part of all of this is that accusing famous people of not being born in this or that place (and thus being the Devil) isn’t a new thing. Back in the 1900s Walt Disney himself had to listen to accusations that he was, in fact, born in Spain. The Disney Birther Conspiracy has been told and retold countless times but it usually all comes down to a single woman in the Spanish town of Mojacar (or Mojacca) getting pregnant and not having a husband to pin it on (and thus being the Devil). Her baby was then supposedly adopted by the Disneys and brought to the states.
There are many reasons for why this rumor even started in the first place, most of them racist ones seeing as Walt’s parents were of Irish and German stock (and thus the Devil…s). Plus, there was the fact that Walt Disney was never issued a birth certificate, which was actually very common back then.
The century-old Disney illegitimate birth issue was, of course, unsubstantiated in every possible way (also “very stupid”) but even that wasn’t the first birther conspiracy concerning a powerful and influential figure. For that we must go way back to 1377 and the rumors surrounding John the Gaunt.
Back during the second half of the fourteenth century, Johnny boy up there was enjoying a stint as the first century Duke of Lancaster. All in all he had a good life, mainly because his dad was Edward III, king of jolly-old England, but there was one thing that proved a constant thorn in his backside. Namely, that some people were going around and calling his mom a child-murdering psycho.
Rumors—most likely started by a banished bishop—claimed that John the Gaunt was not the rightful son of the king because he was in reality the son of a common laborer or butcher or porter (and thus the Devil). The story claimed that in 1340 John’s mother, Queen Philippa of Hainault, actually gave birth to a daughter but then accidentally suffocated her (it happens). But then, because she was kind of ashamed of the whole infanticide thing, she stole the son of a commoner, smuggled him into her chambers and pretended it was her own. Apparently abducting other people’s babies was something the fourteenth century did not particularly frown upon, as long as you were rich and powerful.
- What a beautiful son you have there.
- RUN, BOBBY, RUN!
The originator of the rumors, Bishop William of Wykeham, claimed that the Queen confessed all of this to him on her deathbed. But of course the whole sordid affair was complete bullshit started because John the Gaunt proved a pretty unpopular ruler. Still, where in the modern world the most he would have to worry about is a scathing editorial in the local paper, in the 1370s he had to hear allegations that his mom was a hysteric baby murderer only a couple of years after her death. Kind of a dickhead move there, William.
We all know what’s under that hat.