When former U.S. President Donald Trump was arrested this week on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree the world took note. A first in the United States, there have been precisely 299 heads of government including presidents, emperors and prime ministers around the world who’ve been charged, convicted, overthrown, incarcerated and assasinated by their own people.
Forget about emperors in Rome, China and Russia, or the kings of England and France. We’re talking about modern day heads of state, who, like their medieval forebears, are being charged with corruption and incarcerated in modern republics.
The president of South Korea, for example, Park Geun-hye was sentenced to 25 years in prison for corruption in 2018, and Myanmar's de facto prime minister/Noble Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is serving 26 years via a military coup. Even French president Nicolas Sarkozy was sentenced to prison for corruption, and every single president in Peru but one between 1985 - 2018 has been arrested.
Theres a corollary between heads of government who’re challenged by their people. They increase in number with their populations. North America (8), Oceana (11), South America (46), Africa (56), Europe (88), Asia (90).
Only Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva — who returned to the presidency in January 2023 after spending 580 days in jail — turned the experience into a crusade, and if you’re betting on Trump or DeSantis in the 2024 United States presidential election read on. Since the indictment last week, a surge of $7 million in campaign contributions has flowed into Trump’s Super PAC “Save America” and $30 million into the Ron DeSantis Super PAC “Never Back Down,” demonstrating that for both the declared and prospective candidates martyrdom pays on both sides of an accusation.
The Death of Kings
De facto leaders like Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi being hunted by the National Transitional Council is a rather gruesome version of revolution. A graphic video of his last moments shows the NTC beating and stabbing him in the anus. The First Libyan Civil War and assassination of Col. Gaddafi joined 30 civil wars unfolding around the world in 2011. *The U.S. military was directly and deeply entrenched in several; the U.S. government was financially assisting most.
Following the events of 9-11, Iraq’s president Saddam Hussein was hunted and executed in 2006 by hanging on Eid al-Adha (The Feast of Sacrifice) by the Iraqi Special Tribunal, a puppet government of the United States. At the 20 year anniversary of the Iraq War, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq served to ignite a decade of civil war, 300,000 Iraqi fatalities, and no evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
A recent gaffe at the George W. Bush Presidential Library in 2022 has renewed a war criminal debate for manipulating intelligence. Speaking to the Russo-Ukrainian War Bush said, ”The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq—I mean of Ukraine.”
From Pakistan to the president to Taiwan and beyond, a combined 146 heads of government have been indicted on account of bribery, corruption, treason and crimes against humanity since 2000. Russia’s Vladimir Putin being the most recent, the ICC issued a warrant for his arrest on March 17, yet another first for a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
It all comes as a warning to Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen who met with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy this week in California.
The One China principle, a PRC doctrine claiming sovereignty over Taiwan, vowed reprisals on Thursday. “The U.S. is on a wrong a dangerous road,” said the PRC’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “China will take resolute and forceful measures to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” While China sent warships and dozens of fighter jets toward Taiwan on Saturday, its worth a mention that the world’s leading producer of advanced computer chips, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, is also expanding a $40 billion investment in its US production hub in Phoenix. President Joe Biden exclaimed, “American manufacturing is back, folks!”
Argentina's vice president and former president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, though convicted of fraud remains in office and out of prison because of immunity, whilst Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernández, has been extradited to the U.S. and awaits trial for drug trafficking. Even Columbian former president Álvaro Uribe went from kingmaker to detainee when the Supreme Court ordered him to be placed under house arrest for bribery and corruption.
While the vast majority of the 299 Club all went quietly, only Brazil’s incarcerated Lula made a comeback. In fact, the vast majority of the world’s heads of government were brought down by a network of operatives within their own governments. While 299 to 1 aren’t great odds for executive survival, Hillary Clinton, while entrenched in U.S. President Bill Clinton’s impeachment scandal observed, “You know what the problem with politicians is today? No pain threshold.”
All the King’s Men
In the twilight of Elizabeth I’s reign, her people began to believe England needed a new king. Pope Pius V had issued a papal bull in 1570 (Regnans in Excelsis) formally excommunicating the Protestant queen, declaring her a heretic, absolving her subjects of any allegiance, and ultimately igniting coups to challenge the English crown.
English religious and political struggles of the late 16th-century examine incendiary plots to kill kings in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Macbeth, King Lear, Hamlet, Henry IV and The Tempest.
When Pope Gregory XIII came to power in 1572, he urged all Catholics in England “to overthrow and kill the queen as a heretical tyrant," but it was Shakespeare that drove the nascent historical narrative of England as a fundamentally Protestant nation threatened by international Catholicism.
While Richard II, a weak monarch succeeded by a stronger leader, was playing at the Globe Theatre in London, there were four main attempts to remove Elizabeth I from the English throne and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots. While Elizabeth I and her paramour Robert Dudley were discouraged from marrying, Romeo and Juliette explored the cruelties that oft separate young lovers.
However, only nobles could sponsor the plays which rendered theatre, therefore, merely a media tool to project the crown’s message and glory.
All the World’s a Stage
Was William Shakespeare a pen name for Sir Francis Bacon or Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford? More than 80 authorship candidates have been proposed to explain how a commoner of obscurity with no university education is compatible with the inner workings of court life, poetic eminence, political genius.
Considered a fringe theory by most literary historians, nearly all academics believe that the author referred to as “Shakespeare" was the same William Shakespeare born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564. In 1603, he became an actor and shareholder in “The King's Men,” a playing company who owned the Globe Theatre.
A royal patent of May 19, 1603 cites nine names (William Shakespeare is second) as The King’s Men of the Globe Theatre — all of whom were simultaneously made Grooms of the Bedchamber. Grooms of the Bedchamber include the king’s closest intimates and advisors such as Groom of the Household (money); Groom of the Privy Chamber (private apartment); even Groom of the Stole (toilet). The King's Men, the players under royal patronage, were officially "Grooms extraordinary of the Chamber,” effectively playwrights and actors to the Globe Theatre’s 3000 spectators every mid-afternoon around 3:00pm, and the eyes and ears of the inner workings of the palace by night.
Shakespeare only ever refers to crude religious or political resistance, tyrannicide and regicide. Where he shone was to summons our imagination to court life, to summarize the range of human emotions which climax in love, and admonish us to scrutinize the establishments and institutions of men to that end.