Eye of Providence
The Eye of Providence can be seen on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, seen here on the US $1 bill.Wikipedia

Many of the world's most famous and powerful figures as well as several powerful bankers have links with The Illuminati, a shadowy cult which has been around for 240 years, it has been claimed.

In fact, some conspiracy theorists believe the real reason Beyoncé's sister Solange kicked Jay Z in the unmentionables in a New York lift was because of their membership of the Illuminati – the world's most famous secret society. They also claim Jay Z and Beyonce named their child Blue Ivy because it's short for "Born Living Under Evil: Illuminati's Very Youngest".

Although there appears to be no evidence that Beyonce, Solange or Jay Z are actually members of a secret sect that runs the world, conspiracy theorists point out that they often make the pyramid "sign" and draw eyes on their hands. As students of pulp novels and dodgy movies will tell you, the "Eye of Providence", comprising an eye within a pyramid – found most famously on the $1 note – is a sure sign that the Illuminati are watching.

Solange Knowles
Did Solange really kick Jay Z in a row about the Illuminati?

Conspiracy theorists such as David Icke also cite the "fact" that modestly talented musicians like Rihanna become so successful in the first place as "proof" of the power of the Illuminati. "Why do some artists who have a certain amount of talent – and some not very much – why do they get picked up by the corporations and become these big influences on young people, and other people?" queries Icke. "It is because they are 'chosen'."

Icke, a former goalkeeper and BBC sports presenter, achieved notoriety in 1991 when he claimed to be the Son of God on a BBC chat show. He now writes books and lectures around the world about his beliefs, including his insistence that the Queen and other members of the Royal Family are shape-shifting reptilians.

Illuminati-watchers also claim the group, established by Bavarian philosopher Adam Weishaupt in 1776, instigated the French Revolution, was behind the assassination of John F Kennedy and the deaths of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Bob Marley. Its aim - allegedly - is to establish a New World Order – an authoritarian socialist government.

Despite the fact there is no evidence that a shadowy organisation is secretly running the world, the idea has been incorporated into popular fiction in books by Dan Brown, Robert Anton Wilson and Umberto Eco.

Specialist in conspiracy theories Dr Mark Wood of the University of Winchester in the US says many people choose to believe in them as religion declines. "In centuries past, people were mostly fairly religious – they would see the guiding hand of God behind what happens in the world. Now that religion is on the decline, conspiracy theories – which are on the rise – may be a sort of replacement."