Modern Royal Pretenders
Around the World
By Joseph A. Crisp II
    Royal pretenders and crown claimants are not a new thing, however, as royalty and monarchy are driven to the periphery of society, it has become much easier for frauds and false-claimants to make themselves accepted. Particularly with royal houses that have been out of power for many centuries, or for those outside of Europe, particularly in Africa and Asia, it becomes much easier for a phony pretender to pass themselves off as the genuine article because knowledge of such royal houses is so limited, even among monarchist circles. In some cases, these people are mostly out for money, in others it is simply a desire for recognition and adulation, and in probably the most cases they involve the thirst by so many for titles of nobility and orders of knighthood to feed their own vanity. Each one who receives such an "honor" then become (usually) staunch defenders of the claimant, no matter how ridiculous they may be, because if they are discredited, the grounds for the title before their name or the medal on their chest is also discredited.
    Perhaps the most prominent of the modern false pretenders is Michel Lafosse who calls himself the "Duke of Albany". He claims to be the direct descendant of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, better known as "Bonnie Prince Charlie" and ultimately "King Charles III" to his Jacobite supporters, and thus the true and legitimate King of Great Britain. Based out of Belgium, which has become a sort of Mecca for fake royals and fake orders of chivalry, Mr. Lafosse has even gotten as far as to appear on television to speak about "his family" referring to the Stuart royals. However, even the most die-hard Jacobites ignore his claim. As these people know, the Stuart dynasty died out in the male line with the death of Prince Henry, Cardinal York as Bonnie Prince Charlie had no legitimate male heirs. Lafosse claims that Pope Pius VI annulled the marriage between Charles and Louise of Stolberg-Gedern, secretly of course, and then married (in secret again) one Marguerite O'Dea d'Audibert de Lussan, Comtesse de Massillan from which he claims descent. The holes in his story are many. He has produced no evidence for any of this, there are no Church records of such an annulment or marriage and indeed the reasons given for the alleged annulment meet none of the requirements which the Catholic Church would demand to even consider declaring a marriage invalid. Of course, none of this has stopped Lafosse from putting himself forward wherever possible, granting fake titles of nobility to his friends and relatives and exchanging fake orders of knighthood with other frauds.
    Another particularly "colorful" and grandiose claimant is "His Imperial and Royal Highness Prince Theodore IX Lascaris Comnenus" who claims to be the heir to the Byzantine Empire and likewise asserts that the Americas are the "New Byzantium". He resides in Venezuela and has even claimed that Christopher Columbus was a Byzantine Prince. Like most fake pretenders he is also head of a number of fake orders of knighthood, namely the Order of St Constantine the Great and the Order of St Helen. His busy website includes everything from comparisons of the USA to the East Roman Empire, assertions that Byzantium was the "cornerstone" of Western Civilization and even a long winded condemnation of the film "The Passion of the Christ". Of course, Byzantine claimants are nothing new. The Eastern Empire was so chaotic and faction-ridden that the term "Byzantine" itself came to be synonymous with intrigue and conspiracy. So diverse are the dynasties of Byzantium, one has even fallen to the Hapsburg Archduke Otto of Austria, though naturally he ignores the historical irony. In instances like this of course, especially with empires so long in their grave as the Byzantine, false pretenders abound.
    The United States itself has not been immune from attracting eccentric royal claimants. For many years there existed, in sunny California no less, one paralegal named Marc Eric Ely-Chaitlin who claimed to be, Chieftain of the Americans, Regent and sometimes King of the "Kingdom of the United States of America" as well as "Primate of the Universal Life Church of America". The Universal Life Church being most known for having no doctrines and ordaining anyone who applies via internet as a minister of their church. He gave out noble titles to all supporters and pushed for his people to set up "household principalities" belonging to his American kingdom. Well versed in common law, and supposedly quite a do-gooder in Orange County, "King Marc" claimed to be a descendant of the House of David he based his claim on a bizarre belief that the British Crown had also been a separate "American Crown" and that at the time King George III recognized the independence of the United States, this USA monarchy went into a state of interregnum until he claimed it, based on his supposed Davidic ancestry. Almost totally unknown outside of his internet dominions and those "household principalities" which submitted to him. According to his website, Mr. Ely-Chaitlin died in 2001, though the eulogy posted, given by his sister, makes no mention of his claim to be chief, regent and monarch of the United States of America.
    Asia has also become home to quite a few false royal pretenders, aided by the fact that most Westerners know so little about Asian monarchies and because most had immensely large families which tend to discourage serious genealogical research. Even the oldest and grandest of all Asian monarchies, the Empire of China, has at least one persistent fake pretender by the name of Lester D. K. Chow, a Chinese American from Hawaii who has spent most of his time writing letters to U.S. and foreign government officials trying to obtain money as well as posting web pages asking for donations to pay the legal bills he has earned due to "persecution" by the authorities. He has claimed to be an expert on numerous topics, most seemingly in the hope someone will hire him to give "seminars" on one of these subjects, as well as being in a leadership position of the Chow Clan Association, which may or may not actually exist. He claims to be a cousin of the last Emperor of China, Henry Puyi, but also claims to be the sole spokesman for the "true" ruler of China, the impoverished Chow "Emperor Yao Sui" whose real name and whereabouts he refuses to give. However, the mysterious emperor may not exist at all. In the letters to the U.S. government, begging money on behalf of this exiled head of state, Mr. Chow sometimes seems to forget his lie and begins referring to himself rather than the "Emperor" on whose behalf he is supposedly writing. Most ironically, this alleged champion of Chinese monarchism, and the last "native" Chinese dynasty is not a Confucian but claims to be a Protestant Christian, though from the look of it, more out of a desire to get a hand in the offering plate.
   Another pretender who has drifted around England for some time, claiming a throne from Asia, is the so-called "Crown Prince Shwebomin of Burma" who also once tried his hand at the fake orders game. He claims to have been born at Magwe, always pointing out that this was "near Bagan, the former capital of first Burmese empire" as if this itself should be significant. From his own claims, which he has consistently refused to document or prove in any way, he clearly has very little comprehension of Burmese traditions at all. According to him, he is a distant relative of the Bagan line of Burmese kings through Sinbyushin, Lord of the White Elephant, of the Konebaung dynasty in the maternal line. The problem is, in Asia, being of a maternal line counted for absolutely nothing and no rights could be inherited, however, even had he claimed to come from a male line, he is far too distant to be considered royalty and has produced no evidence for any of this. His very name "Shwebomin" is no name at all, but literally means "Prince of Shwebo" which was never a Burmese title anyway. If it did, the correct title would be "Shwebominthargyi". However, his claim to be the legitimate crown prince is patently absurd considering that Burma had no rules of succession, it was survival of the fittest, and the last King of Burma, Thibaw, outlived all of his sons and died in India after being deposed by the British in 1885. The only "evidence" for his claims that Shwebomin has ever produced are repetitions of his claim by others who believed him, accepted his status, and naturally want to believe they met a "real" crown prince rather than being fooled by a rather bad pretender.
   One of Shwebomin's allies in the fake royal camp is the Vietnamese-American Nguyen Buu Chanh, who has successively called himself "Sir Buu Chanh" "His Imperial Highness Prince Kien Hoa Buu Chanh" and finally "His Imperial Highness Prince-Regent Nguyen-Phuc Buu Chanh, Duke of Kien Hoa and Grand Master of the Order of the Dragon of Annam". The biggest problem with the claims of Buu Chanh is that they change so rapidly, at one point he even claimed to be descended from all 13 Nguyen emperors of Vietnam, which would have been quite a genealogical miracle. Usually, he sticks to claiming descent from the Duke of Kien Hoa, who was the 71st son of the Vietnamese Emperor Minh Mang. The trouble with claiming special status from this, even if true (and he's provided no evidence of it) is that Minh Mang had a huge harem and produced over a hundred children, meaning his great-great-grandchildren and so on today would constitute a small army. Because of this very tradition, titles were not inherited in Vietnam beyond the second generation. Buu Chanh also claims that the late Emperor Bao Dai delegated his imperial authority to the elderly Prince Buu Phuc in France, who in turn appointed Buu Chanh regent of the dynasty. However, he has produced no evidence of this, only conflicting stories and claims, and has had no contact or endorsement by the Emperor's heir Crown Prince Bao Long, who lives modestly in France.
   These are, it is sad to say, only some of the vast number of fake royals, fake nobles and fraudulent orders of chivalry that exist in the world. The Byzantine Empire may have produced the greatest number, though the most famous are probably those women who claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia. Some, like the famous "Emperor Norton" of San Francisco, California were simply loveable lunatics, while others have been more successful with their deceptions.  In the days when monarchies were the rule rather than the exception, every country would have had a legitimate Royal Family which would have dealt seriously with such false pretenders, but today that is not the case, as many in society today view monarchy in general, legitimate or not, as an absurd concept to begin with. This is also why all truly devoted monarchists should take care to research and expose these frauds as soon as possible before they can do further damage to the cause of traditional authority that we believe in.
   Nor has the world's most preeminent spiritual monarchy remained free of false pretenders. After a long period of relative peace and quiet, the Catholic Church of today is once again opposed by a long list of anti-popes, aided by the emergence of mass media, particularly the internet, most of whom would remain completely anonymous without it (the same of which can be said for most royal pretenders above). The list of anti-popes now claiming the throne of Peter is an extensive one and includes such ridiculous figures as Michel Colin, the self-proclaimed "Pope Clement XV" from 1950-1968 from Canada, who was succeeded by Jean-Gaston Tremblay as "Pope Gregory XVII". From 1973 to 1984 Italy was home to anti-pope "Emmanuel", actual name Gino Frediani as well as Valeriano Vestini who proclaimed himself "Pope Valeriano" in Chieti in 1990. A particularly "colorful" anti-pope was Clemente Dominguez y Gomez who claimed that Christ had mystically crowned him to succeed Pope Paul VI in 1978 as "Pope Gregory XVII". Holding power over his "Palmarian Catholic Church" based on ordinations made by the notorious embarrassment and later excommunicate Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc, formerly of South Vietnam. This anti-pope did however lose some of his meager following when it was found, and he later admitted, that he was having sexual relations with a number of his priests and religious. He died in 2005 and was succeeded by anti-pope "Peter II", actual name Manuel Alonso Corral. The Palmarian Church also recruited in other countries, even Great Britain, but this did not stop the U.K. from having its own anti-pope in the person of Victor Von Pentz who proclaimed himself "Pope Linus II" in 1994. The United States has also produced at least three anti-popes so far. The first was Francis Konrad Schuckardt who took the name of "Pope Hadrian VII" in Washington state in 1984, whose antics included such things as forcing his people to walk out of church backwards. Later, in 1990 came David Bawden of Kansas who made himself "Pope Michael" after being "elected" by six people, including his own parents, in the family store in Belvue, Kansas. He now holds papal court in the attic of his parent's farm house. Unlike most others, no priests of any variety were present for this, Bawden had never been a priest and has never even pretended to say a mass though in his younger years he did attend two seminaries run by the Society of St Pius X. In 1998, in Montana, Lucian Pulvermacher, another former SSPX adherent, proclaimed himself "Pope Pius XIII", claiming to be the successor of Pope Pius XII and placing himself at the head of the so-called "true Catholic Church". He based his claim on the theory that Blessed Pope John XXIII was secretly a Freemason, and so was illegitimate and thus since the death of Pius XII the Holy See has been vacant, that is of course until he came along. He ordained one Gordon Bateman of Australia a bishop, so that "Bishop Bateman" could then in turn ordain him one as well. However, Bateman later left the group when it was found that Pulvermacher had practiced divination since his days in the seminary and had never ceased to do so. Bateman has now formed yet another group looking for another "true" pope. Finally there is Maurice Achieri of Le Perreux of France who proclaimed himself pope in 1995 also with the name "Peter II".
Sources:
http://www.chivalricorders.org/royalty/fantasy/stuart.htm
http://www.jacobite.ca/essays/lafosse.htm
http://www.new-byzantium.org/index.html
http://www.worldfreeinternet.net/monarchy/page1.shtml
http://chinatownhawaii.com/himyaosui/
http://chinatownhawaii.com/himyaosui/info.txt
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shwebomin
http://www.4dw.net/royalark/Burma/burma.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-pope
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