Pretenders

I’ve long thought a book on the lives and times of deposed monarchs and royal families would be, well, fascinating. In a world full of (for better or worse) republics of various flavors, it would be interesting to see what some long-lost monarchs are up to. I would suspect that, for many of them, it would be no good.

I have often imagined the book would begin at a roulette wheel in Monte Carlo, spend more than its fair share of time dealing with the sundry disinherited royals of Europe, especially its major powers (like France, which has three pretenders — Bourbon, Orleans, and Buonaparte; or German, which doesn’t merely have Hohenzollerns but Wittlesbachs and assorted other minor royals). But the ex-Communist states of what Donald Rumsfeld once strangely called “New Europe” also have their ex-royals, and what of them?

Of course, the book wouldn’t stop there. Somewhere out there is the man who would be Sultan of the Ottomans, a presumptive King of Egypt, a bey or dey of Tunis, and a dispossessed Libyan royal family out there. The book could include a large section of a chapter on the Albanians — Muhammad Ali of Egypt and Zog (nee Ahmed Zogu) of Albania (the idea of Albania monarchs amuses me, I’m not sure why) — and a description of Hashemites from Makka to Jordan and Iraq (I have met the current Iraqi Hashemite pretender, and he is a man from another age, looking very much like Michael Cain’s character in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). There could even be a chapter on India and its caste of ruling princes and whatnot deposed at independence when the country became a republic. I understand that the man who would be emperor of Ethiopia has an office in Alexandria, Virginia, where he does whatever it is that he does.

Why stop there? China, Korea and Vietnam all have “emperors” out there somewhere. I am not as up on Asian or African monarchies as I would like to be — what are the constitutional or cultural statuses of, say, the King of Buganda or the various Sultans of Malaysia? (Does anyone care what the progeny of Jean Bedel Bokassa are up to these days?) That might be something the book could address. And while the Americas are awash in republics, this has not always been the case. Mexico, Haiti and Brazil were all “empires” once, with emperors and (I’m guessing) petty nobility. Is anyone out there who would claim those “thrones?”

I’m not sure if anyone would be interested in such a book, but if folks can write “histories” of salt or cod, then why not deposed royalty?