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10 Royal Imposters Who Nearly Got Away with It

He great suitor is a fascinating television series based on a Japanese man who uses lies and fantasies to sneak into political power. However, there have been some actual royal suitors throughout history.

Here are ten real impostors who almost got away with it.

Related: The 10 Royals Who Were Absolutely Crazy

10 Princess Margaret of Norway

Princess Margaret of Norway was a real person, but unlike this impostor, she died at a young age. The real Margaret was born in Norway in 1283 and was betrothed to King Edward II of Scotland at the young age of six. Unfortunately for poor Margaret, when she set sail for Scotland, she fell ill and the ship had to dock in the Orkney Islands, where she died before she could become queen.

That’s where the fake princess Margaret comes in. About ten years after the death of the real Princess Margaret, a woman sailed to Norway from Germany and claimed that she was the true heir to the Norwegian throne. According to her, she had not died on the Orkney Islands at all, but had instead landed in Germany.

Now he was back, demanding support and claiming his rights not only to the Norwegian throne but also to the Scottish throne. All of this despite the fact that she was some 30 years older than the real Princess Margaret if she were still alive!

Of course, the king couldn’t afford any of this, so he sent troops to capture the woman and her husband, whom she claimed to have married in Germany. Her husband was promptly beheaded and the impostor was burned at the stake.[1]

9 caraboo princess

Unlike Princess Margaret, Princess Caraboo did not attempt to take the place of an actual royalty. Instead, she just made up a position for herself.

Princess Caraboo appeared around Easter 1817 in Gloucestershire, England, speaking a strange language and carrying some meager belongings and a counterfeit coin. She used mime to get herself some food and a place to stay at a local inn, and the only word the locals could make out of her was “Nanas”, which is Indonesian for “pineapple”.

Not long after arriving in Gloucestershire and after causing quite a stir by trying to find out who she was, the woman was introduced to a Portuguese sailor who spoke her language. She related her story: she was Princess Caraboo of Javasu in Indonesia, who had been captured by pirates and managed to escape by jumping off the boat near Gloucestershire.

Learning that she was a “princess”, the woman quickly entered high society, where she became quite famous. Unfortunately for her, her fame meant that her photo appeared in a newspaper, leading a local landlady to recognize her as someone she had taken in six months earlier.

As the landlady stepped forward to confront her, Princess Caraboo was suddenly able to speak English, revealing that she was actually a shoemaker’s daughter from Devon named Mary Willcocks. She ran out of jig, and Princess Caraboo dropped her new name and she went to the Americas before returning years later to England, where she died without warning.[2]

8 Vasily Filatov

Although Anastasia Romanov is the most famous Romanov to have disappeared, her younger brother, Alexei, has also not been identified. Although historians believe that her bodies were simply destroyed after the Romanov murders, many believe that these two young royals are still around.

It is this constant belief that allowed Vasily Filatov to make his way in European high society. Vasily Filatov lived most of his life as a geography teacher in a town called Astrakhan in Russia.

However, just before he died, Vasily suddenly began to tell fantastic stories from his life. According to him, he was actually Alexei Romanov and had been rescued by soldiers in the palace during the fateful executions of 1918.

Unfortunately for Vasily, he was never able to claim his “inheritance”. He died later that year in 1988, leaving only his family to swear by his claims and attempt to restore the Romanov fortune in his name. Of course, no one believed them, and Vasily simply went down in history as another of the many Romanov impostors.[3]

7 Bardiya

Bardiya is a little-known imposter and one of the oldest royal impersonators in existence. Historians aren’t exactly sure when Bardiya was born, but what we do know is that he claimed to be the son of Cyrus the Great in Persia. And according to him, that meant that he had the right to claim the throne of Persia.

Bardiya took the throne and ruled for eight months before things began to question themselves. Darius, another son of Cyrus, began to claim that Bardiya was actually a Persian magician named Gaumata and that he was not related to Cyrus at all. In fact, the real Bardiya had already been killed by his brother Cambyses II!

With this story in hand, Darius and several other nobles who were in on the forgery murdered the impostor, and Darius took the throne. Today, historians aren’t sure who was the liar: Bardiyah or Darius, who just wanted an excuse to be king.[4]

6 princess van wolway

Princess van Wolway, whose real name is Mary Carleton, was born in England but fled to Cologne after being imprisoned for being married to two men at the same time. In Germany, she became the mistress of a wealthy German nobleman, but she left for fear of being caught in his lies, with gifts and money he gave her. She then returned to London in 1663 as a self-proclaimed German princess. She claimed to be the daughter of the fictional Henry van Wolway, Lord of Holmstein, and she said that she had left her home after becoming entangled with an abusive lover.

Arriving in England, Princess van Wolway used her wiles to seduce a renowned surgeon, though their marriage did not last long. An anonymous letter exposed her as a thief who married men for her money, and Mary’s marriage ended.

Although she did not face any legal trouble for her marriage as Princess van Wolway, her later charades did. She went on to live a life of crime, marrying wealthy men under false identities until one day, the law caught her for robbery in 1673. She was sentenced to death and hanged that same year.[5]

5 Helga de la Brache

Helga de la Brache was a Swedish con artist who appeared after the exiled King Gustaf IV divorced his wife, Frederick of Baden, in 1812. With the king exiled and disgraced, Helga de la Brache had the perfect ploy to fool the innocent peasants of Sweden.

In 1850, Helga de la Brache began to claim that she was the heir to the king, who had remarried his divorced wife in a convent during his exile. According to her, she was born in Lausanne and was raised in secret by her aunt, Princess Sophia Albertina of Sweden. She was later admitted to an asylum to keep her identity a secret.

After escaping from the workhouse, he began to petition the king for an annual allowance. His pension was granted until 1876, when suspicions about his identity prompted a trial. The trial revealed that Helga was not Helga at all. Instead, she was Aurora Florentina Magnusson, the daughter of a poor widower. Helga was stripped of her pension and fined, but she managed to escape more serious repercussions.[6]

4 Anna Ekelof

Anna Ekelöf was another Swedish imposter, although her story differs a bit from the norm. Instead of pretending to be a princess, Anna Ekelöf preferred to pose as a man.

His first fraud was in 1765 when he dressed in men’s clothing and impersonated Count Carl Ekeblad. Ekelöf got away with crime from her for a while, living a life of debauchery and drinking from her until she was caught.

Once caught up in that identity fraud, Anna decided to try it from a different angle. Once again, she dressed in men’s clothing, this time posing as the Crown Prince of Sweden. According to her, she was forced into exile after planning uprisings against the Swedish throne.

Anna Ekelöf managed to get away with this second fraud until 1765, when she was caught posing as royalty and trying to cross the Norwegian border. However, she escaped from custody before her true identity could be revealed. She then seemed to have kept a low profile for the rest of her life.[7]

3 lambert simnel

Lambert Simnel was an impostor who tried to claim the English throne in 1487. According to him, he was actually Edward Plantagenet, the 17th Earl of Warwick and a direct competitor of Henry VII.

Lambert grew up under the care of a priest named Richard Simon, who noted that the boy bore an uncanny resemblance to the late Edward IV. Lambert jumped on the comparison and quickly claimed to be the nephew of Edward IV, the Earl of Warwick, who was currently imprisoned in the Tower. According to Lambert, he had escaped from the Tower and was now claiming his right to rule.

Lambert quickly gained the support of the people in both England and Ireland and was crowned King Edward VI in Dublin in 1487. When King Henry VII heard of all this, he was not impressed. He ordered the real Earl of Warwick to be paraded through London to show the impostor’s true colors.

However, this plan did not work and King Henry VII ended up going to war over the issue against a group of Lambert’s Irish supporters. The king won the wars and eventually forgave Lambert, employing him as a turner in his castle, where he seems to have lived the rest of his days.[8]

2 perkin warbeck

Perkin Warbeck was another English pretender who lived in the 15th century. Like Lambert, Perkin claimed to be related to Edward IV, this time as his son Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, who had disappeared in the Tower of London.

Perkin began to gain some support from groups in both England and Scotland. Of course, King Henry VII couldn’t afford that and denounced Perkin, eventually arresting him and confining him to the Tower of London.

Despite this dramatic capture, King Henry VII initially let Warbeck live at royal court after he admitted he was an impostor. However, after an escape attempt eight months later, the fed up King sentenced Warbeck to death by hanging.[9]

1 Kolup tile

Tile Kolup is an impostor who claims to be Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II. In 1250 Ferdinand II died, although rumors circulated that it was actually a hoax.

Seizing the opportunity to claim fame, Tile began branding himself emperor in 1284. His claims won him the support of the people in Neuss, Germany. Using forged documents, Tile began holding court sessions in Wetzlar as emperor.

However, the charade did not last long. In 1285, King Rudolf of Habsburg captured the impostor and exposed him for what he really was: a fraud. Tile was then burned at the stake for heresy to pay for his crimes.[10]

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