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The World: The Keepers of the Flame

4 minute read

They might be called the keepers of the flame. A dozen in all, they are the dispossessed descendants of Europe’s royal families—and they all have legitimate claims to thrones from Russia to Portugal. Theirs is not always an impossible dream—as witness the restoration of Juan Carlos to the Spanish throne last year.

The most recently unemployed monarch is Greece’s King Constantino II, 35, who was ousted by a military junta in 1967. He lives quietly not far from London with his Queen, ‘the former Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark, and their three children.

Four royal houses were ousted by postwar Communist regimes. The claimants:

Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia, 30, who works as an insurance executive in Rio de Janeiro; he is married to Maria da Gloria, great-great-granddaughter of Brazil’s last emperor, and is known as Alexander Karageorgevitch; they have no children.

King Michael of Rumania, 55, an account executive for a U.S. brokerage firm. He lives outside Geneva with his wife, the former Anne of Bourbon-Parma, their five daughters and his prize possession, a World War II Jeep.

King Simeon II of Bulgaria, 38, who considers his job that of “keeping the Bulgarian spirit alive”—notably in the U.S., where there are 50,000 of his fellow-countrymen. He is married to a Spanish aristocrat and lives in Madrid with their four sons and a daughter.

King Leka of Albania, 37, is the tallest (6 ft. 8 in.) of the monarchs-in-waiting and comes from the youngest royal house (founded 1928). Married to the daughter of an Australian sheep farmer, he lives near Madrid. He is a friend of Ronald Reagan (to whom he once gave a baby elephant) and keeps in touch with the 3 million Albanians in exile.

The oldest royal victim of Communist rule is Grand Duke Vladimir Cyrilovitch, 58, cousin of the last czar and claimant to the throne of Russia. Born in exile, he has never set foot in Russia, but travels widely, visiting Russian émigré colonies. He is married to Grand Duchess Leonida, whose family ruled Georgia for 13 centuries. They live in Madrid and have one daughter.

King Umberto II of Italy, 72, was ousted by popular vote after World War II and a reign of 34 days; he lives in Portugal. His son Vittorio Emanuele, 39, is a successful businessman based in Switzerland; he is married to a commoner, Marina Doria, and has two children.

King Duarte II of Portugal, 68, whose family was deposed in 1910, still lives outside Lisbon but has no ambition to reign. His bachelor son, the Prince of Beira, 30, a businessman who also lives in Portugal, would be the heir if his former subjects voted to restore the Braganza dynasty.

Archduke Otto, 63, is the son of Emperor Charles I of Austria (also King Charles IV of Hungary), who lost his thrones after World War I. The Archduke, who prefers to be known as Dr. Habsburg, is an author and lecturer on the cause of European unification. He lives outside Munich; he and his wife, German Princess Regina, have seven heirs. Also throneless as a result of World War I is Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, 68, grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II. He has a doctorate in philosophy and occupies himself with administering the family fortunes. His late wife, the Grand Duchess Kira, was the sister of Vladimir; he has seven children and lives near Bremen.

There are two claimants to the throne of France. Prince Henri, Count of Paris, 67, is descended from the ancient royal line of Bourbon-Orleans; he is married to Princess Isabelle of Orleans and Braganza. A friend of Charles de Gaulle, who once described the count as “my successor,” he has four living sons (one died as a soldier in Algeria) and six daughters. His rival is Prince Louis Napoleon, 62, a World War II Resistance hero who is not only a Bonaparte, but is also descended from France’s royal line. A wealthy businessman, he is married to Alix de Foresta; they have two sons and two daughters. Both French royals live in France. Louis says that he is “available” if his country calls. As indeed would be the eleven other royal claimants or their heirs.

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