Man Who Would Be King

08 13 otto witteToday I give you Otto Witte, who is described in wikipedia as a German acrobat and fantasist. Today’s post is based entirely on the testimony of Otto Witte, so it’s unlikely to be true. Let’s not let that get in the way of a good story though.

Otto was crowned King of Albania on August 13th 1913 and reigned for five days. In 1913 Albania broke away from the Ottoman Empire and it is certainly true that they were looking for a king for their new country. At that time Otto was travelling the Balkans with a carnival troupe along with a friend, a sword swallower named Max Schlepsig. Otto himself was performing as a fire-eater. It came to their attention that the Albanians were about to offer the throne to Prince Halim Eddine of Turkey. Otto bore a striking resemblance to the prince and decided it would be fun to turn up and claim the throne. He telegraphed ahead to tell the Albanians that the prince was on his way. Then he went shopping for a fancy costume. He bought himself a colourful military uniform and a bunch of impressive looking medals.

He arrived in the capital, Tirana, suitably clad and was greeted with great ceremony and crowned king. It wasn’t long before the real Prince Halim heard about it. The deception was revealed and the prince demanded Otto’s immediate arrest. He managed to escape, but not before he had helped himself from the treasury and declared war on Montenegro.

When Otto arrived back in Germany he announced himself as the King of Albania. He was immediately arrested and admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. But then his story began to appear in newspapers. He was declared sane and released. For the rest of his life he insisted on being called Your Majesty. If his mail did not arrive addressed: To the Former King of Albania, he refused to accept it.

Otto Witte also claimed that he had eloped with the daughter of the Emperor of Abyssinia and formed a political party called The Party of the Middle Class, Peasants and Showmen that had nearly 100,000 registered members. I’d love to believe Otto’s story, it’s magnificent. Though I should probably point out that there is no such person as Prince Halim Eddine.

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