Yesterday I wrote about the Sinclair/St. Clair family and the zealotry with which some members of the family promote the mistaken belief that their ancestor, Sir Henry Sinclair, First Earl of Orkney, sailed to Rhode Island and built the Newport Tower in 1379. According to Sinclair myth-making, Henry Sinclair was a secret Knight Templar (fifty years after the order was dissolved) and led the charge that made the Templar land claim to the continental United States, as marked by a secret code in the Kensington Rune Stone of Minnesota, to which Scott Wolter believes that Tower is mysteriously “aligned.” Conveniently, the Rune Stone code also says that the Templars guard the Holy Grail, the blood descendants of Jesus, who are the Sinclairs. Although no one says so explicitly, the upshot of this line of speculation is that the head of the Sinclair family is therefore the legitimate heir of Christ and the rightful Grail King of America.
Today I’d like to look at a rival claimant to the Grail Throne whose pseudo-history is as elaborate and unfounded as that of the Sinclair pretenders. This rival claimant is Michel Roger Lafosse, who styles himself “Prince Michael of Albany,” pretender to Scottish throne, which Jacobite historians claim was illegally seized from the last Stuart king, James II, during the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Born in Belgium to a shopkeeper and a minor business functionary in 1958, he started calling himself Michael James Alexander Stewart of Albany in 1979, when he first began claiming that he was the rightful king of Scotland. (This is the name he took legally upon becoming a British subject in the 1990s.) He retroactively claimed his parents were a baron and a princess, and he offered as proof a new birth certificate; but government officials in Brussels issued a statement in 2002 declaring his second birth certificate a forgery. His original birth certificate is on file in Brussels.
“Prince” Michael asserted that he was the last legitimate Stuart, descended from an unattested “secret” child of the last Stuart pretender, Henry Benedict Stuart, who conventional history says died in 1807 without a male heir. Thereafter, any Stuart claim to the throne of Scotland passed (eventually) to the House of Savoy and to the Wittelsbachs of Bavaria. Instead, “Prince” Michael asserts that the pope annulled Henry Stuart’s marriage (without any record, of course), allowing Stuart to remarry, producing an imaginary child, of whom there is no record, who became Michael’s ancestor. At the height of his popularity, Michael had thousands of followers in Scotland as well as two charities accepting thousands of pounds to help him pursue his cause and fund his lifestyle.
To defend these claims, Michael began working with a stockbroker named Laurence Gardner who had taken to calling himself a genealogist and a historian. With Michael’s pseudo-royal blessing, Gardner styled himself the Historiographer Royal to the Royal House of Stewart. He also had grandiloquently proclaimed himself a knight, the “Chevalier Labhran de Saint Germain,” as well as the head of several noble organizations whose existence could not be confirmed outside of his own involvement with them.
Gardner produced a book called The Bloodline of the Holy Grail (1996), which—surprise!—concluded that Michel Lafosse was the legitimate claimant to the Scottish throne. But more interestingly, Gardner married Lafosse’s claim to the decade-old Holy Blood and the Holy Grail claims about the bloodline of Jesus to conclude that Lafosse was the last direct descendant of the secret marriage of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. Needless to say, Lafosse was thrilled and wrote a glowing preface for the book. Gardner’s book was serialized in the Daily Mail, became a British bestseller, and was even republished by Barnes & Noble in 1997 and distributed to every Barnes & Noble store in a America—with front of the store displays—back in the days when that was a big deal. That’s where I found the book in 1997.
From there, Gardner began writing more books exploring the mystery of religion. He concluded (by borrowing from Zechariah Sitchin) that Jesus was the descendant of a race of extraterrestrial beings, the Anunnaki. Further, these creatures needed something called “monatomic gold” in order to maintain their immortality, so they mined regular gold on earth and used the Ark of the Covenant to create monoatomic gold. When the monoatomic gold supply failed, they substituted human menstrual blood, which he called “Star-Fire,” whose “hormonal secretions” could indefinitely extend life should it be consumed regularly. He felt that Judaism was an offshoot of Akhenaton’s monotheistic worship of the sun disc, that Akhenaton was Moses, and that he had uncovered the true nature of the being later called Yahweh. He died in 2010.
In 1998, “Prince” Michael wrote his own book, The Forgotten Monarchy of Scotland, presenting fabricated accounts of Michael’s supposed ancestors, who cannot be shown to exist outside of his and Gardner’s books. He has claimed various imaginary honors and currently styles himself the Fons Honorum and Grand Protector of the Imperial and Royal Dragon Court and Order in Britain. In 2006, he faced deportation from Britain and loss of citizenship when the British government discovered that he had used his forged “noble” birth certificate to apply for British citizenship. To avoid humiliation, he voluntarily returned to Belgium to live with his (real) mother. He lost his British citizenship, and two charities affiliated with him were investigated for their role in raising thousand upon thousands of pounds so Michael could pursue his claim to the Scottish throne. (Yes, it is always about money.)
Unlike the Sinclairs, who claim the Templars and the Freemasons as their patrimony, “Prince” Michael believes that the Knights Templar and Freemasons were created by Islamic forces (based on the equation of the alleged Templar idol Baphomet and Mohammed) as a secret fifth column to infiltrate Western civilization. He and the Sinclair pretender ought to get together and debate whose mutually-incompatible imaginary claims should be believed. It would be interesting.
What I didn’t know is that there are thousands—thousands!—of people who participate in a parallel world of imaginary orders of knighthood (including one with “Prince” Michael that was founded in Missouri!), pretenders to various thrones, and fictive nobility. Apparently the mystical allure of aristocracy is not yet dead, and a disturbing number of people are happy to play in a fantasy world where they are all princes and princesses, knights and chevaliers, longing for a glorious, glittering world that passed away long, long ago.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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