Classic European pseudo-royal nonsense

Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn

This kind of thing fascinates me — the former mistress of the ex-king of Spain, Juan Carlos IV (who abdicated due under a cloud of corruption allegations) is Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, whose full name is Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn. She got the name by marrying Casimir, who is supposedly a prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn. And what is that, you might ask? It was a kind of mini-country that existed briefly in the 1600s as part of what is now Germany, and the hereditary rulers of it continue to call themselves princes, and presumably have wealth they inherited (stole) from when they ran things. 

Why does it have the name Sayn in it twice? Great question. Who knows! There are actually a dozen or so other former fiefdoms with Sayn in the name, including Sayn-Homburg, Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. and Sponheim-Sayn. Classic European nonsense really. On a related note, I remember coming across a photo of Donald Trump when he was president, meeting with a couple who were described as the “Prince and Princess of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.” And what was that? Same kind of thing — a thing that existed in the 1800s for about 50 years, including Sicily and Naples, before Italy became a country.

The best part is that Prince Carlo, who says he’s the hereditary leader of this imaginary country, is only one of two claimants to the non-existent throne (which also apparently gives him control over the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George, whatever that is). Apparently after the death of the last uncontested head of the house, Ferdinand Pius, in 1960, the non-existent throne was supposed to go to his nephew, Infante Alfonso, son of Ferdinand’s brother Carlos. But Carlos married María de las Mercedes, Princess of Asturias, who was the heir presumptive to the throne of Spain, in 1901.

Prince Carlo and Princess Camilla

According to Wikipedia, as a result of the marriage, Carlos’s family forced him to renounce his claim to the crown of the Two Sicilies, because of a centuries-old agreement that the kingdoms of Spain and the Two Sicilies were not supposed to merge. This renunciation was interpreted by some as removing Carlos and his descendants from the line of succession of the Two Sicilies. But others argued that this would only have applied if Carlos’s wife or an eventual son had actually become the sovereign of Spain, which did not happen (because, of course, the kingdom of Spain ceased to exist). Confused yet?

Anyway, the upshot is that there are two guys — Carlo and Pedro — who are both claiming to be the hereditary rulers of a kingdom that doesn’t exist, and was only around for about 50 years to begin with. If you like this kind of thing, there are literally dozens of other pretenders to non-existent or imaginary thrones in Europe, including the Count of Paris, Gottfried of Austria-Tuscany (whose full name is Gottfried Maria Joseph Peter Ferdinand Hubert Anton Rupert Leopold Heinrich Ignaz Alfons, Erzherzog von Österreich, Prinz von Toskana), along with the Duke of Bavaria, the Duke of Württemberg, the Duke of Aosta, the Duke of Genoa, the Duke of Hohenberg, Prince Luiz of Orléans-Braganza and Prince Michael of Greece. Classic European nonsense!

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