The titles Duke of Anjou and Duke of Anjou-Durazzo have been used and abused for more than two hundred years and novels could be written about some of their colorful pretenders.
In this paper we shall skim over most of them so as to deal only with the XXth century ones we consider the most picturesque. In the XVIIIth century, a Father Felix de Valois claimed to be descended from Louis, Duke of Anjou, the alleged younger twin of Louis XIV generally thought to have been "The Man in the Iron Mask" Then in the XIXth century, besides the forty-three Naundorff claimants (Note 1) to the throne of France who cheerfully assumed all the titles belonging to that House and on whom many books have been written, there was one Antoine Dujol, son of a humble shoemaker who called himself Antoine "de Valois, Duke of Anjou, Duke of Alençon and Count of Ussex". He was followed by a Spanish Duke of Seville. In the XXth century there was Don Jaime, Duke of Segovia, the eldest son of King Alfonso XIII, head of the senior branch of the House of Bourbon. In 1933, because of a birth defect which left him deaf and dumb he renounced his claim to the Spanish throne in favor of his brother Don Juan, Count of Barcelona. He did not however renounce the headship of the House of Bourbon. As head of that house he was, for French legitimist monarchists, King of France (as Jacques Henri VI) and of Spain. He was also known as Don Jaime, Duke of Anjou and of Segovia (Note 2). Next comes the saga of Vassili Durassow, a Russian untitled guards officer and of his alleged "son" Alexis which mystified the kings of Spain and Italy in the early part of the century and continued to entertain the general public until just recently.
Baron Hervé Pinoteau, one of the founders of the Institute of the House of Bourbon, possibly one of most knowledgeable persons on the subject and a staunch French "legitimist" (Note 3) states : In actual fact there is only one royal house but two royal families, one of France and one of Spain. Spanish Neapolitan and Parmesan princes issued from Philip of France, Duke of Anjou (who became King Philip V of Spain in 1700) could neither assume the style "of France" since succession laws did not permit the style to pass to junior lines nor the title "Duke of Anjou", as Philip had dropped that title returning it to the French crown when he became Catholic King of Spain in 1700 as shown by Louis XIV (1638-1715) conferring it on his grandson who later became Louis XV (1710-1774) in 1710. He, in turn, passed it on to 1730 to his younger son Philip, Duke of Parma. Following the latter's decease the title reverted to the French crown. Finally Louis XVI (1754-1793) styled himself Duke of Anjou while his father was still alive but upon his ascension to the throne he relinquished the title to his brother the Count of Provence who eventually became Louis XVIII (1755-1824).
This should be sufficient demonstration that the title of Duke of Anjou has always been attached to the crown of France and should dispel any arguments to the contrary. It is in keeping with Spanish "legitimist" pretensions to that crown, however, (as the senior line of the House of Bourbon) that Spanish pretenders have used the title.
King Charles IV of Spain (1748-1819) (not Spain's most brilliant monarch) recognized three sons, one of whom was allegedly fathered by his prime minister and lover of the the queen, Manuel Godoy, Prince of Peace. This child was the Infante (Note 4) Francisco Duke of Cadiz (1794-1865). The Duke of Cadiz was the father of Infante Enrique, Duke of Seville (1823-1870) who in 1847 went against the dispositions of the Pragmatic Sanction of Charles III of 23 March 1776 and married Elena de Castellvi (1821-1863), a noble lady of inferior rank. As a result, neither the wife nor the children of this marriage were recognized as members of the royal family much to the ire of the Duke of Seville who ranted publicly against his sovereign and "committed acts incompatible with his responsibilities as a Bourbon, a Spaniard and military officer" which resulted in his being divested of the dignity of Grandee of Spain and of all his honors, ranks, titles and prerogatives (Note 5). Don Enrique Pio de Borbon (1848-1894), eldest son of the former Duke of Seville, Infante Enrique, was himself made Duke of Seville and Grandee of Spain (Note 6) by the grace of King Alfonso XII on 1 July 1882, twelve years after the death of his father in a duel with the Duke of Montpensier. Not satisfied with this distinction, the new Duke of Seville swaggered and took on the airs of a member of the Spanish royal family and of a Bourbon prince of Spain. To make matters worse with the Royal Family, while on a visit to France he publicly declared himself to support Philip, Count of Paris, the Orleans pretender to the French throne (Note 7) rather than Don Carlos, Duke of Madrid, the legitimist Bourbon pretender supported by Spain. He left two daughters, the eldest of whom Doña Maria-Luisa de Borbón y Parade (1868-19??) succeeded him as 3rd Duchess of Seville by royal recognition on 15 May 1895 but who later relinquished the title in 1919 to her sister Doña Enriqueta de Borbón y Parade (1885-1967), who was invested as 4th Duchess on 24 May 1919.
The second surviving son of the former Infante Enrique was Don Francisco Maria de Borbon y de Castellvi (1853-1942), a Spanish officer who attracted some attention shortly before the turn of the twentieth century. If his deceased brother passed himself off as a "Spanish prince" but recognized the Orleans as the legitimate pretenders to the throne of France, Don Francisco dropped his brother's absurd Spanish claims (which the latter had the good sense not to flaunt in Spain) and picked one which was even more grotesque. He assumed the title of Duke of Anjou and proclaimed himself legitimate pretender to the throne of France!
e claimed, or at least his advisors convinced him (Note 8) that even though descendants of his father the 1st Duke of Seville were born of an unequal marriage, the principle of morganatic marriage did not exist in the House of France, making them in effect, "princes of Bourbon" when in fact, there never has existed the title of "Prince of Bourbon" except in Luxembourg and for certain princes of Bourbon-Parma.
Count Zeiniger de Borja, closely associated with the household of King Alfonso XIII states that a parallel may be found in the case of Duke Gaston d'Orléans (1608-1660) brother of King Louis XIII who had married secondly (1632) Marguerite de Lorraine-Vaudemont (1615-1672). Following this marriage (2 January 1634) the King instructed the Parliament of Paris, equivalent to the Supreme Court to nullify Gaston's marriage because it had taken place without the king's consent. At the same time the General Assembly of the clergy was convened and asked to rule on the following question: "Are marriages of princes of the blood who can pretend to the succession, valid and legitimate if they are performed not only without the consent of he who wears the crown but against his will and with his disapproval?" The Parliament of Paris annulled the marriage of Gaston d'Orléans and Maguerite de Lorraine in a decision dated 5 September 1634; the General Assembly of the clergy followed suit in a similar decision dated 10 July 1635.
Thus it would follow that in the case of the two dukes of Seville the lack of consent of the heads of the House of Bourbon invalidated their claims to the succesion of both Spain and France.
After a few problems with the French authorities, Don Francisco Maria de Borbón y de Castellvi came back into line and concentrated on his military career eventually attaining the rank of lieutenant general. In 1927 he received the Order of the Golden Fleece from King Alfonso XIII with whom he had reconciled. His eldest son, Don Francisco de Paula de Borbón y de la Torre (1882-1952), married his cousin Doña Enriqueta de Borbón y Parade, 4th Duchess of Seville in 1907, and he assumed the title jure uxoris according to Spanish usage. It should be noted that the marriage only obtained royal consent in 1919 when Enriqueta acceded to the title of Duchess of Seville. Their son Don Francisco de Borbón y Borbón (1912-1995), who renounced the ducal title in favour of his eldest son, became Grand Master of the Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem, as did the said son, Don Francisco de Borbón y Escasany, 5th Duke of Seville (1943- ).
Soon we shall see how in 1911, King Alfonso XIII, who was still annoyed at Don Francisco Maria de Borbón y de Castellvi, was given the opportunity to spite his cousin but first a brief look at the cadet line of the royal house of France, that of Anjou-Naples is in order (Note 9).
According to historian and genealogist Michael Sturdza (Note 10), in 1263 the House of Anjou-Naples began to play an important, though less than glorious, role in the history of a divided Greece during the Middle Ages.
The founder of the House was Charles, Count of Anjou, Count of Provence and of Forcalquier. He was born in 1227 and was the fourth son of King Louis VIII of France and Blanche of Castille. As a younger son he was destined for a career in the Church but the premature death of two of his elder brothers resulted in his becoming Count of Anjou. In 1253, as a young man he had been offered the crown of Sicily by Pope Innocent IV who wanted to replace the Hohenstauffens who ruled there. At the time, Charles had other plans. By force of arms he conquered the county of Hainault in northern France and later acquired the county of Ventimiglia in northern Italy by treaty. In 1263 he was ready and accepted a second papal offer to assume the crown of Naples. In 1268 he killed Manfred, bastard son of Frederick von Hohenstaufen. Following the battle of Tagliacozzo which he won, he later executed the sixteen year-old Conradin, last branch on the Hohenstaufen tree, thus extinguishing the house and installing a French dynasty on the throne of Naples and Hungary.
The Angevins ruled for more than one hundred and fifty years over Corfu, Lepanto and the Albanian fortified strongholds known as the "Kingdom of Albania" or "Duchy of Durazzo" as well as over a great part of the Peleponesus which they considered secondary territories subordinate to their kingdom of Naples and destined as stepping stones in their plans for the conquest of Byzantium.
In 1272 Durazzo submitted to Angevin sovereignty but this submission alternated according to the moods of the local potentates sometimes allied to the emperor of Byzantium or to the Tsars of Serbia. Other territories and titles obtained by the Angevins by conquest, murder, marriage and intrigue were the kingdoms of Hungary, the county of Gravina and the principality of Achaia. With this very brief glimpse at the origin of the claims to Durazzo by the House of Anjou we can now return to the early twentieth century.
King Alfonso XIII had been thoroughly beguiled by a Mr. Vassili "d'Anjou"-Durassow-Schiskow, an untitled Russian gentleman who had managed to introduce himself at Court. Vassili, a member of the Imperial Russian Academy of Archaeology, was responsible for codifying the rules of duelling prevalent in Russia at the time and was the author of a well-received book on Russian princely families (which he may have written to further his own claims). He had drawn up a genealogy which purported him to be directly descended from Robert de Valois, Prince of Morea, third son of Prince John of Sicily who was the first duke of Durazzo and himself the grandson of Charles I king of Naples and Maria of Hungary thus making Robert a great-grandson of Louis VIII King of France. According to the chronicles of the time, however, Robert died, wifeless and childless, at the battle of Poitiers in 1356. According to Vassili, Robert's great-great grandson, after wandering through Hungary and Poland wound up in Russia in 1482 and was integrated into the ranks of the Russian nobility.
Vassili had managed, shortly before, we dont know how (nor are we certain of the chronology of the events), to convince Kings Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and Alfonso XIII of Spain of the authenticity of his genealogy and on 27 July 1911 the latter recognized him as the head of the "royal Neapolitan House of Anjou-Durazzo" (Note 11) and with it the right to style himself with all the titles appurtaining to it (Note 12). This was tantamount to resurrecting the House after a slumber of some five hundred years!. (What still puzzles us is that the latest edition of the "Official List of Titles and Grandeeships of the Kingdom of Spain states that the title "Duke of Durazzo (Neapolitan) was proferred by the king of Italy on 31 August 1911 to Don Basilio d'Anjou Durassow y Schiskow and it was authorized in Spain on 27 July of the same year. That is to say one month earlier. (We dont know if this is a typographical error or if we are missing some additional details.) Entries in the Gotha Almanachs of 1915, 1919 and 1936 appeared to confirm these claims but then this was not the first time that the Gotha erred. French genealogist Count Raoul de Warren also asks himself why a princely family of royal family waited some five hundred years to have its claims recognized and when it finally did so why it applied to the kings of Italy and Spain rather than to the Tsar who was, after all, its legitimate sovereign (Note 13). The kings of Italy and Spain may have been within their rights to allow Vassili to use these titles on their soil but this in no way legitimized the claims historically and other monarchs would be equally within their rights, if they so chose, not to recognize their validity in their realms.
The decree signed by the King of Spain was based on the same genealogy recognized by King Victor Emmanuel much to the dismay at the time of Don Francisco de Borbón y Castellvi, who having no notion of genealogy thought this was a direct affront to his own pretensions. On 6 March 1914 the title and arms of the family were recognized as genuine and registered by the College of Arms in London! (Note 14)
The first known individual to style himself Duke of Durazzo was John (1333) son of Charles II d'Anjou, King of Naples. His eldest son inherited the title and passed it on to his daughter Jeanne who in turn handed it to her husband Louis of Navarre, Count of Beaumont-le-Roger who died without issue. John of Durazzo's second son, Louis, Count of Gravina, who died in 1362 is the grandfather of Ladislas, King of Naples who died in 1414, and of Jeanne II, whose adopted son René d'Anjou had a daughter Yolanda, wife of Ferry de Lorraine, Count of Vaudemont. Ladislas inherited the title Duke of Durazzo and transmitted it to his descendants. This line died out in 1493. Mr. Durassow's ancestor is allegedly Robert of Morea third son of the Duke of Durazzo and Spain and Italy have recognized this succession in spite of the fact, as we pointed out above, that he died wifeless and childless at the battle of Poitiers in 1356.
Historically, the question of whether this line could in fact inherit the title in 1911 is moot. Since Salic law did not apply within the House of Anjou-Naples following the deaths of Charles of Durazzo, of Louis of Navarre, of King Ladislas and of John of Calabria, it can be clearly shown that the nearest eligible line is that of Ferry de Lorraine, whose direct descendant and heir to the title of Duke of Durazzo was, in 1911, H.I. & R.H. Franz Joseph of Hapsburg-Austria-Lorraine, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary.
If we look at Durazzo as no more than a simple title, it is evident that Robert's line could not succeed. If it is viewed as a fief, the branch has even less justification since the "Duke of Durazzo", if there can be said that there was one in 1911, was the Turkish Sultan who ruled over Albania!
This should make it evident that recognition of descendants does not necessarily imply their right of succession to a title. If the branch of René d'Anjou did not claim it, it is because the title was tied to the fief. When the fief, Albania, fell into the hands of the Turk, after the capture of Constantinople, there was little point in claiming a title which was now empty and meaningless.
The fantastic saga of Vassili Durassow "d'Anjou Durazzo" and his family does not end here. He was a subaltern in the Imperial Russian Cavalier Guards regiment and was subsequently assigned as an attaché to the imperial Russian embassy in Rome. After the first World War he established himself as a gentleman of means and leisure, a confirmed bachelor who divided his time between his Rome apartment and his manors in Alba (Abruzzo) and Narni in the province of Perugia. According to his obituary, he died childless in Rome in January 1971.
Vassili's uncle, Russian general Nicolas Durassow, born in Russia in1870 lived in Nice, France, and married Berthe Buisson a French lady who gave him three children: Alexandra, born in Moscow in 1905, Pierre, born in Nice in May 1911 and Louis Nicolas also born in Nice on 12 March 1917. When in March 1917 the general appeared at the Nice city hall to register Louis Nicolas' birth, the authorities refused to enter the child's name in the register with the alleged Russian titles confirmed to his nephew by the the Kings of Italy and Spain. The following month however,while on a trip to Russia he managed to convince the local civil authorities in Kiev to carry the child in their books with all the titles (Note 15). We have no idea why the general did not follow the same procedure with Pierre, his first son or with Alexandra. One possible reason might be that his nephew Vassili had not as yet obtained recognition of his claims from the Italian and Spanish monarchs.
In 1939, Louis Nicolas, a French citizen was drafted into the army and reported for service with identification documents purporting him to be Louis Nicolas Durassow "d'Anjou de France". He was indicted for using a false name and title and condemned by the court at Nice to a two-year suspended sentence. He appealed but the court rejected the appeal for a lack of sufficient justifying evidence. He appealed again,and this time a judgement by the Nice court of appeals dated 24 November 1942 supported his claim ruling that the child born in Nice on 12 March 1917 was one and the same as he whose birth was registered in Kiev in April of the same year and that consequently, the data appearing on the Russian birth certificate including the names and titles of the family should be added to the birth records of Nice. Thus according to French law, "Prince" Louis Nicolas "d'Anjou- Durassow" was now perfectly within his rights to use these titles in France!
Vassili who, after all, had had the original bright idea of capitalizing on the similarity between his family name of Durassow and Durazzo and creating a line to the House of Anjou-Durazzo and getting it recognized by two European monarchs, was not happy with his relatives for exploiting his efforts. Neither was he taking their mischief lightly. On 24 February 1943, having learned of the Nice Court of Appeal's decision, he filed an action with prosecutors in Nice and Aix-en-Provence against his cousin for usurpation of name and titles adding that Louis Nicolas Durassow had no right to the name d'Anjou nor to the title of prince and that the emperor of Russia had never conceded nor confirmed them to him or to Nicolas, his father. There followed a number of court cases. The 13 May 1958 judgement of Aix proscribed Louis Nicolas from using the name d'Anjou. He lodged an appeal with the supreme court in 1962 but lost. In May 1959,an article appeared in the Rome magazine "La Tribuna Illustrata" which referred to "Princess Alexandra d'Anjou Durassow, princess of Gravina d'Alba and Mount Sant'Angelo", as a descendant of Charles d'Anjou and thus a pretender, along with several others, to the throne of France. Vassili asked the magazine to publish his side of the story, which it did. In his article Vassili stated that "1) He is the sole representative of the House of Anjou descended from Charles I of Anjou (1220-1285), King of Naples and Sicily, and that he has no living relatives; 2) that his only brother Dimitri, a lieutenant in the Russian Imperial Guard, died a bachelor on 8 March 1919; 3) that in late 1950 he appealed to the French courts to take action against those in France who had usurped his name. In particular he cited Louis-Nicolas Durassow, Alexandra's brother, and the other members of the family who had spread the rumor of his death in the Second World War; 4) that by judgement (No.1622/57) of 13 May 1958 the court of appeals of Aix-en-Provence formally prohibited Louis Nicolas' use of the name d'Anjou, to which neither he nor his family had any right; 5) that in the same judgement it is stated that by the use of the name and title of princess of Anjou, Alexandra has committed illegal acts; 6) that this judgement affirms the right of the accuser to see to it that his name is not used for illicit purposes." (Note 16)
The press and the public eventually lost interest in the claims of the two branches of the Anjou-Durassow until 1982 when it surfaced again following the publication in Paris of a book entitled "I, Alexis, Great Grandson of the Tsar" by "H.R.H. Prince Alexis d'Anjou Romanov-Dolgorouki, Duke of Durazzo". Though the book never made the best seller list, it was translated into Spanish and its author was still in the news ten years after its original publication.
Who, one might well ask, is Alexis d'Anjou Romanov-Dolgorouki, Duke of Durazzo, if Vassili who, as we noted earlier, died a childless bachelor in 1971 as did his male cousins Pierre and Louis Nicolas? And how did the Russian princely family of Dolgorouki and by extension the Romanovs get dragged into this? The answers to these questions, the author tells us, are to be found in his book. It would seem that Alexis was much taken by the Summers and Mangold work, "The File on the Tsar" which attempts to show (inconclusively) that not only did Anastasia escape from the massacre of the imperial family at the Ipatiev house in 1917, but also the Tsar's other daughters the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana and Maria. Alexis strives to show that he is the grandson of Grand Duchess Maria (Note 17).
The true story originates in Bukavu, Zaire (formerly Costermansville, Belgian Congo) on 4 May 1946 and not the same date two years later as the author would like us to believe that he was born.
On the earlier date Beatrice di Fonzo, nineteen year-old Belgian wife of thirty-two year-old Luxemburger agronomist Victor Alfred August Brimeyer, gave birth to Alex, Ceslawa, Maurice, Jean Brimeyer. Two days later, Beatrice's father, Nicolas di Fonzo, an ex-naval officer and settler in the Belgian Congo brought the birth certificate signed by Dr.Pieraerts, the physician who delivered the child, to Roger Stocquart, the civil registrar at Costermansville. The entry in the town's birth register was witnessed by two people (Note 18).
Two months after Alexis' birth Beatrice divorced Victor Brimeyer and four years later on 13 September 1950 she married Ferdinand Joseph Oscar Fabry in England with whom she remained until the latter's death on 29 March 1979. On 6 August 1984 in Martil, province of Tetuan, Morocco she was to marry "H.S.H. major general A. Bruce Alfonso de Bourbon, Prince of Condé" whose titles we shall examine later.
We have culled information from a number of Belgian, French and Spanish newspapers dating from 1966 to 1992 and based on this material we shall attempt to shed some light on the character and validity of this latest "Duke of Anjou Durazzo's" titles. Since his mother's latest marriage these have been expanded to include "H.I. & R.H. Prince Alexis d'Anjou de Bourbon Condé Romanov Dolgorouki" and most recently "By right of succesion and the will of the people, Crown Prince of Serbia"!
Alexis denies that Victor Brimeyer was his father. He admits that his mother Beatrice (now princess Olga Beata) had the misfortune to be married for the first time to Brimeyer but only very briefly between June and October 1945 three years before his (alleged) birth which he gives as 4 May 1948 and not 4 May 1946 as we showed above. He claims that his mother then married sixty year-old Vassili d'Anjou Durassow on 15 April 1947 and that he is the issue of that marriage a year later. This second marriage was allegedly annulled and Olga Beata then allegedly married for the third time "her cousin" Prince Igor Dolgorouki on 6 September 1948 in the Greek Orthodox Church in Albertville, Belgian Congo. This supposed marriage was not to last long either because on 7 September 1950 (13 September according to our records) she married Ferdinand Fabry .
We could speculate why Alexis might not have been proud of his real father, Victor Brimeyer, but that is hardly germane to the subject. We imagine that the romantic, practical and materialistic sides of his complex nature must have developed in close harmony and that he came to the conclusion early in life that a prestigious name and title would do much to smooth the way to fame and riches. His first attempt (that we know) at self-aggrandizement was at the "College Albert et Isabelle" in Brussels where he registered as "Brimeyer de la Calchuyère". In 1966 at the "Institut Saint Louis" he registered as "His Serene Highness Prince Khevenhuller-Abensberg". This title was particularly ill-chosen because a genuine Princess Khvenhuller lived in Brussels at the time and threatened him with legal action. When he realized that the game was up he wrote begging her forgiveness for "a youthful mistake" adding that he had used the name only to gain access to Belgian society in order to marry a wealthy woman, and that he had now found a person fitting that description who was willing to adopt him.
We have no idea who his benefactress might have been but we do know that he indeed made efforts along those lines. We have a photocopy of a handwritten letter he wrote to a Princess Galitsine on 24 August 196- (Note 19) begging her to adopt him. Since he has not added her name to all the others we assume that she refused. In addition, we note from a photocopy of an English-language will which appears in his book that he managed to get himself recognized by the 87-year-old Vassili d'Anjou Durassow. The document attests that Vassili recognizes him as his only son and heir by his "former consort Princess Olga Beatricia Dolgorouki" and cites his date of birth as 4 May 1948. We believe these statements are false and whether the document was actually signed by Vassili, we are unable to say. There are, however, no witnesses official or otherwise to the signature. Further,as we related earlier, the Rome death records show Vassili to have died a childless bachelor. We also have before us a photocopy of a letter dated Rome, 6 August 1978 from Alexander Messoyedoff, representative in Rome of the Union of the Russian Nobility to Mrs. Olga von Daehm in Lausanne, Switzerland which states: "I hasten to reply and to let you know that my parents and I have always known Prince Vassili d'Anjou, Duke of Durassow-Durazzo, whose title is recognized in Russia and in Spain (Spanish recognition of 31 August 1911 with Grandeza of Spain) (Note 20) for him and his direct issue and I can certify that at no time has he linked his name with that of Dolgorouki with which family he has no ties. The Prince d'Anjou died several years ago in Rome without posterity. There is no way that the person who claims to be Prince Alexis d'Anjou Durassow Durazzo Dolgorouki and the godchild of King Carol II of Roumania can be the direct or indirect descendant of the Anjou-Durazzo family".
Interestingly in 1979, eight years after the demise of Vassili, Alexis, now living in Spain, contacted the cadet line of the Anjou Durazzos and managed to gain their support convincing them to sign a statement recognizing him since the decease of his alleged father (Vassili) ,"as the only and authentic head of the royal house of Anjou-Durazzo, the status of which was decreed by King Alfonso XIII of Spain on 31 August 1911." The announcement also pledges the allegiance of the signatories to Alexis. It is signed by Pierre d'Anjou Durassow, Prince Nicolas Louis d'Anjou Durassow and Princess Alexandra d'Anjou Durassow. The original document is written in French but neither witnessed nor notarized. There is a Spanish translation which carries a certification authentifying the translator's signature. We found another adoption document reproduced in the book rather curious. This one is the adoption of Alexis by "Prince Nicolas Louis d'Anjou Durassow." The paper dated Nice, 1 November 1979 states that "the undersigned Nicolas Louis Durassow, Prince d'Anjou Durassow, by these presents adopts his well-beloved cousin H.R.H. Don Alexis Dolgorouki d'Anjou Durazzo, prince d'Anjou Durassow, Duke of Durazzo, stateless and under the protection of the Spanish state with identity document N.93.315, born in Bukavu, 4 May 1948, only son of my deceased Cousin and head of our family Prince Basil d'Anjou Durazzo Durassow, Duke of Durazzo (1887-1971)." The document concludes that Louis Nicolas authorizes his adopted son and heir as of the date, to style himself in Spain using the traditional and complete form of the name as recognized by King Alfonso XIII: "Durassow d'Anjou-Durazzo". We shall discuss yet another adoption of Alexis when we take up the question of the title Bourbon-Condé. Why he had to get himself adopted by Louis Nicolas after having himself adopted or recognized by old Vassili, we'll never know. It seems like an awful lot of adoptive fathers for one single "prince".
In 1969, by means of a passport he obtained from the artificial island of "Sealand", Alexis metamorphosized into the "Prince Romanov Dolgorouki". This island had been built by the Royal Navy during the second World War and was located off the southern coast of England. It had been used in connection with the Normandy landings in 1944 and after the war, the Navy decided to get rid of it. A wealthy English gentleman, Mr.Danyl Stevens (Note 21) who had long had a dream to rule over his own country bought the island. Subsequently, he sold nobiliary titles to enterprising individuals each of which came with a passport from the "Principality of Sealand". It was thus that on 4 June 1969 Alexis obtained passport No.6949 in the name of "His Highness Prince Alexis Romanov Dolgorouki". Oddly the passport showed neither his place of birth nor the identity of his royal parents. Apparently this was of no importance in the "Principality of Sealand". What counted was that the bearer was presentable, in his early twenties, and carried himself with style. He spoke French, English, Italian and Spanish but curiously no Russian. It was this lack of what should have been his native tongue which three months later aroused the suspicions of Father Jean Maljinowski, a priest at the avenue Dupré Russian Orthodox Church in Brussels. On 7 September 1969, Alexis called upon Father Jean and asked to be baptized. The priest was nonplused. How, he asked himself, could a Russian prince of royal blood have waited until he was twenty three years of age to be baptized? Further, he did not speak one word of the language of his illustrious martyred ancestors. The priest, who had never heard of the island of Sealand, refused to administer the sacrament. Mr. Nicolas Zouboff and his daughter who were visiting Father Jean, witnessed the exchange. The "prince" was furious. He apparently needed to obtain a baptismal certificate in Russian, but the priest was adamant. As he stormily took his leave, Alexis angrily told him: "You'll see, you'll soon know who I am!"
Six months were to pass before the prediction came true. Imagine the good father's surprise when on 22 January 1970 he noticed two obituary notices in the Brussels evening paper "Le Soir" concerning the same person. The first was His Highness Prince Nikolai Antonovich Romanov Dolgorouki and the second immediately below that of Mr. Nicolas di Fonzo, navy captain. Both were born on the same 23 May 1895 in Russia, albeit apparently in different towns, and both died on 19 January 1970 in Brussels. First a twenty three year-old Dolgorouki from the island of Sealand and now another who dies in Brussels, doubled by a naval officer with the name of di Fonzo. Alexis claimed that di Fonzo was an alias which Prince Nikolai Dolgorouki used when he escaped from Russia in 1917 and that consequently Beatrice di Fonzo, his mother, is in reality Grand Duchess Olga Beata Grand Duchess of Russia which is patently false. It was the first time that the press mentioned what appeared to be a new princely and imperial dynasty of Romanov-Dolgorouki.
After this, events developed rather quickly. The Princess Khevenhuller-Abensberg lodged a complaint against Alexis as did Princess Maria Dolgoroukoff and Prince Alexander Pavlovich Dolgorouki (Note 22). Their action accused Alex Brimeyer of illegally using the titles of Prince of Khevenhuller-Abensberg and of Prince Romanov-Dolgorouki as well as the name Brimeyer-Abensberg with intent to deceive. Amongst the evidence shown was an alleged certificate of adoption issued by the principality of Sealand dated 6 August 1969 purporting to show the alleged "prince Nikolai Antonovich Romanov-Dolgorouki, Count di Fonzo to have adopted his grandson Alexis born 4 May 1948 in Bukavu, Congo." In this certificate Alexis' mother is none other than Princess Beatrice Helene Nikolaevna Romanov Dolgorouki, (also known as Olga Beata Grand Duchess of Russia) whose second marriage was to one Victor Brimeyer, a citizen of Luxembourg. Another exhibit presented by the prosecutor as evidence was an amateurishly fabricated patent of nobility, allegedly issued by Emperor Charles V, dated 1546 which ennobled the Brimeyers. A further exhibit was a decree supposedly signed by Tsar Alexander II dated 5 February 1860 conferring nobility and the title of "imperial highness" to a Dolgorouki family. The use of the word "automatically" in the document proved it to be indisputably false as that word was not in use in the Russian language in 1860. It would be too long to cite all of the documents used by the prosecution. In any event, Alexis Brimeyer was sentenced to eighteen months in jail, but he had, by then, put some distance between himself and the Belgian authorities and had taken himself to Greece.
In a letter he wrote to the Belgian prosecutor from Athens, which he signed: "Imperator Rex", he complained bitterly about the unfairness of his sentence and informed him haughtily that he was a direct descendant of among other former reigning monarchs, the emperors of Byzantium, which might lead one to suspect that in addition to any other tendencies Alexis suffered from an imperial case of megalomania.
He managed to get the most out of his stay in Athens. At first, the eighteen month Belgian sentence which hanged over him was the cause of some concern vis-a-vis the Greek authorities. The passport and identification document with which he had travelled to Greece, both of which were in the name of Brimeyer had to be gotten rid of as expeditiously as possible. An old adage has it that the simplest is often the best way to solve a problem. Alexis boldly presented himself to the central police station and reported the theft of his passport and identity card and requested a temporary identification document until he was able to obtain a new passport (Note 23). A sympathetic Greek police official took down the following data which Alexis dictated: Name: Alexis Romanov Dolgorouki, Nationality: Russian, Citizenship: Undetermined, Profession: Prince, and handed him a paper which he was able to use for over ten years to confirm his identity and "prove" his princely status.
Since his Greek period Alexis has travelled all over Europe avoiding, naturally enough, the Belgian borders and making contacts and convincing people of his bonafides in all sorts of milieux from government circles, the salons of the aristocracy, the cloisters of various Orthodox churches down to the sewers of bogus chivalric orders (Note 24) out of which and in conjunction with the sale of fake titles he has been able to earn a precarious living.
One of his most notable successes was to convince the Metropolitan of the Carpatho-Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America, Archbishop Ambrosij, of his authenticity as a Romanov and a Dolgorouki. This was to be extremely helpful to him in establishing solid contacts in the Ukrainian diaspora. Some have said that until recently he has received a monthly living allowance from these Ukrainian circles, but we have no way of verifying this.
To summarize Alexis' claims to the titles Duke d'Anjou-Durazzo and Prince Romanov-Dolgorouki. We can say that for the first, Alexis managed to obtain a non-certified or notarized combination and statement of recognition as his natural father and adoption from an 87 year-old Vassili d'Anjou-Durazzo, whose Roman death certificate states that he died a childless bachelor. Vassili's own claims to the titles are highly debatable in themselves historically although they were recognized in Spain by the late King Alfonso XIII (Note 25) and in Italy by King Victor Emmanuel III.
So far as the title of Prince Romanov-Dolgorouki is concerned we have seen how the French and Belgian branches of the Dolgorouki family have denied that Alexis is in any way related to it adding that his alleged father prince Nicolas Dolgorouki was executed by the Communists in Kiev on 26 January 1918. The Belgian court has pronounced in their favor. The alleged Romanov-Dolgorouki connection is ridiculous as can be seen by a glance at the genealogical tables of the various families concerned. Alexis bases this claim on the allegation that his maternal grandmother was Grand Duchess Maria, one of the four daughters of Tsar Nicolas II (who, he claims did not perish at the Ipatiev house, but married prince Nicolas Dolgorouki, who used the alias "di Fonzo" in order to escape from Russia). The recent identification of the bones of the martyred imperial family including those of Grand Duchess Maria, Alexis' alleged grandmother, show once and for all that his claims are nothing more than evidence of a combination of megalomania and enormous effrontery which has been convincing enough to hoodwink a rather substantial and susceptible audience.
There remains another title used by Alexis which needs to be clarified. This is that of "Prince of Bourbon-Condé". The society column of an English-language newspaper in late July 1984 announced the forthcoming union on 6 August 1984 in Martil, Province of Tetuan, Morocco of "H.I.H. Princess Olga Beatrice Nikolaevna Romanovskaia Dolgoroukaia, Princess of the Ukraine, Countess di Fonzo with H.S.H. Major General Bruce-Alfonso de Bourbon, Prince of Condé." Here we clearly recognize Alexis' mother marrying for the fourth time but the bridegroom is a new character on the scene. Who is this Serene Highness who, incidentally, following the wedding adopts Alexis (who, he says,descends from the female line of the house of Condé) and allows him to add the name of Bourbon-Condé to his own as well as to succeed him as twelth Prince of Condé of the ancient kingdom of Navarre? Alfonso also authorized Alexis to use the titles which have traditionally belonged to the house of Condé, i.e. Duke of Enghien, Duke of Albret, Prince of Conti and of Laroche-sur-Yon, Count of Soissons and of Charolais, Count of Dunois, Viscount of Meaux and of Breteuil and Baron of Alais. The proclamation is written in Spanish. We shall see that Alfonso is almost as fascinating a character as old Vassili d'Anjou Durazzo.
Among some of the press clippings we have collected is an article dated February 1966 in the French magazine "Le Monde et la Vie" signed by Raymond Loir and titled "For the love of Islam a Bourbon becomes a Yemeni". According to Loir, the Bourbon in question is one Bruce de Bourbon-Condé, colonel in the royal Yemeni army, who is also known as Abderrahman el Kindi. We are told he was born in California and, according to the same author who seemed to be favorably impressed by him, "belongs to a branch of the family which settled in California after the French Revolution of 1789. He has a distinguished record in WWII and as an airborne infantry captain was parachuted into France and awarded the Croix de Guerre." He may have developed partial amnesia because eighteen years later in an interview he gave to a Spanish magazine in 1984 he related that at the outbreak of the war he volunteered for the U.S.Army and was immediately commissioned, serving until the end of the War in the Pacific Theatre of Operations and remained in Japan until the fifties. Nowhere does he mention his distinguished service in France!
What seems to confirm his service in the Far East is an item by an unnamed contributor to the July 1985 issue of the French monthly journal "l'Intermédiaire des Chercheurs et Curieux". He writes that while he was stationed in Japan from 1946 to 1949 as a member of the French liaison mission to the Supreme Allied Headquarters, he recalled an American friend mentioning a fellow American officer Major Bruce-Alfonso de Bourbon-Condé. His curiosity was aroused and he looked for an opportunity to meet the personage. Invited to a wedding in Osaka where he knew that the major would also be a guest, the French liaison officer made the trip from Tokyo to present his respects to "His Highness". The confrontation took place among a small group of American friends he had thoroughly briefed on the Bourbon genealogy. The "prince" was in uniform but it seems that every accessory that he carried was strewn with fleurs-de-lys, his handkerchief, his cigarette case, his wallet and probably his socks and underwear. The liaison officer explained that as a Frenchman he was indeed honored but somewhat mystified to be introduced to His Highness, especially since the latter's existence totally upset his notions of history: the last Condé having, to his knowledge, ended his days by hanging himself from the hasp of awindow of the chateau at St.Leu in 1830. The "prince" made no effort to deny it and said "actually my name is Smith (or Brown or Evans, it makes little difference) but, to make a long story short, my mother was the niece of someone who was the daughter-in-law of someone who was the friend of someone who was the mistress of the last Bourbon-Condé (Note 26) Since the name is more romantic than Smith, I thought I would take it on. Naturally, I don't guarantee all of the details of this descent, but I do guarantee it in its broad lines." (Note 27)
Another French witness, Mr.G. Dardaud, who was impressed by Condé, states that he met him when the latter was a young Arabic-speaking professor at the American University in Beirut in the 1950s. The professor, engrossed by the history of the Middle East, was also a journalist and wrote serious articles on the countries of the region for the English-language paper "Daily Star". In 1955, he published a book entitled "See Lebanon, "a well-researched guide to sixty archaeological itineraries in the country.
Bruce-Alfonso lived modestly in moorish style among his books in an old house overlooking the bay of Ain-Mresse. There, he befriended the young princes of the royal Yemeni family who were studying at the American University as well as a number of other Arab personalities. The witness states that Bruce-Alfonso was friendly with the celebrated English explorer of Saudi Arabia, H. St John Philby, who was at the time an adviser to the Saudi monarchy and sometime suspected of being a British MI-6 officer. Bruce did not hide his "princely" origins (Note 28) but neither did he manifest any royal ambitions except perhaps to play a role in the modernization of Yemen as a useful adviser to Imam Badr (Note 29), who succeeded his father Imam Ahmed when he was murdered in September 1962.
After Egypt's attack on Yemen, Bruce-Alfonso presented himself at Imam Badr's headquarters and actively joined in the struggle against the Egyptians and the republican government they had formed in Sanaa. He was named Minister of Propaganda and Information in the resistance government of the Imam who had taken to the hills moving from one cave to another while being bombarded by the Egyptian airforce (Note 30). After the abdication of the Imam Badr, an exhausted Bruce-Alfonso moved to Spain for rest and urgent ophtalmic care.
To our knowledge, Bruce-Alfonso has not tried to capitalize on his alleged ancestry, nor has he sold titles, or so-called orders of chivalry and he has not done anyone any harm. He strikes us as an amiable adventurer with some delusions of grandeur, but then who is perfect?
We must now return to Alexis because, like a bad penny,he keeps cropping up on the scene and attracting a certain amount of attention in the international press.
When we first got wind of his latest involvement we must admit that we thought he was not responsible but was, rather a victim of circumstances. We were naive. We shall show how he rigged the whole thing up through an intermediary.
In early February 1992 in a grotesque contortion of the Yugoslav political scene, the Spanish conservative daily A.B.C. reported a Serbian delegation headed by Milan Babic, president of the Autonomous Serbian Republic of Krajina, a territory in Croatia with a strong Serbian majority and by Vojislav Seselj, president of the Serbian Radical Party and commander-in-chief of the Chetnik guerilla forces, was due to visit Spain momentarily to meet with Alexis d'Anjou, who resides in Madrid, to offer him the throne of Serbia! The visitors were members of a Serbian extremist faction.
With the exception of Babic and Seselj the delegation was made up of lesser figures known for their extreme nationalism and aspirations for "Great Serbia", or the incorporation to Serbia of all the territories of the former Yugoslav republic with a Serbian majority. Thus a Serbia which would include a good part of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and naturally Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo. Further, Milan Babic and Vojslav Seselj oppose the UN peace plan for Yugoslavia and the presence of the "Blue Berets" in territories with a Serb majority in Croatia.
Rade Atic, publisher of the Yugoslav opposition magazine "ON" and a member of the delegation, said that the purpose of the visit to Spain "was to offer the Serbian crown to Alexis d'Anjou" but he refused to say if the initiative was official or private.
Contacted by the press, Alexis confirmed that he had been in touch for the last six months with Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic who favored a restoration of the monarchy. He recognized that there was a wide difference of opinion between Milosevic, who accepts a UN role, and Babic, who does not. Milosevic allegedly told Alexis that he would like to make use of him in some way in an effort to find an honorable "way out" but that he is, in the final analysis, responsible for the war.
Asked if he was willing to go to Serbia, Alexis wisely replied that before making up his mind he would have to to know all of the details of the offer being extended.
To understand the rationale behind these démarches, we must examine the 10 January 1992 "communiqué" issued by the magazine "ON" from which we quote freely. It states that there has been much well-founded excitement generated in Serbian circles in the last few weeks on the subject of "Prince Alexis II Nemanitch Romanov Dolgorouki, Grand Master of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem" (Note 31). Well-founded because "Prince Alexis is undoubtedly the descendant of the glorious Serbian Tsar as well as of the famous royal family Nemanitch". It seems that "Mr.Rade Atic and Mr.Borivoje Borovic, after two months of research which included the examination of many documents, genealogical tables and correspondence, had come to the irrevocable conclusion that Prince Alexis II is the descendant of glorious Hrebeljanovic Nemanitch and great grandson of Nikolaj II Tsar of Russia." It continues "that Prince Alexis II is the son of Prince Vassili d'Anjou", adding that the Anjou family, of French, origin had ruled a number of countries of central and eastern Europe. "The Serbian connection comes through two marriages. The first, was that of Jelisaveta, daughter of Dragutin Nemanitch, with Etien Kotormanic. Their grand daughter, also named Jelisaveta, married Louis I d'Anjou, King of Hungary. The father of Prince Alexis II is a direct descendant of that marriage. The other connection comes through the great grandmother of Prince Alexis II, Princess Cleopatra Dabic Kotromanic, who was the descendant of Prince John, married to Maria, daughter of Tsar Lazar." So much for the genealogy.
Skipping ahead, we learn that "many Serbs want" Prince Alexis II to accept the crown and that Serbia will soon become a monarchy. Prince Alexis II, however "will accept only under the condition that it reflects the will of all Serbian people including the Serbs who are now in Bosnia, Croatia,Slovenia etc." Not long ago Messrs. Atic and Borovic contacted the Russian embassy in Belgrade with the request to open the appropriate archives in order to obtain a final solution to the 75 year-old mystery of the death of the Russian imperial family. Why, you may ask,did this initiative originate in Serbia? The reason is that Prince Alexis II wants to help the Serbian people with a part of the huge Romanov fortune(sic?). Thus his Consuls (Rade Atic and Borivoje Borovic) contacted the Belgrade City Assembly with a request to return part of the treasure of the Romanov family (case of Mrs. Vera Parahomenko) which is still in the possession of the City through a certain bank as well as other goods and fineries of the Romanov family which are now in the former Yugoslavia." (Note 32)
The interesting communiqué goes on to speculate that a part of the Romanov treasure is located in the catacombs of Bukovar!
Finally, we learn that Prince Alexis has written to the President of the Turkish Republic, Mr.Turgut Ozal, through the Turkish ambassador in Belgrade, requesting the return of the head of Tsar Lazar and Milos Obilic buried under the feet of the Turkish Sultan Murad. A "high-level" Serbian delegation will be the guest of the Turkish authorities later this year (1992) to discuss the opening of Sultan Murad's tomb after six hundred years. This "historical mission" will be joined by the prince's personal counsellors, Mr. Alain Mesl and Mrs. Mirjana Zelen, as well as "Serbian Consuls Rade Atic and Borivoje Borovic".
To get back to the Serbian delegation's visit to Spain, we take up the Spanish paper A.B.C. again to learn that Alexis solemnly accepted the crown of Serbia and in his acceptance speech made an allusion to God and referred to a "Great Serbia" which would include all the territories of the former Republic of Yugoslavia. At the same time he inducted Messrs. Atic and Borovic as knights in his "Orthodox Order of St.John of Jerusalem" (Note 33). He also stated that his heart bleeds for the suffering of the Serbian people and made reference to several of his ancestors among which were the Serbian Nemanitchs, Serbian Tsar Lazar his great grandfather twice removed and Tsar Nicholas of Russia his great grandfather. He promised to undertake to assume his obligations as "Prestolonaslednik and Great Voivod of Greater Serbia and of all Serbian lands." The Spanish paper concluded that Alexis in reality is accepting the crown of a huge nonexistant Serbia whose borders he claims were those of 1918.
Mr.Vojislav Selsej, commander of the Serbian guerilla forces and leader of the delegation which visited Alexis in Spain, gave a very revealing interview to A.B.C. He was asked what his plans were with respect to the restoration of the monarchy upon his return to Belgrade. The first thing, he said, would be to try to bring back the head of Tsar Lazar, Alexis d'Anjou's ancestor, which is buried in Turkey, and then join it to the rest of the body which is buried in Serbia. "If Alexis is able to accomplish this, you can be sure that he will be King of Serbia." He was asked how much popularity Alexis d'Anjou enjoyed in Serbia. "It seems that he is quite popular now, but up until a few months ago no one knew anything about him. However, since Mr.Atic began featuring articles about him in his magazines, the people have come around. The people want a Tsar and we dont like Alexander Karageorgevic (Note 34) or Nicholas Petrovich" (Note 35). The reporter followed up on the question and asked whether he had understood correctly that he and Mr. Babic had only learned about the existence of Alexis d'Anjou through the magazine "ON". Babic confirmed it and said this was the first occcasion they had had to meet personally with Alexis,except for Mr. Atic who had met with him twice before in Geneva. It also surfaced that Mr. Atic had first heard about Alexis in November 1991. Asked to explain the circumstances, he said that an adviser to Alexis, Mrs. Mirjana Zelen, a Serbian lady living in Paris had called him. and made the introduction .The reporter told Babic that ABC had published proofs showing that Alexis d'Anjou's claims are false and asked if this was of no concern to them, Seselj replied: "even if Alexis d'Anjou does not descend from the Russian Tsars he could still be king because he is of royal blood." Not letting go, the reporter pressed on saying that ABC's proofs clearly showed that Alexis had no more royal blood than either of them. Seselj was dumbfounded. As incredible as it may seem he had never considered the possibility that everything was not as it seemed!!
We started absolving Alexis of any responsibility in this latest episode of his eventful life, but we were wrong and it was through Mrs.Mirja Zelen, his contact in Paris, that he was indeed behind the Yugoslav caper.
We end this paper by citing a communiqué from the European Monarchist Association which states:
Following various news items which appeared indivers media including Spanish Radio and Television over the alleged restoration of the monarchy in Serbia in the person of one "Alexis d'Anjou de Bourbon Condé Romanov Dolgorouki", the European Monarchist Association wishes to make the following statement:
(1) The real name of this alleged prince is Alex Brimeyer, born in Costermansville, Zaire.
(2) He has no historical or dynastic right to any of the titles he has assumed.
(3) His long career has resulted in his being sentenced in several countries as a fraud and embezzler most recently in Madrid on 20 October 1984.
FINAL NOTE: Mr. Brimeyer died in Madrid in early March 1995.