The French heir who was declared king, Louis XVII, when his father was executed by guillotine, died of consumption at the age of 10 when he was in prison. Later, stories started to come out that he was kidnapped from prison and taken away, and afterward many claimed that in fact they were Louis XVII. A DNA test, done two centuries later on the heart of the heir (which had been preserved in alcohol since), revealed that this was a lie.
Tsar Alexander I, who died suddenly in 1825, allegedly secluded himself in a monastery. Those claiming to be Alexander showed up years later. In 1925, his tomb was opened and found to be empty. It has been said that Napoleon did not die but instead returned to France, which is why some claimed to be the former emperor.
In 1920, a woman named Anna Anderson claimed she was Grand Duchess Anastasia, the daughter of the tsar. She tried for years but could not prove her claim even though she managed to deceive many people. The movie "Anastasia," starring Ingrid Bergman and Yul Brynner, became a hit. She was found to be from a Polish family with a DNA test conducted 10 years after she died in 1981 in the U.S. where she had married a professor. The remains of the real Anastasia's body were found in the 2007.
Fake royals can be found in the Middle East, as well. In the beginning of Islamic history, there were people who claimed to have come from the line of Prophet Muhammad, declaring themselves a monarchy, and even succeeding in persuading people with this lie.
The Fatimid Empire that ruled in North Africa and Egypt claimed that they came from the line of Fatima, the prophet's youngest daughter, although they might have descended from a Jewish ophthalmologist.
Iranian Shah Ismail I, the founder of the Safavid dynasty and a descendant the Kurdish founder of a Sufi order, ordered a genealogy test indicating that he came from the line of the prophet. Sharp historians linked the shah to one of Caliph Ali's descendants whose line did not continue.
Since the only noble family whose members could obtain secular interests in the Ottoman Empire was the Ottoman dynasty, there were some frauds claiming to have come from the family. Someone rebelled in Rumelia in 1419, claiming that he was the Prince Mustafa, Sultan Bayezid's son who was taken hostage to Samarkand by Tamerlane after the Battle of Ankara. This person, who was defeated and hanged after a long fight, was deamed a pretender by the Ottomans. Yet, there were also those among the statesmen who believed that he was indeed the prince.
Fear of the Ottomans
One of the means used to eliminate the fear of the Ottomans was the false heirs to the throne. These were many in number, especially in the 17th century. A man named Bayezid who claimed to be the son of Sultan Murad II, was baptized by the pope with the name Calixtus Ottomanus and traveled around at the side of German Emperor Friedrich III. He was given a castle and later died in 1496. Novels were written about him.
A Greek from Cyprus named Yahya, who claimed to be the eldest son of Sultan Mehmed III in 1615, roamed European palaces. Someone claiming to be the son of Sultan Osman II named Ahmed (1620-1706) was baptized by Pope Clementus IX and his line survived in Malta with the name Osmani. However, the only sons of Sultan Osman II, Omer and Mustafa, died in infancy.
There was also a young man, "Padre Ottomano," alleged to be the son of the sultan. He was the son of a concubine and a eunuch whose ship was captured by the Venetians on its way to the hajj. He was circulated in Europe for many years and was declared the heir of the Ottoman throne by France in 1660. This poor young man, who was used against the Ottomans because of the Venetian War, eventually died of consumption in a monastery in Malta.
Ahmed Nadir, a Polish convert to Islam and a Russian spy, traveled the world claiming to be the son of Sultan Mustafa IV. Speaking 12 languages, this young man was brought to adjutancy in Egypt and then suddenly disappeared, probably after his duty as a spy was over.
It was also claimed that Yusuf Shah, the founder of the Adil Shahi dynasty in India, was the son of Sultan Murad II, and that he was later taken to Tabriz by his followers in order to avoid execution when Mehmed II ascended to the throne and that he went to India. It is clear that claiming to have come from a line as charismatic as the House of Osman earned him serious popularity.
There were still those who claimed to have come from the line of Cem Sultan, Mehmed II's son who rebelled against his brother Bayezid II but was defeated and escaped to Europe and whose body was sent to his brother after being poisoned by Pope Alessandro VI. Maltese archaeologist George Alexander Said-Zammit claimed that he was a 17th generation grandson of Cem Sultan.
Supposedly, Murad, Cem Sultan's son in Rhodes, was baptized by knights and named Pierre and later married an Italian named Maria Concetta Doria. He was declared prince by the pope. However, in the conquest of Rhodes in 1522, two men alleged to be Murad and his grandson Cem were executed on order of the sultan.
Zammit wrote a letter to Osman Ertuğrul Osmanoğlu, (d. 2009), the head of the House of Osman at the time, and submitted the documents he found. "I cannot accept you as an Ottoman prince. You are now considered to be the prince of the papacy," Osmanoğlu replied.
There were also individuals who made these types of claims even after the sultanate was abolished and the dynasty was exiled. In 1937, a man named Salahaddin in Alexandria tried to claim that he was the son of Sultan Abdülhamid, and he was later imprisoned by the government.
One was an Armenian woman named Nadine Dowson Arabyan who lived in the United States for 50 years. She claimed that her father was the son of Sultan Abdülhamid and an Iranian princess.
Another man, who declared himself a sultan under the name Selim IV by putting on a fez, was the stepson of a Frenchman who served the dynasty as a doctor in Alexandria. He died in 1991, succeeded by his grandson Nubar. The document of this tragicomic adventure, similar to an opera libretto, is a statement of its actors. Every word of the story is made up. There were some Turkish journalists and politicians who thought this claim to be true and visited Arabyan. Merve Kavakçı, an Islamist Turkish politician, visited her in the U.S. supposing she belonged to the dynasty.
Turkish journalist İsmet Bozdağ claimed his wife, Hanzade Ulusoy, was the granddaughter of Abdülhamid. He raised this claim two years after his wife's death. Bozdağ had previously published two works of fiction called "The Memories of Sultan Abdülhamid."
A young man who modeled in Canada and used the name Prince Constantine claimed that he came from the line of Sultan Mustafa IV. This is also false. Mustafa IV, who remained on the throne for a short time, did not have a son, but only a daughter who died of fever in infancy.
There was one who claimed to be a member of the dynasty under the name Prince Saleh in Paris, and with this title he wrote letters to statesmen such as the pope, then French President Jacques Chirac and the kings of Jordan and Morocco, with the intention of extorting 25,000 francs from each. He even wrote to then Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan and got a favorable reply.
The ignorance of those claiming to be Muslim regarding Ottoman history is surprising. This man was neutralized by the members of the dynasty in France.
A woman named Nesrin from Büyükada introduced herself as Neslişah Sultan and participated in various communities. The official records about the Ottoman dynasty have survived until today. These records nullify such claims. Members of the dynasty founded the Maison d'Ottoman, headquartered in Paris, to prevent such frauds, and they also issued a pedigree to clear things up.