Thursday, May 20, 2010

lost princess

Helga de la Brache (born Aurora Florentina Magnusson) claimed to be the abandoned daughter of King Gustav IV of Sweden and his wife Queen Frederica of Baden. She is not the first, nor likely to be the last impostor to claim rights of the privileged and powerful. The most astonishing fact was that the fraudulent claim managed to convince the minister of justice, Nils von Koch, the parliamentary Anders Uhr and even persuade the King to allow her an annual pension from the foreign department, amounting to 2,400 Swedish riksdaler a year.

In reality her heritage was far from glamorous. Born in 1876-77 in Stockholm to a custom caretaker Anders Magnusson, she served as a maid to a bookkeeper Hedman in her youth. With a mind to "rise above her status" she would eventually find employment with a wealthy family in 1838. Was it her wild imagination? Her wit, charm and thirst for adventure? One way or another she managed to win the devotion of the family's daughter who would be her faithful companion and accomplice in her ambitious schemes. Flitting from Finland (1844) to Sweden, the two women lived a gypsy life, living in Turku, Orebro and Sala. It wasn't until the 1860s in Stockholm where they would begin their most audacious confidence trick.

Despite many disbelievers, such as the Prime Minister Louis De Geer and foreign Minister Ludvig Manderstrom, it wasn't until 1870 that a newspaper article by C. Norrby (a previous benefactor) would lead to their ruin. The trial in 1876 became a sensation, drawing unwanted attention to the royal family as the public devoured each new scandalous revelation.

There have been a number of other women/men claiming to be members of aristocracy.

Olivia Serres (1633-1659), claimed to be abdicated queen Christina of Sweden
Harry Domela (1905-1978), claimed to be heir to German Throne
Anna Anderson, claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia, lost daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. A claim that has more than a few impostors and a story that has spawned a number of films and fictional works.
Perkin Warbeck (1474-1499), pretender to the throne of England