I’ve posted a couple of times before about Joshua Norton, the self-proclaimed Emperor of the United States. Imagine my surprise when I learned from Justin Pollard’s Secret Britainthat Britain had its own equivalant, especially when it turned out that he made his presence felt mainly in the Bull Ring, Birmingham, and thus not a million miles away from me.
Anthony William Hall claimed to be the descendent of Henry VIII and Anne Boelyn’s son, which was something of a rewrite of history (rendering every monarch from Elizabeth I illegitimate), and so he declared himself King Anthony, sending out missives insisting that George V quit and that authority over the US be returned to Britain. It was never going to happen, of course, but it made King Anthony a bit of a celebrity, something he milked by delivering over 2,000 speeches in the Bull Ring and by selling his own currency (something Norton also did, so I’m wondering if there was an inspiration somewhere along the line).
It’s not as good a story as Norton’s; instead of dying a folk hero, King Anthony seemed to realise that a few too many important people wanted him committed (generally for being an embarrasment to the Establishment) and quietly retired, dying in 1947. Emperor Norton is still my favourite fake monarch, but it’s kinda cool having a local pretender to the throne.
By the way, did I mention that I’m descended from Ethelred the Unready? That’s why I’m always trying not to be late…
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