Albania’s would-be king

In a joyous moment in Albania’s history: after a 450 year Ottoman Empire occupation, the country declared its independence. The next question was who to select as the leader. The Albanians looked to a celebrated Turkish prince Halim Eddine, a nephew of the Sultan. Otto Witte, a circus acrobat travelling around Albania at the time, found he looked like a virtual twin of the Turkish prince and decided to answer for him. Otto/Halim would be happy to take the throne.

On this day, August 13, in 1913. Albania crowned Otto Witte their new king Halim Eddine. For five days, until his ruse was uncovered, Witte enjoyed limitless luxury, a harem, and the power to declare war on nearby Montenegro. Just before fleeing the capital, he also helped himself to a large portion of the treasury.

At least, so Witte would have you believe. The veracity of his story leaves much to be desired: there is no Prince Halim Eddine in the historical record, and no local records exist to support any part of his claim. Nevertheless, Witte enjoyed a lot of popularity in Germany, even having  his official ID changed to display his title König von Albanien (“former King of Albania”). Wherever he went, Witte insisted on being greeted by that title, and had it engraved on his tombstone.