Otto Witte
Otto Witte was a circus acrobat and fantasist who said that he managed to be crowned King of Albania
King of Albania
While the medieval Angevin Kingdom of Albania was a monarchy, it did not encompass the entirety of the modern state of Albania. The latter has been a kingdom on two occasions. The first time was after it was declared independent in 1912...

In 1913, when Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

 broke away from the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

, some Albanian Muslims
Islam in Albania
During the Ottoman rule, according to Ottoman data, the majority of Albanians were of Muslim affiliation . However, decades of state atheism which ended in 1991 brought a decline in religious practice in all traditions....

 invited Halim Eddine, a nephew of the Sultan
Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

, to come and be crowned king. Noticing his own resemblance to Halim Eddine, Witte said, he traveled to Durrës
Durrës is the second largest city of Albania located on the central Albanian coast, about west of the capital Tirana. It is one of the most ancient and economically important cities of Albania. Durres is situated at one of the narrower points of the Adriatic Sea, opposite the Italian ports of Bari...

 with a friend, the sword-swallower
Sword swallowing
Sword swallowing is an ancient performance art in which the performer passes a sword through the mouth and down the esophagus towards the stomach...

 Max Schlepsig. He claimed that he had succeeded in being crowned king by the local troops on 13 August 1913. Over the next five days, he enjoyed a harem
Harem refers to the sphere of women in what is usually a polygynous household and their enclosed quarters which are forbidden to men...

 and declared war on Montenegro
Montenegro Montenegrin: Crna Gora Црна Гора , meaning "Black Mountain") is a country located in Southeastern Europe. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the south-west and is bordered by Croatia to the west, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast and Albania to the...

 before his ruse was discovered. Taking a substantial portion of the kingdom's treasury, he and Schlepsig managed to escape the palace with the aid of the harem and they eventually made their way out of the country.

Most parts of his story were found to be impossible. There was no Halim Eddine and the Sultan Abdul Hamid II
Abdul Hamid II
His Imperial Majesty, The Sultan Abdülhamid II, Emperor of the Ottomans, Caliph of the Faithful was the 34th sultan of the Ottoman Empire...

's son Burhan Eddine who was offered the throne in 1914 never came, he may be the model for this story. Originally he claimed this escapade happened in February 1913, when Albania was still under Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

n occupation, so he changed the date to August 1913. There is no local evidence to support his claims. Nevertheless, he became famous in Germany for his public appearance. The Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 police later allowed his official identity card to bear the artistic pseudonym
A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...

 ehemaliger König von Albanien ("former King of Albania"). For the rest of his life he insisted on being greeted with that title, and it was put on his tombstone at Ohlsdorf Cemetery
Ohlsdorf Cemetery
-External links:* *...

, Hamburg (Parzelle Q 9, 430–433).

He may have suffered from pseudologia fantastica; for example, he claimed to have founded a political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

. He said he was a candidate for the German presidency
President of Germany
The President of the Federal Republic of Germany is the country's head of state. His official title in German is Bundespräsident . Germany has a parliamentary system of government and so the position of President is largely ceremonial...

 in 1925, gaining 25,000 to 230,000 votes in the first round but resigning in favour of Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg , known universally as Paul von Hindenburg was a Prussian-German field marshal, statesman, and politician, and served as the second President of Germany from 1925 to 1934....

. The voting records do not support this either.

Interest in Albania was high in the German-speaking world because the Great Powers had chosen a German prince to sit on the throne. William of Wied was approached for the job in 1913 and ruled for six months in 1914. The similarity in name between Wied and Witte may have inspired Witte to make up the story.

Otto Witte's story was adapted by Harry Turtledove
Harry Turtledove
Harry Norman Turtledove is an American novelist, who has produced works in several genres including alternate history, historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction.- Life :...

 for his fantasy novel Every Inch a King
Every Inch a King
Every Inch a King, ISBN 0-97559156-1-4, is a 2005 fantasy novel by Harry Turtledove, published by ISFiC Press. It is a fictional account of the story of Otto Witte, who allegedly spent five days pretending to be the King of Albania...

. Witte's story bears a strong resemblance to the best-selling adventure novel
Adventure novel
The adventure novel is a genre of novels that has adventure, an exciting undertaking involving risk and physical danger, as its main theme.-History:...

 The Prisoner of Zenda
The Prisoner of Zenda
The Prisoner of Zenda is an adventure novel by Anthony Hope, published in 1894. The king of the fictional country of Ruritania is drugged on the eve of his coronation and thus unable to attend his own coronation. Political forces are such that in order for the king to retain his crown his...

(1894), of which the first film adaptation
Film adaptation
Film adaptation is the transfer of a written work to a feature film. It is a type of derivative work.A common form of film adaptation is the use of a novel as the basis of a feature film, but film adaptation includes the use of non-fiction , autobiography, comic book, scripture, plays, and even...

 was released in 1913. The central concept of Zenda is a commoner being mistaken for a king, and assuming his place.

Various newspapers and magazines took Otto's story as fact and repeated it, including Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine, which published an article about his tale in 1958.

External links

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