The most famous impostors

History is interesting by the appearance in it of numerous impostors. The most common cases are when someone declared himself as an existing real person in order to gain power or material benefit. In Russian history, the most famous case was Tsar Lzhedmitry.

The most famous impostors

Often scammers pretend to be a person who never existed at all, just remember the children of Lieutenant Schmidt. It is interesting that in the romantic era (XVIII-XIX century) there arose a lot of false princesses and natives of exotic nationalities.

Today impostors prefer to figure out the stars of cinema and theater, famous sportsmen, singers. Let’s talk about the ten most famous impostors in the history of mankind, who with one or another success took advantage of their legend to achieve their goals.


The first known impostor was Gaumata, who seized power in Persia as early as 522 BC. According to the official version, this Median priest used the absence in the country of the legitimate king Cambys, who was with the army in Egypt, and raised an uprising. To be eligible for the throne, Gaumata announced that he was Bardia, the king’s younger brother, who had been killed just before that. Cambys moved troops against Gaumata, but died en route under mysterious circumstances. For 2 months, the authority of the pretender was recognized by all the peoples of the country. The first steps of the new tsar were the abolition of taxes for three months and military service. The domestic policy of Gaumata was manifested by the destruction of the privileges of the Persian nobility, all this made the tsar very popular among the people. Naturally, the discontented quickly appeared, especially as Gaumata did not show up in public, which raised doubts among the nobility. The daughter of one of them decided to check whether the ears were cut off from the king, as should have been at Gaumata. For this, she agreed to spend the night with him. When the truth was revealed, there was a riot. The conspirators destroyed not only Gaumata, but also many other priests, and Darius became the new king. The management of Gaumata lasted only 7 months. This coup is evidenced by several sources, almost all of them call Gaumata magician, which rather testified not to his abilities, but to the Median origin. Historians believe that it is impossible to unequivocally believe that Bardiya was killed and did not rule. Perhaps the story of the pseudo-king was invented by Darius in order to subsequently enter the throne and justify his claims to power. The well-known document of the time, in favor of history, is the Behistun inscription, which could hardly have been fabricated.

Alexander I Valas.

Another famous impostor of antiquity was Alexander I Valas, king of Syria and Pergamum and ruler of the Seleucid state. This person was born in Smyrna and was of a simple origin. However, over time, began to be presented as the son of King Antiochus, thereby claiming his rights to the Seleucid throne. It is curious that the claims of the swindler were recognized by the Roman Senate, Pharaoh Ptolemeus VI and other rulers. The king of Egypt even gave his daughter to Alexander as wife. During the civil war, the Syrian king Demetrius I was overthrown and led the empire in 150 BC. stood an impostor. He immediately took full advantage of the fruits of power, beginning to lead a rampant lifestyle. Strong influence on him rendered the Ptolemies, in the country even coins with the face of the founder of the dynasty were minted. However, over time, the Egyptians turned away from Alexander, he was defeated, power in 145 BC. passed to the son of the lawful king. The impostor fled, was killed and beheaded.


The famous emperor Nero left not only an unstable state and a bad memory after death (just remember the first persecution of Christians!), But also a few false Neron. The prerequisites for their appearance were the fact that, despite Rome’s dislike of the emperor, other provinces of the empire kept a good memory of him. The very news of the death of the ruler was voiced by one man, and the funeral was not public. In 68 AD., in the year of Nero’s death, the first impostor appears in Greece, who gathered beggars and slaves around him and captured the island of Tsitnu. However, the uprising was quickly suppressed. The next impostor, Terenty Maxim, also looked like the emperor. In addition, he was able to play on the cyfared, like Nero, and his own predecessor. Despite the unconvincing stories about staying somewhere for 11 years, the impostor in the year 79 was able to win over to his side many gullible people who helped him meet with the king of Parthia. The swindler quickly drew him to his side, who was in opposition to Rome and was thinking about restoring Nero. However, a grandee, having received from Rome a certificate of imposture, executed Terenty. Most likely, by that time the political situation had changed.

Princess Margaret.

The first known self-styled Europe was False Margaret. Princess Margaret was the daughter of the Norwegian king Eirik and the granddaughter of the Scottish king Alexander. Chronicles say that the girl’s mother died during childbirth in 1283. When the baby was two years old, her grandfather died and a struggle for power began in Scotland. As a result, the parties agreed that it was Margaret who should become the ruler of the country, and because of her age, a regency council of six nobles was appointed so far. There were far-reaching plans that envisaged the marriage of the princess with Prince Edward, the future king of England and the unification of the two countries through it. However, at the age of six, Margaret, or as she was called the Scottish maid, died. This was the beginning of a new wave of strife, a struggle for power and independence. The fact that the girl died without witnesses contributed to the appearance of the false princess, it was unclear how and how she was ill, thus there were rumors and gossip. In 1300 in Norway a certain person appeared from Germany, who announced that she was Margarita, and her death was staged with the aim of seizing power. History does not doubt that it was an impostor, because in appearance she was about 40 years old, gray hair shone through her hair. How could this be with a seventeen-year-old girl? King Hakon, Uncle Margaret, conducted a thorough investigation. The adventure for the capture of the royal throne failed, because to know, unlike the small nobles, did not support the princess. It is believed that behind the impostors stood great nobles who tried to come to power. In 1301 the False Margaret was burned at the stake, and her husband was beheaded. Curiously, in Bergen, Norway, the cult of the holy martyr Margaret soon arose, a church was built, people were coming here to worship her ashes. Numerous merchant’s wills made the coming rich, but the Reformation destroyed the cathedral, like other Catholic buildings.

Lambert Simnel.

There have been cases when impostors did their part not even to their own will, as happened with Lambert Simnel (1477-1534). The degradation of royal power and defeat in the Hundred Years’ War led to bloody feuds in England, known as the “War of the Roses.” The parties destroyed all those who could claim the throne, by the time of the end of the open war in 1486, only Eduard Warwick, the nephew of Edward IV, survived. To power comes Henry Tudor, who soon executed and a minor challenger. There was no one to oppose the Yorkists’ party, and it was decided to nominate an impostor. It is known that the applicant was born in Oxford, in a well-to-do family. At the age of 10, the boy was sent to teach the theologian Simon, who secretly sympathized with York. It was the priest who discovered the similarity of the child with the children of Edward IV. At first the boy was planned to be extradited to Richard of York, the youngest of the king’s children, and when in 1486 a rumor appeared about the death of Edward Warwick, the plan changed. Simon was standing behind her, who prepared for herself prominent places in case of victory. The child received an excellent education, knowledge of court etiquette.A rumor was sent to the masses that the prince managed to escape and get to Margarita of Burgundy, who was the head of the Yorkists. No wonder that Simnel recognized Count Simon Warwick, although before that she knew him well. King Henry, trying to make people’s murmur, ordered to deliver from the Tower and show the real and fully alive Edward Warwick to people. But this did not convince people of the existence of an impostor. In 1487, Yorkists with an army of mercenaries landed in England. During the decisive battle at Stoke Field on July 15, the rebels were defeated, and Lambert Simnel and his guardian Richard Simon were taken prisoner. The priest could not be executed because of his rank, so he was sentenced to a long prison term. In Coventry Simon prinarodno repented and told about the true name of the applicant, the role assigned to him. A calculating king understood that a ten-year-old boy could not himself threaten his power, so he left alive and even gave a job in the royal kitchen. Simnel and remained to serve at court, having risen to the falconer and survived the king.

Joan of Arc.

Few people know, but the story of Joan of Arc was continued in our vein. The history of the “French virgin” continued Jeanne des Armuaz. In 1436, five years after the burning of Joan, in Lorraine appeared an unknown named Claude, she was poorly dressed, rode a nag and had no means. She turned to the knight Nicolas Syra, with whom the real Jeanne was acquainted. The nobleman recognized her as a hero and lent her money for a further trip. Here she met with her brothers and other notable people, everyone recognized her as a genuine Jeanne. In Metz the resurrected heroine made a real sensation, people crowded together to look at their idol. Soon Jeanne meets with dukes and counts, even takes part in intrigues. The inquisition began to be interested in the girl, which made her activity cool. Soon Jeanne marries Senor Robert de Armuaz, curious that he had previously seen this “Orléans virgin”. A marriage contract was drawn up, the bride received a part of the land holdings, the arms of the spouses were joined, and Jeanne used the original coat of arms, which was once given by the king when erected to the nobility. During the next three years, the woman gave birth to the wife of two sons, at that time the people of Orleans continued to pay for the masses for the repose of the soul of their heroine, not knowing whether to believe the rumors of her miraculous salvation. July 24, 1439 Jeanne appeared in the city, she was given a magnificent reception and a huge amount of money was given in gratitude for saving the city. A triumphant tour of the cities ended in Paris, where in 1440 a woman was arrested as an impostor and sentenced to a pillory. King Charles, shamefully inactive during the war, it was unprofitable the emergence of a national hero. Whatever it was, Jeanne allegedly confessed to a lie and repented, returning to her husband. However, disputes are still debated whether Madame Des Armuaz was a real Jeanne or not. She herself did not say anything about how she escaped the fire, or about the five years of her life spent before the public. The very fact of the execution of the heroine is shrouded in mystery, perhaps the English, following some of their goals, and saved Zhanna’s life. Researchers are confused by the fact that too many have learned the heroine, without pursuing any of their interests. There is a clear similarity between the bas-relief of Joan of Arc and the portrait of Jeanne des Armuaz, but this could be done specifically to confirm the legend. This story is still undisclosed, historians are looking for new evidence and facts, and the family des Armuaz reveres Jeanne as the most glorious of their ancestors.

Mathuren Bruno

was the most famous of more than a hundred (!!!) impostors who proclaimed themselves Louis-Charles Bourbon. In 1789, this four-year-old prince became the heir to the French throne, but in 1792 the monarchy fell and the royal family was imprisoned in the Temple.After the death of Louis XVI in 1793, his wife, Marie Antoinette, swears an infant Dauphin as king, he is recognized by European countries. However, in 1795, a ten-year-old king dies of tuberculosis, he is buried in a common grave. Almost immediately there were rumors that the real king could survive and escape. This is what gave birth to a whole crowd of impostors. One of them, Matjuren Bruno was born in the family of a shoemaker, leaving home at 11 years old. A clever boy appears to be the son of a baron, but he is eventually exposed and for a period from 1795 to 1803 the tracks of Bruno are lost. Next Mathuren wanders, gets into the army, runs and finds in the end a haven in America. In 1815, Bruno returns to France, which seems to have disappeared 8 years before the rich Filippo … Soon the swindler again begins to lead the life of the tramp and here he decided to introduce himself as Louis-Charles Bourbon. As in the case of other impostors, the same mechanism works – the people who are suffering deprivation are ready to recognize the “true” monarch. The country is beginning to crawl about rumors that the true king is in prison and is suffering hardships. Fearing riots, the impostor is transferred from one prison to another. In Rouen, real fame comes to him, everyone is allowed to join him, Bruno himself is going to write to his royal relatives and compose memoirs. On February 19, 1818, 65 jurors unanimously passed a verdict – in front of them is an impostor. However, the people do not believe this, believing that the defendant was oppressed. The rest of the days Bruno spent in different prisons and died presumably in 1825. It is interesting that the sister of Louis-Charles until the last days was sure that her brother managed to escape. Only in 2000 the DNA of the heart of the young king was analyzed, which was seized during autopsy and has survived to this day. Experts confirmed the royal origin of the organ, so King Louis XVII really died in the Temple, and all the numerous stories about his miraculous salvation are fiction.

Stephen Small.

Interesting and the story of Stefan the Lesser. He appeared in Montenegro in 1766, using several versions of his origin. In appearance, he was about 35-37 years old. Stefan hired a farm laborer to a prosperous peasant and was then famous for his ability to heal and take money only from those who helped. With the sick, the medicine man often talked about the unification of Montenegro, which was under Turkish rule. Soon the country was filled with rumors that the Russian Tsar Peter III did not die, but fled to one of the neighboring Slavic countries. I must say that Montenegro has always perceived Russia as an older brother, expecting help from our country in getting rid of oppression. The first in Stefan to recognize the king were the companions of Metropolitan Vasily Petrovich, who was at court in 1753-1759. When the portrait of the emperor was found, everyone was convinced of the obvious similarity, while Stephen himself only promoted the dissemination of rumors. Just a month later, Maly was recognized as a Russian and Montenegrin king all over the country. As a result, the question about the impostor was put before the seven thousandth assembly, which unanimously decided to give Stefan the Little power over the state. However, when on November 2, 1767 envoys came to the impostor, he, to everyone’s surprise, broke the letters and said that he was giving up power while the civil war continued. Surprisingly, everyone obeyed the demand! And so Stefan as king goes round the whole country, openly proclaiming himself Peter III. It is curious that the name “Stefan” was carved on the state press. Turks and neighboring countries took a wait-and-see attitude. The impostor led a wise domestic policy-tribalism was eradicated, robbery, robbery, and theft were brought to court. A census was conducted in the country, and the church is separated from the state. In fact, under Stefan Montenegro took the path of becoming a state of a modern type. After suffering sensitive defeats from the Venetians and Turks, the Montenegrins officially gained an ally in the person of Russia.Stefan himself for a long time hiding from the enemies, being seriously wounded in 1770 continued to rule the country from the monastery of Brčeli. But in 1773 a bribed servant killed an impostor, taking his head with him for a reward.

Tsar False Dmitry I.

The most famous impostor in Russian history was Tsar False Dmitri I. Tsarevich Dmitry (1582-1591), the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible formally had no rights to the throne. After the accession of his brother, this was the last representative of the Moscow Rurikovich. According to the official version, during the games with peers, the prince suffered an epileptic attack, and he struck himself with a sharp object in the throat, which was the cause of his death. It is believed that the actual ruler Boris Godunov in the struggle for power could be interested in the destruction of the prince. In 1598, the dynasty of the Rurikovichs was interrupted, the country had a Time of Troubles. In 1603 an impostor declared himself in Poland, who proclaimed himself Dmitry, miraculously saved. The ground for the appearance of False Dmitri was the dynastic crisis, the discontent of the people and the terrible famine of 1601-163. There are several versions of the origin of the impostor, the main one is that he was called Grigory Otrepiev, but he belonged to the noble but impoverished Lithuanian family. As a child, False Dmitry came to Moscow, served as a Romanov and became a monk. There he showed cleverness, starting to ask about the circumstances of Dmitry’s death. Grigory’s bragging about the plans to seize the throne forces the authorities to act, the monk flees, eventually falling into Rzeczpospolita. In 1604, Otrepiev came to the court of the Polish king Sigismund. He, pursuing his plans, recognizes False Dmitry and gives money to hire his own army. Grigory makes an offer to the nobleman Marina Mnishek, promising to the future father-in-law 1 million gold, and his wife – the land of Pskov, Smolensk and Novgorod. On August 15, 1604, a motley army marched on Moscow. However, mediocre tactics led to the fact that Falsdmitry was stuck in Putivl, taking ambassadors there and making promises. In May 1605, Boris Godunov died, and part of the royal nobility moved to the side of the impostor. June 20, 1605 False Dmitriy solemnly entered the Kremlin. The pretender was recognized even by her mother, the queen of Martha, and on July 30 he was crowned in the kingdom. In the people there was an ambiguous attitude towards the new king. On the one hand, he optimized taxes, improved the judicial system, and on the other – violated the posts, introduced the power of the Poles and in 1606 married the Catholic Mary Mniszek. However, less than 10 days after the wedding, a rebellion was raised by Vasily Shuisky, as a result of which False Dmitriy was killed and outrages were committed on his body. However, soon, in 1607, another impostor appeared, who had become known as False Dmitry II, who declared that he was Dmitri, and, accordingly, False Dmitry. Marina, despite all her disgust, was sworn in by Marina Mnishek. Soon the new impostor gathers an impressive army, mostly from the Poles, and in 1608 he encamped in Tushino, for which he receives the nickname “Tushinsky thief.” New False Dmitry are recognized by many lands, but when the Poles themselves begin an open intervention against Russia, the army falls apart, and False Dmitri himself dies. That’s how the story of the Russian troubled times gave power to two impostors at once.

Princess Tarakanova.

Another well-known Russian scam-impostor was Princess Tarakanova, who pretended to be the daughter of Empress Elizabeth and her favorite Razumovsky. Where there was an impostor, it’s unclear. It was said that she was the daughter of a baker, or an innkeeper, but such versions could not explain her outstanding education and manners, knowledge of languages ​​and tact. The adventurer was notable for her rare beauty, she was intelligent, she loved luxury. Tarakanova has always been surrounded by fans, than she shamelessly used all the time. The fraudster traveled around Europe, fleeing creditors, under the names of the virgin Frank, Sultan Ali-Emet, Princess Azov and Princess Elizabeth of Vladimir.She never used the name of Princess Tarakanova herself. In 1774, under the influence of the Poles, the pretender declared herself Elizabeth’s daughter, telling everyone the details of her life with her mother until she was nine, and sending out manifestos to European politicians. However, the beauty succumbed to the tricks of Alexei Orlov and, at the behest of Catherine II, was seized and in May 1775 brought to the Peter and Paul Fortress. Here she died of consumption in December, hiding even her true origin from the priest.

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