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by Pauli Poisuo
What’s the most ridiculous way you can become a king? Pulling a sword from a stone? Trying to play the Game of Thrones? Buying a prop crown for your Halloween costume and discovering that suddenly, everyone kneels to you?
The weirdest scenario likely involves going about your usual, mundane, everyday routine when you get an unexpected phone call or visit from a homing pigeon or whatever and the message on the other end is, “Hope things are going well! By the way, you have a kingdom to run now.”
Yes, that actually happens.
Peggy Of Otuam: The World’s Only Female King
Regardless of how much professional equality between genders progresses, we still live in a world where some jobs are assumed to be better tackled by men, even when there’s no basis for that assumption.
Take kingship, for example. While women can rule just as well as men (and if history has taught us anything, probably better), they’re still going to be called queens, which is a job title that comes with a very different set of expectations and imagery, and a lot more people likely to comment on their formal wear. That’s just the unfortunate way royalty goes.
Which is actually pretty damn stupid, because there’s no real reason women can’t be kings. Just ask King Peggy of Otuam.
King Peggy, whose real name is Peggielene Bartens, is an American citizen who works as an administrative assistant in Washington D.C. where she lives in a small condo and spends her days doing ... you know, regular office stuff. Typing letters, booking meetings, answering phones. However she is also the King of Otuam, a fishing tribe in Ghana. We’re talking about the real thing, here: She has a crown, a cool kingly outfit, and the people of Otuam bow to her and keep wanting to carry her around.
And while she wishes people wouldn’t fuss over her, she does dress the part, while pulling it off like a complete badass.
She landed on the gig in 2008, when her Otuam relative called her in the middle of the night and congratulated the drowsy Peggy for her having just been named king. Her first instinct was to dismiss the whole thing as a ludicrous practical joke, but the relative was dead serious: The King of Otuam had died. Peggy’s mother still lived with the Otuam and she visited on occasion. The tribe remembered her as a pretty cool person, and decided to just up and make her their new king.
This didn’t come entirely out of the left field, as she was, in fact, related to the old king. However, she’d been living in America for a good 25 years at that point, and it never would have occurred to her that the Otuam even thought of her, let alone considered her a candidate for the throne.
Today, King Peggy is juggling her Western life with a part-time king job, and is actually doing pretty damn well. She has already updated the Otuam school system, provided them with better access to running water, and even saw to it that they got their first ambulance.
Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte: The Anti-Monarchist Who Became King
Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte was a big shot in Napoleon’s military. Fittingly for a man serving the biggest winner of the French Revolution, he was also a massive hater of all things royal. Some sources even claim that Bernadotte sported a cool tattoo that said: “Death to the King,” except in French, because of course. Sure, it could be just a legend, but that mental image is way cooler. Plus, the man definitely hated royalty so much that he’s on record as writing: “Being a republican both by principle and by conviction, I want to fight all royalists to my death.”
Really picture the kind of man who writes words like that. Just a strapping hulk of a military dude, with a frothing hate of all things royal, sporting a massive “Death To The King” tattoo on his chest, plus a bald head and a mustache made of knives and a cannon slung over his shoulder like a bazooka.
OK, well, at least there’s a cannon.
Are you still picturing it? Great. Because that’s the guy who eventually became the King of Sweden. In fact, he became king so hard that his bloodline still rules the country to this day.
In 1810, the ailing King of Sweden was close to death and without an heir. A kingless country in a struggle for power was no Swede’s idea of a good time, especially when neighboring Russia was both super powerful and creepily peering inside their house, admiring the porch and making small comments on the curtains they’d choose for the bedroom windows if for whatever reason they ended up owning the place. So Sweden started frantically scouring for a powerful ruler -- preferably someone with vast military experience.
By process of elimination, and no small amount of irony, they ended up offering the throne to Bernadotte. Napoleon, who was well aware of Bernadotte’s stance on royalty, was so stunned by the ridiculous proposition that he chose to neither support nor veto the idea. This turned out to be an unwise move on his part, because Bernadotte quickly did some mental mathematics and reached the conclusion that hating royalty is a whole lot easier when someone isn’t actively throwing thrones at you. He dropped his anti-royalist attitude like a hot potato covered in fleas, assumed the title of Crown Prince Charles John, and took command of the Swedish military.
As prince, he conquered Norway, and also battled against Napoleon because come on -- did anybody not see that coming? Later, he rose to the throne as King Charles XIV John. At that point, his Story Mode had clearly ended, because he proved to be a thoroughly conservative, boring and unpopular ruler.
Claudius: The Least Likely Emperor Of Rome
On paper, Claudius didn’t really have a chance in life. He was seen as mild-mannered and dim-witted. He may have even been developmentally challenged, based on the accounts of him drooling, limping and stammering. He was an uncle of the hated Roman Emperor Caligula, a sadistic soul who gleefully mocked and abused him. Oh, and the public was growing really, really tired of Caligula, so it was a pretty bad time to be a member of the royal family, even if you were completely inoffensive and totally incapable of rising to the throne.
It soon emerged that the people of Rome were the winners of life’s grand lottery of who’s going to put Caligula out of his misery. After a short, brutal rule that alienated both the Senate and the army, the Senate joined forces with the Praetorian Guard to mix up the throne situation a bit. The Guard -- who were responsible for protecting the Emperor -- stormed the palace, and promptly butchered him and his family instead. Well, almost the whole family. The guards eventually discovered a hapless Claudius hiding behind the curtain, bumbling incoherently and fearing for his life. So they ruthlessly dragged him out in the open, drew their swords, and ...
... declared him emperor?! Wait, what?
This pretty much never works.
As it turns out, Claudius had lucked out big time. It’s assumed that the senate’s motivation for the coup was that they hoped to restore Rome to a republic. However, some of the military felt that the whole “emperor” thing was pretty neat, provided said emperor would be someone not called Caligula. The guards who found Claudius bought into this line of thought, so instead of a swift and efficient murder, the man found himself riding the gravy train all the way to Emperortown. Emperorville? Whatever -- he was the emperor.
Plot twist: Despite being thrown into the deep end like that, he proved to be a capable ruler. Claudius turned out to be much, much smarter than appearances indicated. His first act as emperor was to order the men who conspired to kill Caligula executed, which seems like a jerk move since they did spare him, but then again, not a bad strategy when you’re the guy looking to avoid a similar fate. After that, he worked tirelessly to bring peace to the Roman Empire, expand its reach, and develop its infrastructure.
Unfortunately, he ended up descending into Caligula-levels of paranoid lunacy and was eventually replaced by someone even worse: Emperor Freaking Nero. Uh, maybe those guys who were hoping to restore the republic might have had a point, after all.
Abdalonymus: The Royal Gardener
Abdalonymus was living proof that you can become a king from literally any walk in life, even if your day job is pulling weeds and your name sounds like someone sneezed with their mouth full of marbles.
Our story starts with Alexander the Great, who was doing his conquest thing across the world. One of the places he Alexander-the-Greated was a city-kingdom called Sidon. His traditional strategy in these matters was to depose the king, replace him with a suitable ruler of his choosing, then ride away to challenge the next level. Mr. the Great was, uh, a very goal-oriented man.
However, the kingdom of Sidon refused to play into his established modus operandi, as Alexander found that there were no ready replacements for the king that he could trust. This was an unfortunate turn of events, but luckily, Alexander was famous for slicing into knotty problems with ease. And while that might be the worst pun we’ve ever made, we stand by it.
Anyway, Alexander decided to tackle the issue by sending two noblemen to track down some obscure, distant relative who could fit the bill. They eventually found out that an impoverished gardener working at the local market was a pretty OK guy, and also a distant relative of Sidon’s ex-king. So one day, Abdalonymus went to work at the market, started clearing weeds or whatever it is that market gardeners do when suddenly, two richly-dressed big shots turned up, nodded at him, and were all: “What up, dog? You’re in charge now.” Then they dressed the stunned Abdalonymus in kingly robes and hauled him off to the palace.
“You there, with the plants. It’s your turn to go rule over everyone.”
If Alexander sought to find a king who was loyal to him, he certainly found one in the ex-gardener. Even today, you can check out the massive Alexander Sarcophagus in Istanbul which features well-preserved scenes of the two Big As merrily hunting lions together.
Bansah: The Auto Mechanic Who Is Also A King
There are many ways to become a king, but we’d argue that King Bansah of the Gbi Traditional Area of Hohoe, Ghana walked the most ridiculous path of them all. Togbe Ngoryifia Céphas Kosi Bansah rules 200,000 people as the King of the Gbi area, and presides over a further two million people as the spiritual chief of the Ewe tribe.
That is, when he can spare time from running his small auto shop in Ludwigshafen, Germany.
Because King Bansah doesn’t live in Ghana, and he isn’t really interested in being a high-and-mighty member of royalty. He’s a German car mechanic who is accustomed to living as a commoner, and wouldn’t have it any other way. His father sent him to Germany in 1970 to study and learn a profession, and since he liked the country, he decided to stay. He settled down in a small town, opened up his own auto shop, and lived in comfortable obscurity. Well, right up until 1989 when he received a life-changing fax from Ghana.
“We just got an order confirmation from … no, wait; I’m a king.”
Bansah already knew he was related to royals, but he was so far down the line of succession that he had never really given it much thought. However, fate intervened in the form of a strange belief of the Ewe people: Left-handed individuals are unclean, so whenever someone picks up a pen with their port side mitt, their chances of ever becoming king immediately drop to zero. And weirdly, the royal bloodline featured a lot of lefties. First, Bansa’s father was ruled out. Then, his older brother. And finally, someone remembered that one mechanic kid in Germany who holds the wrench in his right hand.
So fate beckoned, and the unassuming auto repair dude became King Bansah. Having already grown up a commoner and set up a life he was comfortable with, he never got around to relocating to the country he rules. He’s a full-time auto mechanic still living in Germany, and occasionally after a hard day of changing brake fluid, he just puts on a crown and flies off to Ghana for some heavy-duty kinging. That’s not to say that he doesn’t take the job seriously, though. He builds schools and wells, and donates vehicles and water pumps he pays for with money out of his own pocket. He even raises aid money for his poor subjects by appearing and singing in public events all over Germany. Despite the fact that he doesn’t drink alcohol, he even sells his own beer to fund his numerous aid projects.
Like this article? Check out “5 Millionaires Who Started Out Homeless And Broke” and “Incredible Ways People Escaped History’s Most Hellish Regimes”.