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Report on the Pedigree of Michel Lafosse,
Styled Prince Michael of Albany
Michel Lafosse, also known as Prince Michael of Albany, is not an Irish Chief or Prince, but by virtue of his claim to be the Stuart heir to the Throne of Scotland he does appropriate some Irish lineage and therefore deserves attention. Who is Lafosse and what is the nature of his claim? By his own account, Lafosse was born in Belgium in 1958, has made Scotland his permanent home since 1976, and in addition to being the 7th Count of Albany, he goes by the style of Alexander IV, Head of the Royal House of Stuart (or Stewart) and Prince de jure of Scotland. Other more exotic titles include Titular Prince of France and Poland, Head of the Sacred Kindred of Saint Columba, Archpriest of the Celtic Apostolic Church, President of the European Council of Princes, Knight Grand Commander, The Chivalric Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, and much more. All laid these claims were laid out on Lafosse's website at http://mediaquestusa.com/Michael/pmintro.htm, and later at http://www.royalhouseofstewart.org.uk/, both of which sites are now removed (some of the older content may be accessed via the Wayback Machine web archive).
One of Lafosse's principal supporters has been the author Laurence Gardner, who styles himself The Chevalier Labhràn de St Germain. Gardner has published a book whose message is clear from its title, Bloodline of the Holy Grail: The Hidden Lineage of Jesus Revealed (Element Books, Shaftesbury, Dorset, and Rockport, Massachussets, 1996). In 400 pages of text and over 50 pages of genealogical charts, Gardner purports to trace a direct line of descent from Jesus Christ and his alleged consort Mary Magdalene to one Lionel, said to be a near contemporary of the fabled King Arthur whose death is placed in 603 AD. Lionel is claimed to be the ancestor of Walter FitzAlan, 1st High Steward of Scotland, who died in 1177 and whose descendant became King Robert II of Scotland in 1371 (Bloodline of the Holy Grail, pages 236-47, 279-80, 424).
The Stuarts of course succeeded to the Throne of England in 1603 following the death of the childless Elizabeth I, when James VI of Scotland became also James I of England. The vicissitudes of the later Stuarts in the wake of the overthrow of James II in 1688 are well known, culminating in the last doomed attempt of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, 'Bonny Prince Charlie', to restore the Dynasty during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Now Lafosse and his supporters declare that Prince Charles contracted a second and hitherto concealed marriage with a Marguerite O'Dea d'Audibert in 1785, from whom Lafosse is allegedly descended in the maternal line. Noel McFerran's critique of these and other claims of Lafosse can be read at http://members.rogers.com/jacobites/essays/lafosse.htm, and there is another critical article by Guy Stair Sainty at http://www.chivalricorders.org/royalty/fantasy/stuart.htm
The royal claims of Michel Lafosse are very similar to the now exploded pretences of Terence MacCarthy, who purported to be 'The MacCarthy Mór, Prince of Desmond'. As with MacCarthy, I decided it would be a good idea to start by checking the most recent vital certificates relating to Lafosse's family, copies of which he had helpfully placed on his website, but which were later removed. The first certificate states that Lafosse was born in Brussels on 21 April 1958 in the Ville de Bruxelles district, and that his parents were Baron Gustave Joseph Fernand Clément Lafosse and Princess Renée Julienne Stewart. The second certificate states that Lafosse's grandparents Prince Julius Joseph Jacques Stewart and Princess Germania Elisa Segers were married in 1932, again in Brussels.
It seemed advisable to verify these documents, and so a letter of enquiry was sent on 12 April 2002 to the Registrar's Office, Boulevard Anspach 6, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgique. A reply was received by e-mail on 19 April, signed by the Conseiller Etat Civil, which stated bluntly that the above birth and marriage certificates were false ('sont des faux'), and furthermore that Michel Lafosse was born elsewhere in Brussels. Gordon MacGregor Comrie kindly supplied the copy of of Lafosse's true birth certificate below, which shows that he was indeed born in Brussels on 21 April 1958 but in the Watermael-Boitsfort district, with recorded first names Michel Roger, and that his parents are named simply as Gustave Joseph Clément Fernand Lafosse, a shopkeeper, and Renée Julienne Dée, a business employee, with no indication of any noble status whatsoever. Again, it was considered necessary to check that this second certificate was definitely in order, so on 25 July 2002 an enquiry was sent to the Etat Civil, Commune de Watermael-Boitsfort, Place Gilson 1, 1170 Bruxelles, Belgique. A reply was received on 9 August confirming that the certificate below was authentic, the words used being, 'Le certificat en question est une copie conforme à l'original'.
At a relatively late stage in research the writer found that a thorough report exposing Michel Lafosse as a fraud had been compiled in Scotland as long ago as 1980 by one Jack S MacDonald, the text of which may be read at http://priory-of-sion.com/posd/lafosse/lafosseoriginals.html. MacDonald established that the birth certificate of 'Prince Michael' was a forgery, that other documentation presented by the claimant was also fabricated, and concluded that he was 'a forger and a fraud'. The latter site provides the interesting information that MacDonald's report was commissioned by 'a group of the Scottish Patriots which included Wendy Wood, A J Stewart, Nigel Tranter and others', and states that being 'told fairy stories by his grandmother is what seems to have inspired Michel Lafosse into becoming the future "Prince Michael of Albany"'. It is remarkable what little effect MacDonald's research appears to have had, although a number of individuals in Scotland and abroad kept the matter in view over the years. Exposing bogus claimants to titles is a complex, time-consuming and often frustrating task, and the writer has found that while a report stating the genealogical facts is an essential element, it is usually not sufficient in itself to settle the issue.
It was noted that in 2001 Lafosse received from the Home Office a certificate of naturalisation as a British citizen, using the name Michael James Alexander Stewart of Albany, which document is reproduced below (copy courtesy of Rafal Heydel-Mankoo at http://www.geocities.com/rafalhm/lafosse.html).
It will be noted firstly that the certificate 'does not certify the accuracy of the personal particulars, which are supplied by the person who made the application'. However, it can be seen that there is a also a section 'Name at birth if different'. It has been demonstrated above that the applicant's name on his authentic birth certificate is Michel Roger Lafosse, and it was a serious omission not to have notified this to the Home Office when applying for naturalisation.
While as indicated above, careful research is required, a definitive media exposure is usually also needed to topple hoaxers such as Terence MacCarthy and Michel Lafosse. While there had been intermittent media coverage over the years, a fairly thorough exposure of the spurious claims of Michel Lafosse aka 'Prince Michael of Albany' appeared in the Scottish Sunday Herald of 2 April 2006: http://www.sundayherald.com/54904 The article deals with the false birth certificate and the irregular naturalisation certificate, mentioning also a passport obtained using questionable documents and a diplomatic passport issued in the name of the 'Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem'. It is understood that the Home Office initiated proceedings against Lafosse in relation to the false documentation presented in support of his citizenship application, and that charity regulators were also investigating his fund raising activities. In late July 2006 it was reported that Lafosse had fled Scotland and moved back to Belgium to live with his mother (Sunday Mail, 23 July 2006), and his website was taken down. Thus appears to have ended the remarkable decades-long hoax of Michel Lafosse, the so-called Prince Michael of Albany, although it remains to be seen whether the Belgian authorities will want to take proceedings in relation to forgery of vital certificates issued within their jurisdiction.
Sean Murphy MA
Centre for Irish Genealogical and Historical Studies
1 May 2002, last updated 6 August 2006