AN UNASSUMING lawyer from India has been identified as a possible heir to the French throne.
Balthazar Napoleon IV de Bourbon, 65, believes he is a senior descendant of France's Bourbon kings and the rightful ruler of the defunct Kingdom of France.
The Bourbon dynasty ruled France from 1589 to 1789.
Balthazar claimed his royal heritage was instilled in him from the moment he gained consciousness.
"I am born an Indian," he told the LA Times in 2008. "But the fact of life is that I belong to the royal family of France."
A lawyer and part-time farmer by trade, Balthazar is married to an Indian woman named Elisha Pacheco with whom he shares three children: Frederick, Michelle, and Adrian.
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It is his family's understanding that an exiled French noble by the name of Jean Philippe de Bourbon ended up in Goa on India's southwestern coast after escaping the clutches of pirates.
The story goes he survived assassination attempts as well as a kidnapping at sea before washing up in India.
The French noble, a nephew of King Henry IV, made his way to and served at the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 16th century.
By the 18th century, his descendants had moved to Bhopal, central India – where Balthazar Napoleon de Bourbon and his family reside today.
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Members of the De Bourbon family are understood to have intermarried with members of the local population.
Balthazar Napoleon IV de Bourbon seems, on the surface, as ordinary as they come.
He is short and portly, and often spends his days tending to his tractor and covered in grease, describing himself as "poor" but "happy".
"I'm not looking for any claim to any riches," he said. "I'm not begging [for] anything from anybody. I'm a happy man."
His unwavering belief in his supposed royal heritage was apparently confirmed by Prince Michael of Greece – the first cousin of the late Prince Philip – in the mid-2000s.
The prince came to know of Balthazar in 2006 while staying at a hotel in Bhopal on holiday.
He told the LA Times: "I was upgraded in the best hotel from a room to a suite. And what do I see on the door of my suite? 'Bourbon Suite.'
"So I rushed to the porter of the hotel and asked, 'Why do you call it Bourbon here?' And he said, 'There is a family called Bourbon and they are well-known in Bhopal.'
"I had no idea they were still existing. I must say it's quite amusing to see in a directory in India the name Bourbon."
The coincidence inspired Michael to research and write a historical novel, Le Rajah Bourbon, in which he seemed to confirm Balthazar was the long-lost descendent of the Bourbon kings.
Balthazar told Times of India in 2007: "Ever since I was a boy people have been contacting me to establish my French lineage. But this is the first time my lineage is being acknowledged in Europe."
He noted he wanted to continue to live in India as an Indian citizen and had no interest in relocating to France or trying to obtain French citizenship.
The entrance to Balthazar's home in Bhopal features big brass letters declaring "House of Bourbon" and the fleur-de-lis: a heraldic crest that has been associated with the French monarchy for centuries.
His living room is also French in style.
According to the Legitimists, Louis Alphonse de Bourbon is the head of the House of Bourbon and the pretender to the defunct throne of France as Louis XX.
He has used the title Duke of Anjou since his father's death in 1989.
The French monarchy was formally abolished during the French Revolution in 1792.
Louis XVI, the last king to live at the Palace of Versailles, died at the guillotine in January 1793.
The Bourbon monarchy was briefly restored in 1814 and again in 1815, after the fall of Napoleon, with Louis XVI's brothers on the throne.
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It lasted until a popular uprising in 1830.
After that, Louise Philippe I ruled as "King of the French" from 1830 to 1848 when the Second Republic was formed.
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