Interview by Tracy R. Twyman
"Born in exile" in Belgium, 1958, Prince Michael Stewart inherited numerous titles, among them, 7th Count of Albany, Titular Prince of France and Poland, and Scots King de jure. Although his family had lived in Belgium for three generations, Prince Michael had long held a heartfelt desire to return to Scotland and become their king instead. So, at the age of 18, with the disapproval of his immediate family, Prince Michael flew to Scotland, with money he'd saved from working in an insurance firm, to pursue his dream. After a bit of a struggle, he achieved official recognition from the Westminster government as the Head of the Royal House of Stewart. Now he is the elected President of the European Council of Princes, a constitutional advisory body within the European Union. In addition, he is the Knight Grand Commander of the Chivalric Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, the Grand Master of the Noble Order of the Guard of St. Germain, and the Sovereign Head of Scotland's Sacred Kindred of Saint Columba. He is also the author of the best-selling book, The Forgotten Monarchy of Scotland.
DR: You've been called Prince Michael since birth, right?
PM: Yes, I have.
DR: So have you always known that you were the rightful King of Scots? Did your parents tell you that?
P.M.: Well, yes, I mean it's been in the family for centuries, you know, it's from generation to generation. However, when you live in Europe and you've been in exile for just below 300 years it's not something that you tend to be obsessive about. You know, there is the concept that you have to survive in 20th century history, and we've had, you know, two world wars and so forth, so family fortunes have had ups and downs, and basically it's a case of survival more than anything else.
DR: OK, but there has been a plan ever since Bonnie Prince Charlie...
PM: Oh, there's been a plan even before Bonnie Prince Charlie, there's been a plan since James VII, you know, who lost the three crowns due to the betrayal of the Church of England. Yes, I mean, we have always wanted to come back to this country.
DR: OK, so then I don't understand why you had to fight with your parents about it.
PM: No, it's a question basically of, you know, my mother had other priorities for me, like a 9-5 job kind of thing behind a desk. Mum's a strong socialist, as was my grandfather...
DR: Oh, so they don't even like the idea of monarchy.
PM: Well, they think that it's a bit of an anachronism this century. However I'm of a different kettle of fish, you know. I just don't think that particular way - notwithstanding the fact that I was born the King of Belgians, which has had a monarchy since 1831. I believe in the concept of monarchism. What my mother does not believe in is the kind of monarchism as we have in Britain. She's quite happy with the kind of monarchy you have in Europe. But bear in mind that to be a King or Queen means to lose a tremendous amount of privacy. My mother and my grandfather being extremely private people, you know, the idea of acceding to that particular status in life did not interest them.
DR: I see. But you had support from other members of the family?
PM: Yes, yes, but I must admit that, you know, we have been Belgians since 1892, so I must admit I'm the only throwback within the family thinking of himself as a purely Scottish Stewart. My mother, my father, my grandparents were born in Belgium. They are Belgians. I have never considered or termed myself to be a Belgian citizen. I personally was born in exile, which I hated, and I came back to Scotland when I became of age, and that was that, you know. I'd rather die a citizen of Scotland not on the throne than a Prince of Scotland in exile in Belgium.
DR: When did you get this idea in your head that you would go back to Scotland and try to reclaim the throne?
PM: I was five years of age at the time.
DR: Yeah, I remember reading that story. I kind of questioned it. It seemed like a strange thing to come out of the mouth of a five-year-old.
PM: Not really. (Laughs.) Not if you know anything about my family! We can be strange people occasionally. But I did make that - I tend to call it an "utteration." And basically yes, I was five when I became Head of my house, because my great uncle died in 1963, so in 1963 I then succeeded as Head of my house. And the question was being asked on my 5th birthday, and out of the blue I just answered, you know: "When I am 18 I shall leave you all to go to Scotland to live and die there", quote. Take into account that my parents had just separated. This, you know, being told by your only child that he was going to leave you when he's 18 years of age was not particularly welcome by my mother. But yes, I did make that particular comment, and when I was 18 I came to Scotland and, you know, that's it.
DR: I see. Well, when it was explained to you as a child, you know, who you were and what your birthright was and stuff, did they mention the connection with Jesus and the House of David?
PM: No, not really. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's something that many families in Europe are aware of about themselves. However, bear in mind that Europe is extremely Catholicized in any case. Even from a Protestant point of view this would still be termed heretical. It's not something that we mention to anyone. You know, it's 2000 years old, so it's pretty much in the past. We have a concept of Christianity that is very much different from the norm, that's true. None of us have ever considered the virgin birth as explained by the Roman Catholic Church to be correct. These kinds of things, yes. But then of course we do live within a Christian world, either according to the RC - Roman Church, or C of S, Church of Scotland, or whatever, you know, it's either orthodox Greek or Russian, or then it's Roman Catholic or Presbyterian or Protestant. All of them still declare Jesus to have been born of a virgin who was impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Make what you wish out of that, but frankly - (laughs riotously) - we have definite and very different views on that matter, simply because, yes, we are of that bloodline. If I had to describe Jesus to any one I would say, "Well, imagine Bonnie Prince Charlie 2000 years ago making a bid for a new kingship, and unfortunately it went astray and it didn't work." And whoever actually survived after he died - and we're not talking A.D. 33 or A.D. 37, you know, it's much later than that. Christianity was not created during the lifetime of Jesus Christ, it's after his death in A.D. 64. Actually I always say there is no such thing as Christianity. What we have is "Churchianity."
DR: Right. Well the Ambassador told me that this was very significant to you guys, your descent from David, because, well, he said that you considered that to be the basis of your legitimacy, kind of a Divine Right.
PM: Well, yes and no. I mean, I think people have to make a definite difference between, say, English Divine Right, which is totally different from the Scottish point of view. Prior to Christianity being imposed in Britain, do bear in mind that any king would have been termed a reincarnation of, you know, one of the gods that prevailed in Britain. So even before Christianity, the fact is that a king was considered to be a living god, an incarnation of a particular god, and his wife would be an incarnation of a particular goddess. The concept of Divine Right is extremely old. The Egyptians had it, the Sumerians had it, the Jews had it. Whether Jews today would admit to that I don't know, but certainly during the days of Solomon and David, all actually came upon the throne as an incarnation of something. So I wouldn't call it "Divine Right". I would simply explain it as a continuation of a concept that is older than Christianity, basically. I mean, I don't consider myself to be divine in any sense.
DR: All right. Well, I've read things put out, what seems like propaganda for the Grail families, where they intimate that the Grail families are special and significant because they're descendant from some intermarriage between Iraelites and extraterrestrials.
PM. (Laughs.) No. Whoever wrote that, take it with a pinch of salt. There is nothing extraterrestrial about us. However, we could get into the concept of the fact that all of us are made of extraterrestrial, um, how can I put it? If you think of what hits the Earth every day for the past millions of years, there are items which actually enter our atmosphere and become part of the living planet, which we eat, which we drink, whatever, you know. It becomes part of our everyday intake. Considering that this has been going on for millions of years, you can see that particular concept being understandable. But the idea of actual extraterrestrials coming down, you know, beaming down from Planet Mars and actually intermingling with earthlings, I'm afraid no.
DR: OK. Well I got kind of a different answer from the Ambassador. He said that "We (and I assume he's speaking for the Grail families at large) consider God to be an extraterrestrial." But again, he -
PM: (Shocked.) Scott said that?
DR: He said that, but then he kind of qualified it by saying that "we" don't imagine Him to be coming down in a flying saucer, or anything. He said that "we believe that God has both physical and spiritual form", and that he is an extraterrestrial. I really pressed this issue, so maybe I kind of forced him into saying that.
PM: Right. No, I would actually think that particular way. I mean, I consider God to be a universal concept, you know, it spans the universe. It is the universe, and it's not just planet Earth, it is every one of them. It is living within things, be it rocks, flowers, people, animals. It transcends everything, really. I mean, we're all part of this universal understanding which expands as the years go by. But I don't think of God as being anything more than that. I mean that is my own. I think if you were to ask 11 people in a room to actually define their understanding of God you'd probably get twelve answers. So my own is, call it the Great Architect, like the Masons do, or God, as the Church does, or whatever, however you understand God to be, that will be your God. Mine is something which actually transcends the entire universe.
DR: OK, yeah. I was just wondering if there was, like, a concept of God that gets taught to you when you're a member of these families, or perhaps when you join the Templars.
PM: Not particularly, because at the end of the day, I mean, we're all individuals, so our understanding and definition of the word God will be distinctly different from one to another. What some families have in common is a particular pedigree, which takes you to a particular man which has been defined by Church fathers as the living incarnation of God, Jehovah or Yahweh upon earth. Now neither of us see it like that. That's the way the Church perceives it, that what Paul imposed with his dogma upon the people he preached to. Bear in mind that in those days in order to become a god you had to be born of a virgin. Look at Greece, look at Rome, Babylonians, Sumerians, all of these people, the ones that became extremely popular and became heroes in their own right, you know, what historians would call mythical heroes today were all born of a god and a virgin. So that seems to have been the prerequisite thing, was to have been born of a virgin and a god. But you and I know perfectly well that all these people were born from proper human beings.
DR: At what age did you join the Templars?
PM: Well, I was born into it. There are three families in Scotland where the heads of those families are born into the Order of Knights Templar, which are the Setons, the Sinclairs and the Stewarts. We're known as "The Three Ss".
DR: So when you were a kid you always knew -
PM: Well, how can I put it? The concept of something that you inherit, you know, through the principle of heredity - it's not something you're told as a child. My grandfather, for example was a Knight Templar. It's not something that I was told: "Oh, by the way, you were born a Knight Templar." Because it never occurs to any of us to tell the successive generation. Well, some of them do. But as a rule it's something that you're born with. You know, if you have one title, you usually have about three or four titles attached to it, minor ones, that you're not aware of. That is why some people, some families, for example, get into hard times, and then they ask: "What minor titles do I have which I could sell?" And it's only in this particular fashion that they find out what belongs to them by the principle of hereditary. The concept of the Knights Templars, from generation to generation it was dictated after 1314 was that the successive head of the House of Stewart, Seton and Sinclair would be Knights Templars from birth. I'm also the 54th - 54th or 57th? I'm actually the 57th Archpriest of the Kindred of St. Columba in Scotland. It's something you're born with. You carry it from the time you're born until the time you die. It's difficult to explain if you're not part of that particular concept, which is a historical one.
DR: Well, how about other members of the Templars? I mean, how do you even become a Templar if you're not born into it?
PM: Well, basically, you're supposed to be invited to join the Order. You do have three kinds of Templars which are proper orders, which is the Order of Christ in Portugal, The Order of Our Lady of Montèzar in Spain, and then you have the Order of Knights Templar of St. Anthony in Scotland.
DR: And do you have to be Scottish to join?
PM: Not particularly.
DR: Of Scottish descent?
PM: Well, of Scottish origin, yes. And then you have pseudo-orders, which date back from, say, the 19th century, and you have thousands of those, unfortunately. And this is where the problem arises, you know, which are the true ones and which are not the true ones? The pseudo-orders are so numerous that it becomes practically impossible to extricate the right ones from the wrong ones. But certainly the Order of Knights Templar of St. Anthony in Scotland, the Order of Christ in Portugal, and the Order of Our Lady of Montèzar in Spain are the only three recognized Templar orders which have a succession going back to 1317.
DR: I see. Do have to be male to join?
PM: Not particularly. No no no no no. As a matter of fact, I'm writing my second book on the matter, it's actually on Scotland, Templars and Freemasons. And basically most people are not aware of this, and again it's the dogmatic history which has been presented by some historians to the people stating that Templars certainly had to be celibate, or at least unmarried, which is a load of rubbish, because they had lots of married Templars in the Order. The only difference was that they actually wore a black mantle with a red cross instead of a white one. That was to differentiate between the married ones and the unmarried ones. You also had women Templars who were called "Cisterciennes." And they survived well into the 14th century, so when people say to you it was a male order only, it's a load of rubbish. As a matter of fact, what the female Templars did was to take care of the education of children born to Templars, who would become Templars themselves. So there is within the Order, even in medieval days, already a kind of hereditary concept attached to it.
DR: Were the women initiated into the same secrets?
PM: I still have to find that one out. I reckon not. I reckon there was - how can I put it to you? To each organization in the world, you know, whether you are a business or political organization, you will have those who belong to the inner board and those who belong to the periphery of the inner board. And your inner board is the one that actually decides on the agenda. But you are never going to present that agenda as you people of the inner board have it in your mind. You're going to present it in some way that will be more acceptable to the rest in the group. And that's basically what happened with the Templars as well. In fact, in order to choose a Grand Master - and again, history tends to present the idea that all the knights had a say in who gets to be Grand Master, and that is quite wrong. Only 12 people had the right to choose a Grand Master, and on top of them, part of the twelve were the Grand Commanders of the Order. Now that was male only.
DR: If you were a member of the of the outer order, could you move up? Are there degrees?
PM: I suppose there were, because you keep that particular post for your lifetime. Then when you die you have to get replaced, because there can never be less than twelve people. So yes, I suppose that people could actually go up the ladder.
DR: And then they learn the real agenda?
PM: Possibly. Probably.
DR: And what exactly is that agenda? What can you tell me, at least?
PM: Well remember, you know, this is not the agenda now, because the Order as it was no longer exists. The agenda was merely to, um - OK, historically speaking, the Order of the Knights Templars existed since 1094, although you will be told 1118. So they existed before they arrived in Jerusalem. So they arrive in Jerusalem in 1099, together with Godfroi de Bouillion, and they are settled in the royal palace together with the royal family of Jerusalem, i.e. Godfroi de Bouillion and his brother, Baldwin. Now it is interesting to note that although these two gentlemen are Christian, as soon as Bouillion was declared "Advocatus", which means Guardian of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem - and it's his brother, Baldwin I who is the first King of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem - both of them actually became Jews. They converted to Judaism.
PM: Yeah. Precisely. So they actually acceded to the rulership of Jerusalem not as Christian aristocrats but as Davidic Judaic kings.
DR: So do you think they did that just strategically or because they had learned something that made them change?
PM: No, they knew who they were and at the end of the day they went back home where they belonged. And as such they decided, you know, "We're going to rule Outremer as our ancestors did", and so they became Judaic. They converted. And they became more Eastern than they were Westerners. And at the end of it the order was created as a bodyguard, both a spiritual one, i.e. Temple guard, as well as a royal one, you know, a royal bodyguard.
PM: For the Latin Kings of Jerusalem. So when you look at the descendants, for example, of Hughes de Payen, who was the first Grand Master of the Order, you'll soon find out that his lineage is to the House of Brittany, which of course takes him back to the Merovingians, and hence, you know, further on down the line. And then you realize that basically what they have done is: there is a spiritual Messiah, which is the Grand master of the Order of Knights Templar, and then there is a temporal one, which is of course the Latin King of the Crusader Kingdom. So basically you're going back to the roots, where you had a High Priest, and then you had your King.
DR: OK, well how about the agenda of the Templars now, then?
PM: Well, to tell you the truth, I don't think personally that these pseudo-orders have an agenda, for the good and simple reason that very few of them understand what the history of the real Order, you know, the old, ancient order, is all about.
DR: But what about the ones that you consider to be legitimate?
PM: Well, the Order of Knights Templar in Portugal is now under the headship of the royal house of Portugal, the House of Breganza. So again it's support to the restoration of the Royal House of Breganza. The Order in Spain is under the headship of the Royal House of Bourbon in Spain, and the Knights of the Order of Templars of St. Anthony is favoring the restoration of the Royal House of Stewart in Scotland.
DR: OK, well, that's what I thought.
PM: (Laughs) You have to support your own royal families, and in Scotland, the Order of the Knights Templar was known as, um, um, hold on a minute... "The bodyguard of the Kings of Scots by day and by night."
DR: In Scotland, how many Scots at large do you think are aware of your claim and support you?
PM: Well, the book is now #2 as a Scottish bestseller, so I'd reckon quite a few, actually. And the problem that we have in Scotland, politically, is that, at present, neither the SNP or Labour Party or the non-existing Conservative Party in Scotland wish to debate the role of the monarchy in a free independent Scotland. I did a tour, a rather extensive tour of Scotland for promoting the book, and during my talk I would ask people a question, which is: "Now if we had to vote for total Scottish independence separate from England, and it's a two question bill, i.e., Republic or Windsors, what do you vote for?" And most of them said: "Oh, we'll definitely vote for a Republic." Then my question was: "Well, is that because you are Republicans?" And most of them said: "No, it's because we don't like the Windsors. They don't really belong to Scotland as such." And so I said, "OK, it's a three- question bill: Republic, Windsors, or your own Scottish constitutional monarchy?" And in all cases, or most cases, the answer that I got back was: "Well, the third option is much more interesting." Because Scotland has a monarchical history, which is much older than England in any case, we have a crown, of which people are extremely proud, and it's the oldest crown in Europe, it's older than the crown of England. And the idea of being properly, constitutionally represented, at home and abroad was much more interesting than, you know, a President. Notwithstanding the fact that, you know, I'm not saying that kings are angels. They're not. Everybody's human. But I think that with a presidency corruption at the top is much more obvious and certain than if you have proper constitutional monarchy set up in a country. I mean, at least a king, when properly drilled on constitutional matter - and this is it, you see. In Britain, when the Queen opens Parliament every year, she will read the Queen's speech. It is not the Queen's speech. It's a speech she has been given by a secretary of the Prime Minister. So it's the Prime Minister's speech read by the Queen. It's his speech. But it is not what the Queen expects from her government. It's very much what people can expect from a government which most people haven't voted for in the first place. You see? So from a constitutional point of view you also have to remember that Scotland is the oldest constitutionally-formed country in Europe. In 1320 we had the Declaration of Arbroath, which actually explains the fundamentals of civil rights and liberties of the entire Community of the Realm of Scotland. Nobody else in Europe had this, least of all England. So you have to bear in mind that from a Scottish point of view, civil rights and liberties are much older in Scotland than say, America. In fact the American Constitution is based on the Declaration of Arbroath. As a matter of fact your Constitution was actually written by Scots.
DR: Uh, what do you mean?
PM: Well, what I mean is that if you look at the history of the Constitution of the United States of America, as well as the Declaration of Independence of 1776, you will soon find out that actually the people involved in the writing of both documents were Scottish. They were not what you would call "American Americans." They were Scots. And basically what they did was to update a medieval constitution, the Scottish one, to an 18th century understanding of democracy, which had been taken away in Scotland in 1707. And remember in America alone you have 23,000,000 people with Scottish names today. And when you look at those people who actually fought for American independence, you will find a tremendous amount of Scots in there as well.
DR: So you're talking, like, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton...
PM: Yep, all those. Paul Jones.
DR: I did not know that.
PM: Ah, there you have it. Very few Americans are aware of their history, which is a great pity, because they will then find out very, very soon that the Declaration of Independence and the tenets of their Constitution were given to them thanks to people from Scotland who actually decided to leave. In fact, they were kicked out of Scotland after the "45." They went to America. They settled there, and then they realized: "Well, if we couldn't actually make it at home, let's make it here." You know, Washington was a direct descendant of the Royal House of Scotland.
DR: Huh. I didn't know that. I remember he was offered kingship and he declined it.
PM: That's right, and he sent a delegation to Florence, where Bonnie Prince Charlie was residing at the time and offered the crown to him.
DR: Yeah, I remember reading that. I just didn't know that Washington had any -
PM: Oh yes, he had royal blood. I mean, you know, it's far away in history, but it's there. He would have been aware of his family tree. He was extremely well-connected.
DR: All right. Let's go to the proposed constitution that you put in the appendix to your book. Did you come up with that all on your own?
PM: More or less, yes. It's an updated version of the Declaration of Arbroath. It's possibly more European than anything else as well. You know, Britain is the only country not to have a written constitution in the world. I don't think people are aware of this, but in Britain there is no such thing as a written constitution.
DR: Yeah. I noticed that in it you guarantee your citizens health care, and a job, and a home...
PM: Well it's not a question of guaranteeing a job. It actually a question of saying to the government that "Your role is to make sure that people can have a job, certainly can have a roof over their heads, and certainly can have free health care and a free education." It's a constitution about rights. It's not a constitution about privileges.
DR: But if you're homeless in Scotland, does that mean that once this constitution comes into being that you now have a right to a house, whereas before you didn't?
PM: Well, if my constitution comes into being than yes. Presently, if you're homeless, you haven't got the right to work, you haven't got the right to draw benefits, you haven't got the right to vote. In other words, you have no rights whatsoever. Now, I don't know how you feel about this, but I find it appalling that in the latter part of the 20th century - you know, we're two years away from the year 2000 - we still have people facing that situation. Notwithstanding the fact that, if you look around - and I don't know what it's like on your side of the ocean, but on our side of the ocean there are empty houses, there are empty flats boarded up that could actually be a home to a homeless person. And to my mind there is no need for people to be homeless regardless of the situation they got themselves into.
DR: Well, that's nice.
PM: Yeah, well surely that stands to reason. I mean if one believes in the tenets of Christianity in the first place, and let's face it: everyone, or at least most people in Europe will call themselves Christian. But I find a tremendous amount of un-Christian attitude, most of all from politicians. For example, in 1979 - I don't know how many people today are homeless in London - but in 1979 there were 50,000 between the age of 18-25 homeless in London, you know, below the windows of Her Majesty the Queen, and very little was done about these people. Very little is done about these people. So it's about time we get into the concept of helping, and forget about the view that if they can't provide for themselves than they are no good to anybody else. I find that quite appalling.
DR: On the Council of Princes, I assume there are other members of the Grail families, right?
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