This is a royal fairy-tale like no other.
A fable featuring Princes and Princesses but not the type that occupy the castles of Europe, this wannabe regal family lives in suburban Adelaide.
Meet his serene highnesses Prince Marek and Prince Andrew Kasperski and their Princesses Petrina and Elisabetta... According to their website, brothers Andrew and Marek claim they spring from Polish nobility and they're at home in the company of other aristocrats from all over the globe.
Sharon Matthews is Princess Petrina's twin sister. Petrina wed Prince Marek in a royal ceremony four years ago.
“At my sister's hens party the girls were, ‘Oh she's going to be a princess, isn't it wonderful?’ and I was just like, am I the only one?” asks Sharon.
She was suspicious of her future brother-in-law Prince Marek from the start.
“When I first met him he was just plain Mark and he was Mark for quite some time and then all of a sudden he was Marick Juan Gspersky or the other way round and then this whole royal thing started,” says Sharon.
“They started buying the royalty magazine… and he told her not only was she going to be in there one day that she was also going to meet Princess Mary,” says Sharon.
Princess Mary… and your sister believed him?
“It was like (snaps fingers) that,” says Sharon.
What happened at the royal wedding?
“This royal wedding, we all had this strict dress code, it was black tie, the ladies had to wear ankle length dresses or skirts because of the royalty was coming… none of the royalty arrived… next minute Andrew and Mark have got cloaks on and there's scrolls in Andrew's hand and there's this footstool that my sister brought from Loot,” says Sharon.
From Loot Homewares shop?
“Yeah they got my father to kneel on this footstool from Loot and they got this broadsword and they started to read out this scroll and basically dad was being knighted and made a Baron,” says Sharon.
She was convinced the princesses had been deceived and eventually Sharon became estranged from the royal family.
“I would like my family to realize that what I have been saying and trying to put across to them has been right and like to be embraced back into the family,” says Sharon.
“Poland has non-royal princes, the equivalent of English Dukes but the Kasperski's name will not be found amongst the list… there are about 20 odd Polish princely families and the Kasperski's, unless they are unknown to me and I've been in the field for 20 years, simply do not exist as a title family,” says Rafe Heydel-mankoo.
Rafe is a Royal commentator and expert in honours and orders. He says many of the claims on the Kasperski brothers' website are highly dubious, made to look more impressive by their membership of a group called the Order of St. Stanislas.
“The Order of St Stanislas is an illicit revival of a true order which became extinct in 1917… it is not a true order in the sense it doesn't have the authority of a state behind it. It was created by a man who called himself His Serene Highness Prince Grandmaster Count Eulish Kumonmiski, one of the more interesting titles you'll come across, and amongst his membership we have found many people who have titles which are of dubious repute,” explains Rafe.
So it's not surprising then that the Kasperski brothers are unknown to many members of Adelaide's Polish community including Dom Polski volunteer for 40 years, Eve Barckowiak.
“We have never had the Kasperski's at any Polish events in Adelaide…the Polish Government doesn't recognise Royalties anymore,” says Eve.
Their serene highnessess, who declined to appear, say they don't seek to publicise their family history, though their website suggests otherwise when it suits them and being a royal does have it's benefits.
“My mother has told me they have had hotel upgrades. I wouldn't be surprised if maybe they've been upgraded to first class flights, I mean the sky is the limit,” says Sharon.
But Prince Andrew doesn't just claim to be amongst the ranks of the Polish royal family but also the ranks of the Royal Australian Navy.
“I was told that he was in the Navy. I was told that he did a lot of hush, hush operations,” says Sharon.
But his serene highness has been busted on a military imposters’ website for fraudulently sporting three prestigious medals, including our second highest honour for bravery, the Star of Courage.
‘Bill Hobson' is one of the investigators who track down phony war service wannabies… he prefers to remain under cover.
“He claimed he was serving as a Navy commander in the first Gulf War and committed an act of heroism whilst there and was awarded the Star of Courage and then subsequently the Order of Australia,” says Bill.
Any truth in that?
“No truth whatsoever,” says Bill.
“He's never served in the Navy or in the Defence Force at all, never pulled a boot on,” says Bill.
So this is all a complete sham?
“It certainly is,” says Bill.
Andrew has admitted he never served in the Navy but even after he was outed by the ANZMI website, he claimed he'd never worn any service medals in public.
“If you look at the photos on the website they're very clearly wearing them and some other funny medals as well.
Amongst his decorations is also the Order of Australia but when you search for his name on the Australian honours website you get a big fat zero.
“He's a liar, a wannabe and a fraud,” says Bill.
Lord Richard Bridgeman is the 7th Earl of Bradford in England. He runs a website called fake titles dot com and exposes wannabes. He says the practice of purchasing fake titles is rife in Australia and New Zealand.
“…Incredibly common, I've come across numerous cases. There's somebody who's in court in Brisbane… whose case is coming up, who has been using his fake title there to run Ponzi schemes whereby people looking for loans pay the money upfront but the loan never materializes and he's used his title in trying to sell that to people,” says Earl of Bradford.
While there's no suggestion of anything like that from the Kasperski brothers, the Earl is not impressed by the over the top claims.
“They seem to be members of some pretty dubious orders as well which presumably are things they've purchased on the internet to make themselves appear to be a lot grander than they are… They're claiming to be something that they aren't. There are all sorts of famous people that they claim to have met and deal with on the internet. There's pictures of them with Indian Princes and so on and they're obviously using their dubious titles to gain entry into places they shouldn't be getting access to,” says the Earl of Bradford…
And it's not difficult to purchase a title online. We found one website selling titles of nobility for around $200 each.
“I could be a Baroness for $256 by the time you leave today,” says Sharon.
“When you see the rituals and the elaborate installation ceremony for some of the titles you realize they're simply trying to ‘ape’ the Royal Family and what they do and they're really 'Walter Mitty' characters living in ‘Cockoo land’,”says Rafe.
Today the Kasperki's sent us a response via their solicitor saying the legitimacy of their titles had been recognised by the International Tribunal of Justice in 2008... Their membership of the order of Saint Stanislaus is purely part of their charitable works and that Andrew Kasperski knows nothing of the website exposing his military claims.
“He used to say that when the European Court granted them their titles and lands and all the millions of dollars in, is it reparations, that we'd all be right, none of us would have to worry again and he'd take care of us all…
So he believed or was telling you he'd be extremely wealthy?
“I was just like, oh yeah, righto Mark,” says Sharon.