by Jackie Speel, 28 October 2012
Boris Skossyreff was born in Vilnius, the capital
of Lithuania which, at the time, was within the Czarist Russian empire,
on 12 June 1896, and he died on 27 February 1989 in Boppard, Rhineland
Palatinate, in West Germany. 
He was an apparently White Russian adventurer who
attempted to seize power in the European microstate of Andorra in
1934. Russian sources give his name in Cyrillic as
for which the modern English transliteration of his name would
He was also known as Borís Skossyreff Mawrusow:
there are various other spellings and misspellings of his name,
including Eskossiref and Deskossyieff.
The surviving evidence relating to his
life story is scattered across a large range of sources - due in
part to his moving between many countries. The elements can
partially contradict each other: partially because he himself gave
several versions of events.
He claimed to be a member of a minor
branch of the Russian nobility, members of which had served in the
Czarist army, and left Russia, probably in 1917 with the advent of
the Russian Revolution.
Having been involved with the British Army as a
liaison officer to Oliver Locker Lampson's RNACD, (Lampson commanded
Royal Naval Air Service armoured cars during the First World War, and
was also an MP), Skossyreff at some point became linked with the
Japanese Military Mission to the UK as a translator. (The Japanese
supported the White Russians during the Russian Civil War.) This
post ceased with the Armistice - index cards in the FO records at
The National Archives refer to now-weeded files on the Japanese
Military Mission's departure, and also to an incident with Boris
Skossyreff involving a member of the Japanese mission, but Skossyreff
remained in London. (The Japanese were more interested in extending
their presence in the Pacific/East Asian region than in European
affairs.) In 1934 he claimed that he had served with the British
armoured car unit on the Russian Front during the First World War:
the FO file titles mentioned below suggest a slightly different version
of events. He acquired a passport from the Russian embassy in August
1918, and opened an account at the Russo-Asiatic Bank the following
In January 1919 Skossyreff was arrested
in London on charges of passing cheques fraudulently to hotels where
he had been staying (having, on previous occasions, paid his bills),
and, as an alien, of failing to register a change of address (as was
then required of foreigners). At his trial he claimed that he had,
after serving in the Czarist army, in 1917, been imprisoned by the
Bolsheviks in the Sts Peter-Paul prison, with his father and three
uncles: the others had been killed, but he had managed to escape
aided by a friend. He stated that there were moneys available, but
they were presently unavailable, in Russia and elsewhere. He also
stated that he had changed his name, for fear of the Bolsheviks: the
magistrate stated that he could understand the reason for the
deception in Russia, but Bolsheviks were not a problem in the UK.
(There was, however, according to The Times of 20 January 1919 (page 4),
a secret - from the context 'closed' - Bolshevik Congress in London
at the time: and, given later events (see below), Boris' fears were
not wholly unjustified.) The money required for paying the debts was
provided from sources that were not clearly explained.
He was later expelled from Britain for further incidents
of a similar nature, and returned at a later date, leaving via Newhaven
(which was then the major port for ships to Europe).
The interwar years
In 1925 Boris acquired a Nansen passport, and later a
Netherlands passport, which he still had in the 1930s: there are claims
that he did service for the government and royal family of the Netherlands
which resulted in him being given the title of 'Count of Orange'. He may
have been involved in spying and related matters with several secret services.
Boris' movements between 1919 and the
1930s are somewhat unclear: he was in Majorca by 1930/1. He stated
in an interview in 1934 that he had learnt his Spanish in Colombia,
South America, where he seemingly had established an export-import
agency. According to an exchange in a 1938 FO file on another topic
it was common practice for Europeans going to Latin America, even
long-term, to retain their original passports: this would be a
reaction to the (actual or perceived) political instability of the
region. At some point in the interwar period he converted from
Russian Orthodoxy to Protestantism.
A photographic portrait of Boris Skossyreff in 1934,when he
was certaonly at his most active, having recently declared
himself king of Andorra
Rulers of Bulgaria: Khan Kubrat
New Monarchy for Serbia
RULERS OF EUROPE:
BBC: Your Place & Mine
National Archives: Your Archies
King of Andorra Publications (in Catalan, English, and Spanish)
Boris Skossyreff (in Russian)
Boris, King of Andorra (in German)
The Old Style/Julian Calendar
was in use in Russia at the time of Boris' birth in 1896: some
records suggest it was 1898
Overview of the Western Front
His activities and movements during the
interwar period may have been influenced in part by what was
happening elsewhere in the White Russian movement. In 1930 General
Alexander Paul Koutiepoff, head of the Russian royalist groups,
disappeared in Paris - he was kidnapped by the GPU (predecessors of
the KGB) and executed: other White Russian leaders suffered similar
fates at various points (as did Leon Trotsky, who was also killed on
On 21 March 1931, he married Marie Luise (Maria
Lluïsa) Parat, spelling his name with a single 's' rather than 'ss'
and the 'ff' became a 'w.' He stated he was the son of Michel d'Skosyrew
and Elisabeth Mawrusow. Boris had a number of other relationships,
including one with a beautiful young Englishwoman, Polly Heard. At some
point he became associated with a 'North American millionairess'
named Florence Marmon (sometimes misspelt Marzon: there is various
information on her on the 'Ancestry' website). She was the divorced spouse
of Howard Marmon, an American magnate.
In 1932 he was living in Palma, Majorca
(Spanish Mallorca) with Florence Marmon. There he stated he was a
professor of English and physical culture. A decree of expulsion was
issued against him.
Andorra in 1933 experienced a period of
unrest. The co-princes (the bishop of Urgel in Spain and the president
of France) intervened against the Syndics due to their alleged
insubordination, calling new elections: there was much resentment at
this activity, not least because it occurred in the period when the
Andorran parliament was traditionally not serving (the harvest
season, during the summer). A group of French gendarmes was sent to
restore order - which caused further resentment - and their
departure was eventually negotiated.
There were other factors contributing to the unrest. A
Spanish power company made arrangements to set up a power station - in
return for which they would build roads: a number of the workmen belonged to
anarchist or Anarchist-Syndicalist unions and for a period went on
Taxes began to be imposed due to the costs of administration
and the decline in the supply of concessions by the government.
Some websites conflate the events of 1933 and Boris' intervention:
when in fact he only obtained Andorran citizenship in December 1933.
There were rising tensions in Spain, in the lead up to the Spanish
Civil War (1936-1939), and in France, where right wing groups, and
monarchist/legitimist parties (there being a partial overlap) were
causing disruption: and which resulted in riots in February 1934.
After some time Boris presented a plan
for administrative reform in Andorra involving the creation of
several offices to which he asked to be appointed himself.
There were rumours and remarks by a French press agency that a
wealthy resident of Barcelona offered the Council General a sum of
money in order to be made king of Andorra (this appeared in several later
versions, starting with The Times 13 July 1934 page 14, and also
appearing in The Guardian, and then The Manchester Guardian).
An American also attempted to 'buy' the monarchy of Andorra
but was rejected: there is some uncertainty as to the exact details and
In May, Boris presented a document outlining reforms and was
subsequently expelled from Andorra, having got into trouble. He then
went into 'exile' in Seo d'Urgel, taking up residence in the Hotel
Mundial. He had various telephone interviews with representatives of
the Daily Herald and The Times, and prepared a new offensive. He
also made contact with the legitimists in the south of France, his
plans promoting Jean Orleans, duc de Guise, the heir to the French
On 6 July he proclaimed himself king of Andorra, under the
name of Boris I of Andorra. He declared himself 'regent for His Majesty the
King of France', Jean d'Orléans, duc de Guise (heir presumptive to
the throne of France), who, he declared, was the true inheritor of
the titles of count of Foix and count of Berne, they being the sometime
co-princes of Andorra. (Technically this may be legally correct - but it
could also be argued that as both the bishop of Urgel and the Conseil Général des
Vallées acquiesced in the assumption of the role by the French
president for many years, the existing situation had a certain
According to one version, on 8 July the Conseil Général des Vallées
ratified this, with a single dissenting voice (out of twenty-four), the
monarchy being proclaimed the next day, and a second vote passed
23-1 in favour on 10 July.
On 12 July Boris issued a proclamation declaring war on the bishop of
Urgel. He also issued an official bulletin, made numerous decrees. The
constitution he promoted contained seventeen articles, the longest
of them being under thirty words. He also posed for official photographs and
wore a monocle and a black armband in commemoration which, he stated, were
for the late King Albert.
Boris claimed that he made the attempt
'as a joke': the actual reasons, and his financial and other backing are
not clear from present records.
Boris declared himself to be a White Russian émigré, born in
Vilnius. This account was somewhat conflicted by the publication, Spain Week
by Week, which reported on 25 July 1934 that he was a thirty-eight year-old
Pole who had been resident 'for some years' in Catalonia and Majorca. (This
may be in part a matter of terminology, given the discontinuities across Central
and Eastern Europe as a result of the First World War and subsequent events, where
geographical areas could pass between several different states, and possess autonomy
for various periods. Nationality identities could be fluid and depend upon the context.)
claimed that Skossyreff made his proclamation on 11 July, not the
day after, and had declared himself 'Boris I, Prince of the Valleys
of Andorra, Count of Orange, and Baron of Skossyreff... sovereign of
Andorra and defender of the faith'. After pledging his allegiance to
the king of France, it reports that he deposed the Conseil Général
des Vallées de Andorra, appointed a provisional government,
promulgated a constitution, and issued a court circular before being
arrested by the Spaniards.
The program that he promoted included the
creation of a liberal regime in the Chamber, the modernisation of
the country, attracting foreign investment - including by declaring
it a tax haven - and the establishment of casinos, as in Monaco. A
new flag was devised. Skossyreff proclaimed liberty of politics,
belief and opinion. He wished to protect those in need, and promote
education and sport.
The French government, as the co-prince
of Andorra, accepted the decision of the Conseil Général of Andorra,
but the sole conseiller who had opposed the vote went to Spain, to
inform the bishop of Urgel, being the other co-prince of the
situation. (The bishop disapproved of casinos, considering them as
links to hell.)
The Andorran population were not opposed
to the establishment of a monarchy.
On 14 July, Boris I was deposed by order of
the bishop of Urgel and the French president, Albert Lebrun.
17 July he issued his first 'Court Circular', stating that he had taken
the country in the name of the king of France, and that he had five
hundred volunteers in Spain and France, none of them being mercenaries.
20 July, Boris was arrested by the Guarda civil (Spanish police) and
taken to Barcelona, and on 23 July to Madrid.
Spanish authorities who held him in custody noted
he carried a Dutch passport which indicated his date of birth as 12 June 1896.
He declared himself to be a White Russian émigré, born in Vilnius.
Boris (centre) at Casa Vasco Gaman in 1935
There was also the further
complication of whether an individual was an ethnic Pole and/or
a Polish national, with the same problem existing for
Lithuanians and Byelrussians. For centuries prior to the
division of Poland, that and Lithuania had existed as a single
commonwealth, with former borders being blurred and ethic
members of both peoples moving around. Modern Belarus was born
out out the easternmost parts of traditional Polish and
In November, Boris Skossyreff was expelled from Spain to Portugal. His
own lawyer proposed that he be expelled under the law on vagrants, and
the magistrates agreed.
On reaching the Portuguese border he was arrested for having no
passport - he claimed the Spanish had taken his money and documents.
He was given a provisional passport on condition he would not
return, going to France, from which he was expelled in turn.
During his campaign and 'reign' he
encouraged photographers for publicity purposes. He had an
'official' photograph taken during his brief 'reign' in which he
wore a traditional Andorran birettina, When he was expelled from
Spain (for the second time) in November 1934 he was photographed
His movements thereafter are unclear, but
there is evidence that he travelled widely, including Lisbon,
Tangier and Gibraltar.
In May 1936 he was again in Portugal,
with no passport, and was arrested and went to Spain on his release.
In 1938 the French authorities allowed him
to settle in Aix.
1939 he was in a French internment camp in Le Vernet, near Toulouse,
with Spanish anti-Francoists, Italian anti-fascists and Central
Europeans displaced by the Third Reich's invasion of Central Europe.
There were some claims (generally repeated on various websites) that
he died in the camp in 1944. However, he did survive, was taken by the
Nazis in 1943, and became a 'special officer' (Sonderführer) on the
In 1945 he was taken by the Americans,
released as not being German or a Nazi, and went to Boppard,
Germany, where his wife had settled in 1944.
1948 he was arrested in Eisenach, Thuringia (then in the Soviet Sector of
Germany, afterwards the DDR), tried and sent to Siberia.
He returned to Germany in 1956, with the
rest of the surviving German POWs, taking up residence again in Boppard:
he was granted a small state pension. He made some attempt
to sell his memoirs, without success, but otherwise lived quietly
(given his age and adventures not unsurprisingly).
Skossyreff died on 27 February 1989, and was
buried in Boppard. His grave gives his birth year as 1900, because
he could not prove to the authorities precisely when he had been
In some Russian-language publications and
websites there are somewhat legendary stories that are reported as fact,
notably claiming that Boris I ruled Andorra for a number of years
until 1941 whereupon he was overthrown by Vichy France.
Main Biographical Sources
There will be many more articles in
newspapers not accessible online - but, as with other stories, the
information tends to be repeated across sources.
Articles in The Times
6 January 1919 p 4 - Russian Interpreter's Cheques
13 January 1919 p 2 - Russian Officer's Story. Relatives murdered by
18 January 1919 p 5 - Reticent Russian Officer. A Mysterious Woman
20 January 1919 p 5 - Mysterious Russian's Cheques. Satisfactory
20 January 1919 p 4 - Bolshevists in London. Secret Conference at
3 March 1934 p 11. - No King for Andorra. Offer from Chicago
13 July 1934 p 14 - A Pretender in Andorra. 'War' declared on Bishop
19 July 1934 p 15 - short note, and p 13 - The Andorran Pretender.
Busy week for 'Boris I'. 'Army' of volunteers
21 July 1934 p 12 - Andorran Pretender arrested. Ten days' 'reign'
23 July 1934 p 11 - Andorran Pretender taken to Madrid. 'A militant
26 July 1934 p 11 - Andorran Pretender in Prison. Disowned by his
7 November 1934 - The Andorran Pretender
23 November 1934 p 13 - 'Prince Boris of Andorra'. Arrest in
28 November 1934 p 13 - News in Brief
18 May 1936 p 13 - 'Prince of Andorra' under arrest
9 June 1936 p 13 - Telegrams in Brief
New York Times
21 July 1934 p 3 - Boris the First arrested
23 July p 4 - Spain Will Expel 'Boris of Andorra'
24 July - Boris I arrived in Madrid
(objected to being taken to Madrid by third class train ticket)
17 July 1936 - The Lima News Wanted:
A job for a king. (claimed to be blood-cousin of the Duke of Guise)
(1934) "Spain week by week" (pdf).
Bulletin of Spanish Studies 11 (44): 209 - 216.
doi:10.1080/14753825012331364384. Retrieved on 2007-12-08.
There is no information in the local
(Westminster) newspaper on Boris' 1919 brush with the law.
Morell Antoni - Boris I, rei d'Andorra, La Magrana,
Barcelone (ISBN 84-7410-157-3) - a novel: the author's grandmother
had actually met Boris.
Play: Beth Escudé, Boris I (el rei
Dokumentationsstelle des Institute fuer Politische Wissenschaft
Rechtsextremismusarchive, Schneiderberg 50, 30167 Hannover, Raum 133
(1. Stock) has:
i-24584 Zwehl, Ebenhardt von: Der Mannin Jalta: Hitlers geheimer
Auftrage an Boris von Skossyreff - Leone/Stamberger See, 1982
The entry for Boris Skossyreff in
the Catalan version of Wikipedia has significantly more information
on him than the versions in the other languages.
Your Place & Mine article on the BBC site (see
link in sidebar)
suggests that Boris Skossyreff may have served in the Irish units,
as an interpreter etc.
Boris Skossyreff left a number of
traces in government records, several records being noted in the
Foreign Office card indexes in The National Archives - as well as a
couple of other persons with the surname. Most of the files of this
period have been destroyed under standard weeding programs.
With thanks to Gerhard Lang for providing
additional information for this feature.
The National Archives
FO card and other indexes
1919: W38 31867 Behaviour of Major Hoshimoto in connection with
Boris Skossyreff. FO attitudes towards.
Skossyref, Boris de, Baron Services rendered to Allied Embassies in
Russia in 1918 N9531/9531/38
Skossyreff W Welfare K562/562/236 (file)
1932 Boris Skossyreff Activities: nationality L 4227/4227/ (file)
1933 Boris de Skossyreff Activities abroad K 13929/1329/241
1934 Skossyreff, Baron, Pretender to the Throne of Andorra,
1935 Skossyreff, Baron de, alias Boris Count of Orange alias Rollo,
Capt: Portuguese enquiry respecting L1821/1821/405 (file) (There was
a (British) Captain Rollo, a member of the peerage, at the time, he
and his wife divorced in 1936, the son of this union subsequently
inheriting the title.)
There are several other persons by
the name Skossyreff and variants thereof in computer and other
records, at least some of whom are related to Boris.
New York Times
30 March 1913
Easily Robbed of Jewels: Russian Woman's Strange Confidence in New
Friends in Berlin
(About Frau von Skossyreff, wife of the Commandant of Vilna, Russia)
The National Archives
1920: 201745/201745/38 Request for assistance by Irene Skossyroff:
processing her reparation from Russia to UK
1921 N3890/N4051/1226/38 Skossyreff-Cheshire, FC, Mrs Reparation
Expenses of KL 10256/3764/295
L 16191/16191/238 (file) As release of her son, Vadim Skossyreff,
There is also evidence in some French records
(available formerly on a French web site which is no longer in existence)
of Skossyreff relatives - Alexandra Mihailovna (1873-1940) and Michel
Skossyreff - her father, her mother being Olga Sakalinska (no dates
known for either). Alexandra married twice, having four children by
the second marriage, to George Karlovitch Koffriaud.
Text copyright © Jackie Speel. An original feature for the History Files
based on an earlier text for Wikiinfo by the author.