Mike Hastings, the 14th Earl of Loudoun, was born in 1942, but moved to Australia in 1960 in search of adventure. In 2004, a Channel 4 documentary crew led by actor Tony Robinson turned up at his modest home in the small New South Wales township of Jerilderie with the news that he was royalty.
The crew, filming Britain’s Real Monarch, based the programme on research by Dr Michael Jones, a medieval scholar from Glasgow University, who claimed Mr Hastings had the right to be king.
When presented with the case, the Earl, a Scottish peer, said: “I thought, bulls***”. “Strewth!” he added.
But he later became convinced his claim to the throne was legitimate.
“The more I watch the documentary, the more I’m convinced that they’re right and I probably should be the King of England,” he said.
However, he said he was in no rush to exercise his right to claim the throne.
“I’ve no intention of chasing over there and laying claim to palaces and crown jewels,” he said. “I’m quite happy in Jerilderie. I believe that Australia should be a republic. I’m not a mad monarchist.”
Michael Abney-Hastings was born on 22 July 1942 and grew up in a small house in Hastings, Sussex. The Earls of Loudoun had once owned castles and sporting estates, but while the title would eventually pass from his grandmother, the 12th Countess of Loudoun, to his mother, it was his aunt, Jean, who inherited the Loudoun estates in Scotland.
Despite his Protestant heritage, Mr Hastings was brought up a Catholic and educated at Ampleforth, a private school run by Benedictine monks.
On the death of his mother, Barbara, in 1960, he inherited the Loudoun titles, as well as baronies of Botreaux, Stanley and Hastings. He was also given the courtesy title of Lord Mauchline, all while living in a small house in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire. He left for Australia aged just 18 and worked as a jackaroo on ranches, as well as trying his hand as a door-to-door encyclopaedia salesman.
The documentary came about after Dr Jones claimed to have discovered a document in the archives of Rouen Cathedral proving that Edward IV was illegitimate.
Dr Jones argued the royal line should have passed through Edward’s younger brother, George, Duke of Clarence. With the help of Debrett’s, he traced the Plantagenet blood line down through the generations to the Earl of Loudoun, Mike Hastings.
The documentary helped earn “King Mike I” a degree of celebrity in Jerilderie – he once recalled how friends stood up to sing God Save the King ahead of a Christmas dinner.
When the programme makers arrived at his door in 2004, the Earl had been mourning the loss of his wife two years earlier.
“The documentary came at the right time for me,” he recalled. “It gave me a bit of an interest in life after my wife died of breast cancer after a five-year battle. That year was my annus horribilis.”
The 14th Earl, whose death was reported by the Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser, is survived by three daughters and two sons. His eldest son, Simon Abney-Hastings, Lord Mauchline, who was born in 1974, inherits the Loudoun titles.