ROME—On June 20, 2015, American actress Pamela Anderson, wearing a long white gown and dizzyingly high heels, knelt before Prince Stefan Černetić (sometimes spelled Tchernetich) of the Imperial Royal House of Montenegro & Macedonia as he bestowed upon her the title “Countess de' Gigli,” Countess of the Lilies, by touching each shoulder with a dull-edged sword and reciting a set of vows.
The knighting ceremony was followed by the 8th annual royal “Ball of Lilies” in a lavish 17th-century castle on the Italian riviera complete with official photographers, ladies in tiaras, and men in waistcoats and tails. According to the prince’s website, which has a gallery of photos from that event and many others like it, the Baywatch beauty was honored with the title “for her seaworld charity involvement worldwide.”
Anderson is one of dozens of people Prince Černetić has knighted. In fact, the prince has spent the better part of the last two decades galavanting around Europe meeting royalty, bestowing honors, and carrying out other princely duties.
Not surprisingly, being a prince carries with it a number of perks including free stays at luxury villas and a certain enviable quality of life that includes royal trimmings like expensive champagne and private chefs.
The only problem is that despite appearances, Prince Černetić is not a prince at all, according to authorities in Montenegro and Italy. “He’s a fraud,” Antonio Costantini, an investigating magistrate looking into a series of allegations against Černetić, told The Daily Beast. “He’s been able to create this false persona that is not based in any form of reality. Fake honors and documents led to real recognition by those who were duped.”
In fact, Černetić has been given an incredible number of honors, including the presidential medal of honor in Italy that was pinned to him by former president Giorgio Napolitano. He has met and been photographed with European royal families and high ranking Vatican clergy, according to his Facebook page, which has a picture of him with Anderson as the cover photo. Apparently honors beget more honors, and most of his awards seem to be given based on previous medals rather than on any verification of the prince’s blue blood, or lack thereof.
All of that may soon change.
Last month, Italy’s Carabinieri military police raided Černetić’s modest home in Turin, which was not a castle after all, and sequestered his computer, documents, medals and the Montenegro flags he used on his Mercedes to give the appearance of an official motorcade. They launched a formal investigation into alleged fraudulent activities that he, along with an accomplice from near Naples who acted as his valet and sometimes as an ambassador from Montenegro, have engaged in since 2009. And his name is apparently Stefano, not Stefan.
The accomplice is not under formal investigation, and remains nameless, but his home was also raided for equipment that may have been used to make the false documents, according to a police report seen by The Daily Beast.
Among the potential charges for which the potentially faux prince is being investigated are false certification to a public official and fraud as related to an unpaid luxury hotel bill in the Italian province of Puglia where the prince stayed last summer.
The hotel sent the prince’s rather hefty bill to the Montenegrin Foreign Ministry, which responded by saying they had never heard of the prince, the ambassador or, in fact, any of those on the list as Montenegrin diplomats. He is also being investigated for the use of false documents to obtain diplomatic license plates for his car.
Černetić’s email signature leaves off his full name, but includes a range of honors and titles and the Latin motto “In hoc signo vinces” or "In this sign you will conquer,” which Wikipedia tells us dates back to the Roman Emperor Constantine’s vision of the cross, but has been used and abused by many organizations over the centuries, including the American Nazi Party and Pall Mall cigarettes.
By telephone Černetić gave The Daily Beast a lengthy interview and openly admitted the cops raided his house “with three police cars” and took his documents and medals and interrogated him for nearly four hours, but he says the authorities have it wrong, that he is a legitimate wheeler and dealer who is connected to important people.
“I have a letter from Donald Trump,” he says. “I like him very much and I like Vladimir Putin,” he says. “My dream was to be behind the scenes when they forge a deal. My plan was to make them friends.” As it happened, he missed his chance when the two leaders met in Germany on Friday.
“I am not a fake prince,” he said, adding in not very princely diction, “I can guarantee 100 percent that these charges are big lies and bullshit.”
In fact, he says, this is the result of a regal feud, a war between aristocrats. “Montenegro has two royal houses,” he explained. “The other royal house is filled with Freemasons who pay journalists €300,000 to €500,000 to defame me.”
Černetić says that when Montenegro left Serbia and became an independent republic in 2006, the government only officially recognized one royal house, that of the Petrović-Njegoš dynasty, though he insists that the snub does not cancel out his lineage, which he says he can prove goes all the way back to the Roman emperor Constantine.
“How can they say I am a fake prince? Montenegrin independence does not cancel out my history,” he says. “The other royal house is jealous and started this communications campaign against me because I oppose Montenegro’s involvement in NATO like Trump says.” (The American president famously shoved aside the Montenegrin head of state during a photo op at the NATO summit in May.)
Montenegro officially joined NATO on June 5, 2017, around the time the allegations of the fake prince’s wrongdoings first surfaced. The Montenegrin embassy in Rome says it will not comment on Černetić’s case because of privacy concerns, but a representative says Montenegro has not been ruled by a monarchy since 1918, even if it has recognized the Petrović-Njegoš dynasty as the country’s official royal family.
Černetić is under investigation and police say he may be charged soon, even though he insists charges will be dropped and, when they are, he plans to “sue every publication who calls me a fake prince.” In the meantime, he continues to knight people, win awards, dine at lavish restaurants and plead his innocence.
“My coat of arms is the original one,” he insists. Anderson, he said, continues to pay him homage, telling him that the allegations are “good publicity” and that he shouldn’t worry.
“I’m not a crook,” he says. “I’m a serious person. I’m doing my job.”