We’ve had our fair share of peculiar citizens over the last 150 years, but in my judgement none compare to the “Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico”, his excellency Norton the First! Whether or not he was truly a secret descendent of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette or not is, to say the least, open to question, but the city of San Francisco embraced this threadbare monarch in a way not seen before or since. Was he crazy… or crazy like a fox? I think the truth is that it just doesn’t matter. As the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote upon his death in 1880, he was “an emperor without enemies, a king without a kingdom, supported in life by the willing tribute of a free people.”

There’s a movement underway to rename the San Francisco Bay Bridge in his honor… and though Oakland is more than a little lukewarm to the concept, c’mon: it was his idea! All hail Emperor Norton.

Thanks to Sam Taylor and the Moons of Jupiter for the use of the track “Memoirs of Don Quixote”. check them out at their Garageband website. Use licensed under Creative Commons.