By day, Peggielene Bartels answers phones and performs other secretarial duties in Washington, D.C. However, her boss had better not ask her to pick up dry cleaning or run other personal errands. That’s no way to treat royalty.
Bartels, 55, of Silver Spring, Md., is also king of Otuam, a seaside town in the West African nation of Ghana.
Peggielene told The Washington Post, “I’m a big-time king, you know”.
This all came about fifteen months ago, when the 90-year-old king of Otuam died. The town elders gathered for the ritual to pick a successor. Praying, they poured schnapps on the ground and waited for steam to rise as they recited the names of 25 relatives of the late king. The steam would come when they reached the name of the relative the ancestors had blessed as the next king.
The choice fell on the late king’s niece — Bartels, who has been working as a secretary at the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington for the past 30 years. She learned about it in a late-night telephone call from a relative, who addressed her as “Nana” — a title Ghanaians accord people of stature.
Bartels told the Post she spent three sleepless nights before she decided to accept her royal responsibilities. Then she traveled to Otuam for her coronation. During the ceremony, she was lifted on a litter and carried throughout town. She took the opportunity to warn the all-male elders not to assume they could push around a female king.
“If you step on my toes, I will hit you where it hurts,” she said.
After 10 days in her tiny kingdom, she returned to her job in Washington. On Thursday, she was due to return for a six-week stay, using paid vacation time from her day job.
When Bartels isn’t in her palace in Otuam, she still fulfills her duties from Silver Spring, settling disputes by phone. When she retires from her secretarial job, in about five or six years, she will move back to Ghana and rule full-time, she told the Post.
“Not everyone gets to become king,” she said. “Perhaps it is my destiny.”
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