Not counting the Persian shah, there are an even dozen men who were kings or who might have been kings but who now are not.

Who would have thought there were so many?

The English, as you know, maintain their ancient monarchy and thanks partly to Victoria (whose descendants are considerable) the British royal house is related to virtually everybody, and you might think they'd be rather close to their cousins out of jobs. But on the contrary, as we learn from Charles Fenyvesi's book on the exile royalty of Europe, the Brits tend to be beastly, and do not largely associate with the po'.

For those who have mislaid their Gotha and other directories, crowns would fit the following heads:

Archduke Otto of Austria-Hungary; Prince Louis Ferdinand of Germany; King Umberto II of Italy; Dom Duarte Joao of Portugal; the count of Paris, Henri Bourbon-Orleans of France.

Prince Imperial Louis-Napoleon of France (as you know, the French are entitled to more of anything than the rest of Europe); Czar Simeon II of Bulgaria, that's right, Czar Simeon; King Constantine II of Greece.

King Michael I of Romania; Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia; King Leca I of Albania, that somewhat yeasty state wedged between Greece and Yugoslavia; Grand Duke Wladimir Romanoff of Russia.

Well. To a surprising extend these gentlemen like to fly airplanes and, I believe without exception, hunt.

Fenyvesi rounded them up in one book, "Spendor in Exile," (New Republic Books) and somehow managed to interview every last one of them.

"Michael of Romania?" people used to say when word got out that he was going to write a book about royality, "well, you might as well save the effort because he won't let anybody, anybody at all, interview him."

Fenyvesi managed, simply by writing him a letter asking for an interview. But it wasn't the usual sort of letter. He batted it out with words scratched out -- a somewhat casual piece of work -- and Michael said yes, but if you or I asked , in a letter polished to opalescent luster, he'd have said to hell with us.

Dealing with kings, you have to play it by ear.

Wladimir was my own favority, actually. His father, Cyril, was first cousin of the last czar.

Of course, there was the Grand Duke Nicholas, whom some preferred to Cyril who (it is argued) accommodated the enemy before his flight from Russia in 1917. Furthermore, it is argued that Wladimir's mother, the Grand Duchess Victoria, was not an Orthodox churchwoman at the time of Wladimir's birth and so Wladimir is not eligible, even if the Russians were in the market for a new czar.

No matter.

"One pretends to nothing," he points out, in annoyance at being called pretender to the Russian throne. "One happends to be born (to) a certain position."

He and his wife, Leonida, live pleasantly in the Boston village of St. Briac and seem happy in France. He supposes it is not impossible the Russian monarchy could be restored, though he considers it a remote thing. t

The Romanoffs appear to have had some arguments, so that Wladimir has disowned the rest of them and vice versa.

Surely there is something fresh, in a macabre sort of way, in an exile family disowning this one and that one as if the fate of empires depended on which Romanoff was which.

Leonida told Fenyvesi a fine story: Her grandmother, the Princess Bagration of Georgia, hired a washwoman who got pregnant every year but kept losing the baby because (Leonida said she said) her husband got drunk and beat her up, especially when she was pregnant. The princess told the washwoman she should speak to a priest about her ill treatment and she did. The priest said she should make an agreement with God to offer the child to God, and see to it he should become a priest.

Done and done. The child was Stalin.

(Wladimir presses his lips tight; he dislikes his wife's story. But you know wives).

"Wladimir is an ungracious scoundrel," says Prince Vasili Romanoff, and another Romanoff has had it up to here with Wladimir's insistence that he must approve all family marraiges.

Well, somebody has to keep order in family marriages or there's no telling what the young folks will bring home. The picture of Wladimir shows him much annoyed and vexed with the world, as I interpret the photo, and he does have a point.

Now here's a delicate business, to inquire why Fenyvesi wanted to write a book about these people.

He was born in Hungary and was a student in 1956 when the Russians sent in their tanks.

One of the Red Army fellows was making a great speech when Fenyvesi arrived on the scene and young Charles leaped up on top of a tank and made a speech of his own, equally grand, about the glory of Hungary, and for some reason nobody shot him but (he recalls he quoted Pushkin in his patriotic speech but cannot recall the passage) it did occur to him it would be well to leave Hungary.

He studied literture and anthropology at Harvard and writes for various magazines and papers, including The New Republic, which you do not think of as being automoatically fascinated with crownless kings.

We spent several hours reviewing Michael, Henri and the others, and I realize, of course, a columnist should take off from there and glitter a bit on the general topic of rule, authority, divine annoiting.

I asked Fenyveski what he did about paprika, the Hungarian national drug, as it were , since paprika one commonly gets in cans is not so hot.

He grows all kinds of peppers, it turns out. In Hungary, he said, the old paprika of the good old days is no longer available since it caused the finger nails to come off those who process it.

"Maybe they didn't need finger nails?" I suggested. It does seem to me we give up a good bit for humanitarian advances.

Fenyvesi also grows red raspberries in such quanitiy that he has raised hundreds of dollars selling them at school bazaars, etc. Let the record show the press has not received either free raspberries or free paprika or any other gift from Fenyveski.

Back to the question why he wrote the book: when he was young and in Europe he used to walk down the streets and look at statues of kings. And then there were the realities of communist takeover, and somewhere along the line Fenyvesi got to wondering what is history and what is illusion.

And he developed a fondness for things that continue and last, like human families (even with Cousin Wladimir) and concluded that in royal families you find emphasis on continuity in its purest form.

His favority raspberry is the variety called 'Heritage.'