Briton Neil Rees, a computational linguist, who is very interested in local history and the activities of royals in exile.
It is not surprising that there are very few books on Albania's monarchy. Albania is a Muslim country in Europe, and has suffered greatly from political instability and poverty. During the years of an oppressive Communist regime, Albania was largely shut off from the world.
The Royal Family does not largely mix and mingle with the other European royalties for a number of reasons, including the fact that Albania's royal family has few close genealogical relationships with the royal houses.
In 1914, the European powers set up a newly independent Albania as a principality. Prince Wilhelm zu Wied, a German Lutheran prince, was set up as the new Sovereign, but he had no real chance to succeed. Within six months, Wilhelm and his wife, Sophie were gone, and, once again, Albania was under occupation.
The man who became King Zog was born Ahmet Zogolli. After an education in Istanbul, Zogolli returned to his native land, and began a career in government. He dropped the 'golli from his named and adopted a new surname:Zogu. By 1922, Ahmet Zogu was the country's prime minister. Three years later, after Albania declared itself a republic, Zogu became president.
The British played a major role in the political life of Albania during the 1920s and 1930. In September 1928, Zog was declared king of Albania, thus joining the ranks of Balkan monarchs, albeit the only Muslim monarch. A decade later, Zog, his wife, Geraldine, a half-American Hungarian countess, and their infant son, were forced into exile after the Italian invasion of Albania. The monarchical experiment was over. By the end of the second world war, Albania was under communist control, and the Albanian royal family lived in exile, spending time in England, the USA, France and Egypt. They maintained an apartment at the Ritz and also lived in Ascot and in Buckinghamshire.
But eventually the family's finances were depleted, and King Zog had to make substantial cuts to his living standards. After his death in 1961. Queen Geraldine settled in Spain, thanks to the assistance of Generalissimo Franco.
A Royal Exile is much more than an examination of the Albanian royal family's life. It is a mini-encyclopedia full of interesting tidbits about the history of Albania and the history of the royal family, including the king's sisters. The book is richly illustrated with photographs and motives - all taking into context the history of Albania - and the history and travails of the royal family.
In 2002, Queen Geraldine, King Leka, Queen Susan (Leka's Australian-born consort), and their son, Leka, were invited to return to Tirana to live. Several properties were returned to them. Geraldine died in 2002, and Susan two years later. Both were buried in Tirana.
Today, young Leka works for the government and plans a career in diplomacy.
Kudos to Neil Rees, who has written a book that fills a nifty niche - the Albanian royal house. He offers insight into the lives of Zog and his family, but he also brings in other players, British diplomats, for example, who helped establish Albania and put Zog on the throne.
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