Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Royal Exile King Zog and Queen Geraldine of Albania

Briton Neil Rees, a computational linguist, who is very interested in local history and the activities of royals in exile.
His two interests work well together, especially in his new book, A Royal Exile  King Zog & Queen Geraldine of Albania including their wartime exile in the Thames Valley and Chilterns.

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. 
Reese also provides a bibliography of sources at the end of each chapter, which will allow the reader further opportunity to delve into the different topics covered in this book.

The book can be ordered from the author's website:
Here are links to biographies on Zog and Geraldine:


I must admit I know nothing about the following title:

A Royal Exile by Neil Rees was published the Court of King Zog Research Society. The price is £ 12.95.

This book will be appreciated by those who are interested in the Albanian monarchy, and by others who will want to learn more about the least known of Europe's royal families.


  1. How did Zog and Geraldine escape from France to England during the war?
    Do you know whether they crossed the frontier from France to Spain at Irun on June 23 1940 to get to San Sebastian?
    I am trying to track down the name of the royal household that crossed the frontier with us that day in the nick of time, just before the Germans arrived. (I was only 5 years old at the time but remember that event)
    Eric Le Jeune

  2. They escaped through the french port of St jean de Luz, on board the British troop shop[ Ettrick. Ian Fleming claimed to have organised the trip.