In the history of European monarchism, there must surely be a special special place for Zog I, the self-proclaimed King of Albania. Born Ahmet Muhtar Zogu in 1895, he had a steep political career that began as prime minister of the newly independent country from 1922-1924. He then became president, and finally, after declaring Albania a monarchy, the first king of the newly established House of Zogu.
It wasn’t meant to be. The existing European royalty looked unkindly at the newcomer, as summed up by this description on Wikipedia: “King Zog was somewhat ignored by other monarchs in Europe because he was a self-proclaimed monarch who had no links to any other European royal families.” What’s worse, eleven years into Zog’s reign, Mussolini’s troops invaded and occupied Albania, forcing Zog into exile. When the communists came into power after the World War II, they abolished the monarchy altogether.
I deliberately seek out these kinds of freakish historical events, the failings or near misses, because there’s usually a great story lurking in the margins. Lo and behold, this turns out to be the case with the house of Zogu as well: Leka Zogu, son of the king and heir apparent (born in the year Italian troops invaded), went on to live a truly spectacular life. Wikipedia has the scoop:
In 1975, Leka married Australian citizen and former teacher Susan Cullen-Ward. They were married in a civil ceremony in the Hôtel de Ville, Biarritz. The wedding reception, at a five-star Toledo Roadhouse, was attended by members of other exiled royal families, loyal Albanians and friends, who toasted “Long live the King”.
The couple returned to Madrid, where they were befriended by King Juan Carlos and continued to enjoy the attentions of Albanians. The couple married religiously in Madrid. When it was discovered that Leka not only retained some Thai bodyguards, but had what was described as an arms cache in their home, the Spanish Government asked him to leave. When his plane arrived at Gabon for refueling, to find it was being surrounded by local troops, who were said to have been hired to capture him by the Albanian government. He saw them off by appearing at the plane’s door with a bazooka in his hand.
The couple went on to Rhodesia but, after Robert Mugabe took power, they settled in a large compound near Johannesburg where they were given diplomatic status by the South African Government.
54 years after his father was deposited in 1939, Leka Zogu was permitted to enter Albania again, for the first time since being exiled as an infant:
In 1993 Leka was permitted to enter Albania for the first time (since being exiled aged a few days old in 1939), doing so under a passport issued by his own Royal Court-in-exile. In this royal passport, which the Albanian government had previously refused to recognise, Leka listed his profession as “King”