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Zog I, Skanderbeg III
King of the Albanians
Preceded by Xhafer Bej Ypi
Succeeded by Shefqet Vërlaci
Preceded by New Post, Iliaz Bej Vrioni
Succeeded by Monarchy established, Koço Kota
Preceded by New Post
Preceded by Monarchy established
Succeeded by Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Personal details
Born (1895-10-08)8 October 1895
Burgajet Castle, Ottoman Empire
Died 9 April 1961(1961-04-09) (aged 65)
Suresnes, Paris, France
Spouse(s) Géraldine Apponyi de Nagyappony
Religion Islam

Zog I, King of the Albanians[1][2] (Albanian language: Nalt Madhnija e Tij Zogu I, Mbreti i Shqiptarëvet, IPA: [ˈzɔɡu]; 8 October 1895 – 9 April 1961), born Ahmet Muhtar Bej Zogolli, taking the surname Zogu from 1922, was the leader of Albania from 1925 to 1939, first as President (1925–1928) and then as King (1928–1939). Earlier he served as Prime Minister of Albania (1922–1924).

Background and early political career

Zog was born Ahmet Muhtar[3] Bej Zogolli in Burgajet Castle, near Burrel in the Ottoman Empire,[4] second son to Xhemal Pasha Zogolli, and first son by his second wife Sadijé Toptani in 1895. His family was a beylik family of landowners, with feudal authority over the region of Mati. His mother's Toptani family claimed to be descended from the sister of Albania's greatest national hero, the 15th-century general Skanderbeg. He was educated at Galatasaray High School (Lycée Impérial de Galatasaray) in Constantinople,[2] then the seat of the decaying Ottoman Empire, which controlled Albania. Upon his father's death in about 1908, Zogolli became governor of Mat, being appointed ahead of his elder brother, Xhelal Bey Zogolli.

In 1912, he signed the Albanian Declaration of Independence as the representative of the Mat District. As a young man during the First World War, Zogolli volunteered on the side of Austria-Hungary. He was detained at Vienna in 1917 and 1918 and in Rome in 1918 and 1919 before returning to Albania in 1919. During his time in Vienna, he grew to enjoy a Western European lifestyle. Upon his return, Zogolli became involved in the political life of the fledgling Albanian government that had been created in the wake of the First World War. His political supporters included many southern feudal landowners (called beys, Turkish for "province chieftain", the social group to which he belonged) and noble families in the north, along with merchants, industrialists, and intellectuals. During the early 1920s, Zogolli served as Governor of Shkodër (1920–1921), Minister of the Interior (March–November 1920, 1921–1924), and chief of the Albanian military (1921–1922). His primary rivals were Luigj Gurakuqi and Fan S. Noli. In 1922, Zogolli formally changed his surname from Zogolli to Zogu, which sounds more Albanian.[5]

In 1923, he was shot and wounded in Parliament. A crisis arose in 1924 after the assassination of one of Zogu's industrialist opponents, Avni Rustemi; in the aftermath, a leftist revolt forced Zogu, along with 600 of his allies, into exile in June 1924. He returned to Albania with the backing of Yugoslav forces and Yugoslavia-based White Russian troops under General Wrangel and became Prime Minister.

President of Albania

Zogu was officially elected as the first President of Albania by the Constituent Assembly on 21 January 1925, taking office on 1 February for a seven-year term. Zogu's government followed the European model, though large parts of Albania still maintained a social structure unchanged from the days of Ottoman rule, and most villages were serf plantations run by the Beys. On 28 June 1925, Zogu ceded Sveti Naum to Yugoslavia as a gesture of recognition to the Yugoslav aid to him.[6]

Zogu enacted several major reforms. His principal ally during this period was Italy, which lent his government funds in exchange for a greater role in Albania's fiscal policy. During Zogu's presidency, serfdom was gradually eliminated. For the first time since the death of Skanderbeg, Albania began to emerge as a nation, rather than a feudal patchwork of local Beyliks. His administration was marred by disputes with Kosovar leaders, primarily Hasan Prishtina and Bajram Curri.

On the debit side, however, Zogu's Albania was a police state. He all but eliminated civil liberties, muzzled the press and murdered political opponents. Under the constitution, Zogu was vested with sweeping executive and legislative powers, including the right to appoint one-third of the upper house. For all intents and purposes, he held all governing power in the nation.[7]

Albanian King

Ahmet Zogu

On 1 September 1928, Albania was transformed into a kingdom, and President Zogu became Zog I, King of the Albanians (Mbret i Shqiptarëve in Albanian). He took as his regnal name his surname rather than his forename, since the Islamic name Ahmet might have had the effect of isolating him on the European stage. He also initially took the parallel name "Skanderbeg III" (Zogu claimed to be a successor of Skanderbeg through descent through Skanderbeg's sister; "Skanderbeg II" was taken to be Gjon Kastrioti II, Skanderbeg's son, exiled to Italy), but this fell out of use.[8] On the same day as he was crowned, he was declared Field Marshal of the Royal Albanian Army. He proclaimed a constitutional monarchy similar to the contemporary regime in Italy, created a strong police force, and instituted the Zogist salute (flat hand over the heart with palm facing downwards). Zog hoarded gold coins and precious stones, which were used to back Albania's first paper currency.

Royal Monogram

Zog's mother, Sadije, was declared Queen Mother of Albania, and Zog also gave his brother and sisters Royal status as Prince and Princesses Zogu. One of his sisters, Senije, Princess Zogu (c. 1897–1969), married Prince Shehzade Mehmed Abid Efendi of Turkey, a son of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.

Zog's constitution forbade any Prince of the Royal House from serving as Prime Minister or a member of the Cabinet, and contained provisions for the potential extinction of the Royal Family. Ironically, in light of later events, the constitution also forbade the union of the Albanian throne with that of any other country. Under the Zogist constitution, the King of the Albanians, like the King of the Belgians, ascended the throne and exercised Royal powers only after taking an oath before Parliament; Zog himself swore an oath on the Bible and the Qur'an (the king being Muslim) in an attempt to unify the country. In 1929, King Zog abolished Islamic law in Albania, adopting in its place a civil code based on the Swiss one, as Ataturk's Turkey had done in the same decade.[9] The price for such modernization was high, though. Although nominally a constitutional monarch, in practice Zog retained the dictatorial powers he had enjoyed as president. Thus, in effect, Albania remained a military dictatorship.[7]

In 1938, Zog opened the borders of Albania to Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Nazi Germany.[10]

Life as King

100-franc banknote of Zog's reign

Although born as an aristocrat and hereditary Bey, King Zog was somewhat ignored by other monarchs in Europe because he had no links to the well-known European royal families. Nonetheless, he did have strong connections with Muslim royal families in the Arab World, particularly Egypt, whose ruling dynasty had Albanian origins. As King, he was honoured by the governments of Italy, Luxembourg, Egypt, Yugoslavia, France, Romania, Greece, Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Austria.[2]

Zog was a heavy smoker. He had been engaged to the daughter of Shefqet Bey Verlaci before he became king. Soon after his coronation, however, he broke off the engagement. According to traditional customs of blood vengeance prevalent in Albania at the time, Verlaci had the right to kill Zog. The king frequently surrounded himself with a personal guard and avoided public appearances. He also feared that he might be poisoned, so the Mother of the King assumed supervision of the Royal Kitchen.[11]

During his reign he reputedly survived more than 55 assassination attempts. One of these occurred on 21 February 1931, while visiting the Vienna State Opera house for a performance of Pagliacci.[11] The attackers struck whilst Zog was getting into his car, and he survived by firing back with a pistol that he always carried. In April 1938 Zog married Countess Geraldine Apponyi de Nagy-Apponyi, a Roman Catholic aristocrat who was half-Hungarian and half-American. The ceremony was broadcast throughout Tirana via Radio Tirana that was officially launched by the monarchs five months later. Their only child, HRH Crown Prince Leka, was born in Albania on 5 April 1939.

Relations with Italy

The fascist government of Benito Mussolini's Italy had supported Zog since early in his presidency; that support had led to increased Italian influence in Albanian affairs. The Italians compelled Zog to refuse to renew the First Treaty of Tirana (1926), although Zog still retained British officers in the Gendarmerie as a counterbalance against the Italians, who had pressured Zog to remove them.

During the worldwide depression of the early 1930s Zog's government became almost completely dependent on Mussolini, to the point that the Albanian national bank had its seat in Rome. Grain had to be imported, many Albanians emigrated, and Italians were allowed to settle in Albania. In 1932 and 1933, Albania was unable to pay the interest on its loans from the Society for the Economic Development of Albania, and the Italians used this as a pretext for further dominance. They demanded that Tirana put Italians in charge of the Gendarmerie, join Italy in a customs union, and grant the Italian Kingdom control of Albania's sugar, telegraph, and electrical monopolies. Finally, Italy called for the Albanian government to establish teaching of the Italian language in all Albanian schools, a demand that was swiftly refused by Zog. In defiance of Italian demands, he ordered the national budget to be slashed by 30 percent, dismissed all Italian military advisers, and nationalized Italian-run Roman Catholic schools in the north of Albania to decrease Italian influence on the population of Albania. In 1934, he tried without success to build ties with France, Germany, and the Balkan states, and Albania drifted back into the Italian orbit.[12]

Two days after the birth of Zog's son and heir apparent, on 7 April 1939 (Good Friday), Mussolini's Italy invaded, facing no significant resistance. The Albanian army was ill-equipped to resist, as it was almost entirely dominated by Italian advisors and officers and was no match for the Italian Army. The Italians were, however, resisted by small elements in the gendarmerie and general population. The Royal Family, realising that their lives were in danger, fled into exile, taking with them a considerable amount of gold from the National Bank of Tirana and Durrës.[13][14] Since the Italian invasion was not unexpected, the gathering of gold had started in advance.[15] "Oh God, it was so short" were King Zog's last words to Geraldine on Albanian soil. Count Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister, arrived the following day; on searching the Palace in Tirana, he found the labour room in the Queen's suite; seeing a pile of linen on the floor, stained by the afterbirth, he kicked it across the room. "The cub has escaped!" he said. Mussolini declared Albania a protectorate under Italy's King Victor Emmanuel III. While some Albanians continued to resist, "a large part of the population ... welcomed the Italians with cheers", according to one contemporary account.[16]

Former heir presumptive

Prior to the birth of Prince Leka, the position of Heir Presumptive was held by Prince of Kosova (Kosovo) Tati Esad Murad Kryziu, born 24 December 1923 in Tirana, who was the son of the King's sister, Princess Nafije. He became honorary General of the Royal Albanian Army in 1928, at age five. He was made Heir Presumptive with the style of His Highness and title of "Prince of Kosova" (Princ i Kosovës) in 1931. After the Royal House's exile, he moved to France, where he died in August 1993, aged 69.

Life in exile

The grave of former King Zog I at the Cimetière de Thiais near Paris

The royal family settled in England, first at The Ritz in London, followed by a brief stay at 'Forest Ridge,' a house in the South Ascot area of Sunninghill in Berkshire, in 1941 (near where Zog's nieces had been at school in Ascot). In 1941 they moved to Parmoor House, Parmoor, near Frieth in Buckinghamshire with some staff of the court living in locations around Lane End.[17]

In 1946, King Zog and most of his family left England and went to live in Egypt at the behest of King Farouk, who was overthrown in 1952. The family left for France in 1955. In 1951, Zog bought the Knollwood estate in Muttontown, New York. The sixty-room estate was never occupied and Zog sold the estate in 1955.

He made his final home in France, where he died at the Hôpital Foch, Suresnes, Hauts-de-Seine[2] on 9 April 1961, aged 65, after being seriously ill for some time. He was survived by his wife and son, and is buried at the Cimetière de Thiais, near Paris. On his death, his son Leka was pronounced H.M. King Leka of the Albanians by the exiled Albanian community.

His widow, Queen Geraldine, died of natural causes in 2002 at the age of 87 in a military hospital in Tirana, Albania. Albania's communist rulers abolished the monarchy in 1946, but, even in exile, the royal family insisted that Leka Zogu was Albania's legitimate ruler until his death on 30 November 2011.

Political legacy

During World War II, there were three resistance groups operating in Albania: the nationalists, the royalists and the communists. Some of the Albanian establishment opted for collaboration. The communist partisans refused to co-operate with the other resistance groups and took control of the country. They were able to defeat the last Nazi remnants and take over the country in November 1944.

Zog attempted to reclaim his throne after the war. However, the new Communist-dominated government barred Zog from returning soon after it took power, and formally deposed him in 1946. Sponsored by the British and Americans, some forces loyal to Zog attempted to mount invasions and incursions, but most were ambushed due to intelligence sent to the Soviet Union by spy Kim Philby. A referendum in 1997—seven years after the end of Communist rule—proposed to restore the monarchy in the person of Zog's son Leka Zogu who, since 1961, has been styled "Leka I, King of the Albanians". The official but disputed results stated that about two-thirds of voters favoured a continued republican government. Leka, believing the result to be fraudulent, attempted an armed uprising: he was unsuccessful and was forced into exile, although he later returned and lived in Tirana until his death on 30 November 2011. A main street in Tirana was later renamed "Boulevard Zog I" by the Albanian government.

Although Zog did much to modernize his country, he also imbued it with a tradition of autocratic rule that lasted until 1990.

Repatriation to Albania

In October 2012, the government of Albania decided to bring back the remains of the former king from France, where he died in 1961. Zog's body was exhumed from the Thiais Cemetery, Paris on 15 November 2012.[18] A guard of honour was provided by the French President, in the form of French Legionnaires in ceremonial dress.

Zog's remains were returned in a state ceremony on 17 November 2012, coinciding with celebrations for Albania's 100th independence anniversary. His body now lies in the reconstructed royal mausoleum in Tirana.[19] The interment was attended by the government of Albania, including the President and Prime Minister, and senior figures from European royal families, including those of Romania, Montenegro, Russia and Albania.

Honours and awards

National honours in Albania[20]

  •  Albania Order of Besa
  •  Albania Order of Skanderbeg
  •  Albania Order of Bravery & Military Merit: First Class or Hero, breast star.
  •  Albania Order of the National Flag (posthumous)[21]

National honours



8. Mahmud Pasha Zogolli
4. Xhelal Pasha Zogolli
2. Xhemal Pasha Zogu, Governor of Mati
5. Ruhijé Halltuni
1. Zog I, Skanderbeg III of the Albanians
6. Salah Bey Toptani
3. Sadijé Toptani

See also


  1. Pearson, Owen (2006). Albania in the Twentieth Century: a history. I.B. Tauris. p. 568. ISBN 1-84511-013-7. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Royal Ark
  3. Some sources cite Ahmad Mukhtar
  4. Website dedicated to Albanian royalty/genealogy
  5. Balázs Trencsényi; Michal Kopeček (2006). Discourses of collective identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1770-1945): texts and commentaries. Central European University Press. p. 177. ISBN 978-963-7326-61-5. Retrieved 23 January 2013. "Ahmet Zogu (who had changed his name from the Turkish sounding 'Zogolli' to the more Albanian sounding 'Zogu')" 
  6. Pearson, Owen (2004). Albania and King Zog: independence, republic and monarchy 1908–1939. IB Tauris. p. 248. Retrieved 30 May 2010. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Charles Sudetic. "Interwar Albania, 1918-41". Albania: A country study (Raymond Zickel and Walter R. Iwaskiw, eds.). Library of Congress Federal Research Division (April 1992).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  8. Michael Schmidt-Neke, Die Verfassungen Albaniens: mit einem Anhang: Die Verfassung der Republik Kosova von 1990. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 2009, p. 34
  9. Swiss Laws, Greek Patriarch, Time magazine, 15 April 1929
  10. Besa: The Promise > Bios
  11. 11.0 11.1 Shaw, Karl (2005) [2004] (in Czech). Power Mad! [Šílenství mocných]. Praha: Metafora. pp. 31–32. ISBN 80-7359-002-6. 
  12. Alexander De Grand (Sep. 2007). "The International History Review". Taylor & Francis, Ltd. pp. 655–657. ISSN 1749-6985. OCLC 123562997. Retrieved 11.10.13. 
  13. "Royal Claimants". Life. June 24, 1957. p. 98. Retrieved 11.10.13. 
  14. Douglas Saltmarshe (June 2001). "Identity in a Post-Communist Balkan State: An Albanian Village Study". Ashgate Pub Ltd. p. 56. ISBN 978-0754617273. Retrieved 11.10.13. 
  15. Ksenofon Krisafi (2008). "Në kërkim të arit" (in Albanian). In search of Gold. Dita 2000. ISBN 978-99943-57-58-1. Retrieved 11.10.13. 
  16. "Fascist Soldiers Take over Tirana (...)". New York City: The New York Times Company. 9 April 1939. p. 33. Retrieved 14 July 2011. 
  17. Naçi collection, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, accessed 27 January 2007
  18. Remains of King Zog repatriated from France to Albania. Retrieved 2012-11-16.
  19. Albania to bring home exiled king's remains. Retrieved 2012-10-18.
  20. "albania2". 1924-12-24. Retrieved 2013-11-01. 
  21. Presidenti Nishani dekoron Naltmadhninë e Tij Zogun I, Mbretin e Shqiptarëve (Pas vdekjes) me “Urdhrin e Flamurit Kombëtar”,, 2012-11-17 (in Albananin)
  22. Kingdom of Albania



  • Fischer, Bernd. King Zog and the Struggle for Stability in Albania, (East European Monographs, Boulder, 1984)
  • Pearson, O.S. Albania and King Zog I.B. Tauris. 2005 (ISBN 1-84511-013-7).
  • Robyns, Gwen. Geraldine of the Albanians (ISBN 0-584-11133-9)
  • Tomes, Jason. King Zog, Self-Made Monarch of Albania, 2003 (ISBN 0-7509-3077-2)
  • Rees, Neil. A Royal Exile – King Zog & Queen Geraldine of Albania including their wartime exile in the Thames Valley and Chilterns, 2010 (ISBN 978-0-9550883-1-5)
  • Patrice Najbor. "La dynastie des Zogu", 2002
  • Patrice Najbor. "Histoire de l'Albanie et de sa Maison Royale 1443-2007", 2008 (ISBN 978-2-9532382-1-1)

Further reading

  • Bobev, Bobi. “The Dictatorship of Ahmed Zogou.” Etudes Balkaniques 29, no. 2 (1993): 16-33.
  • Fischer, Bernd J. “Albanian Highland Tribal Society and Family Structure in the Process of Twentieth Century Transformation.” East European Quarterly 33, no. 3 (1999): 281-301.
  • Tomes, Jason. ”The Throne of Zog.” History Today 51, no. 9 (2001): 45-51.
  • Patrice Najbor. " Les réalisations du roi Zog", "Monarkia Shqiptare 1928-1939", 2011, (ISBN 978-99943-1-721-9)

External links

Zog I of Albania
House of Zogu
Born: 8 October 1895 Died: 9 April 1961
Political offices
Preceded by
Xhafer Ypi
Prime Minister of Albania
Succeeded by
Shefqet Bej Verlaci
Preceded by
Ilias Bej Vrioni
Prime Minister of Albania
Title next held by
Koço Kota
New title President of Albania
Title next held by
Omer Nishani
Regnal titles
Title last held by
William of Wied
as Prince of Albania
King of the Albanians
Succeeded by
Victor Emmanuel III
(Italian occupation)
Preceded by
Xhemal Pasha Zogu
Hereditary Governor of Mati
Succeeded by
Leka Zogu
Titles in pretence
Loss of title
Italian invasion, communist regime
King of the Albanians
Succeeded by
Leka Zogu

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