This month in 1939, King Zog fled Albania never to return. No Albanian blog can ignore Zog, described as “the last ruler of romance” and “frankly, a cad.” The book ‘Zog – Self Made Monarch of Albania’ is whirl of scheming, diplomacy, uniforms, spies and politics.
He over-indulged in cigarettes due to a nervous disposition but showed a reckless attitude to real danger. His 250 a day smoking habit led a visitor to observe: “he was a human chimney. I have never seen a man smoke so rapidly and continuously.”
He was the subject of near constant assassination attempts. In the 1930s newspapers were full of reports that Zog had been shot or was near death. Once, the Daily Mail reported his death, only to receive a stern but ambiguous denial from an Albanian official: “We have not received news from Tirana, but it can definitely be stated King Zog is in the best of health.” Zog was indeed alive, only to experience be the subject of another assassination attempt in Vienna where he exchanged fire with his attackers and survived again.
His reign was ended not by a bullet but by the Italian invasion in 1939. Zog fled to the UK and enjoyed the best exile money could buy. He lived at the The Ritz and paid in gold bullion. George II of Greece and Peter II of Yugoslavia were also living there and the story goes that if you arrived at the Ritz and asked to see the King the reply was simply – “which one?”
This wonderful Pathe Film Footage of his marriage in Tirana in 1938 in Skenderbeg Square with guests in national dress, top hats and tails:
His wedding presents included a red Mercedes from Hitler. Thousands of children cheered. But only a year later with the Italian invasion he was forced to flee Albania forever, never to return.
Read more about Zog here: