Friday, October 7, 2016
A royal wedding in Albania
Crown Prince Leka II of Albania will wed Albanian-born Elia Zaharia tomorrow in Tirana. This will be the first royal wedding in the country since April 27, 1938, when Leka's grandfather, King Zog, married Countess Geraldine Apponyi de Nagy Appony, a member of a Hungarian noble family.
Geraldine (1915-2002) was half-American. Her mother was Gladys Virginia Steuart, the daughter of John Henry Steuart and Mary Virginia Ramsay Harding. John Steuart served as the US consul in Brussels. The late King Leka was a 9th cousin of U.S. President Richard Nixon.
The young countess first met King Zog in December 1937. He had seen a photo of her, and wanted to meet her. Geraldine traveled to Albania, and accepted the king's proposal. Prior to the wedding, the King raised Geraldine to the status of a princess of Albania.
The marriage was "purely civil," according to the New York Times, as King Zog was Muslim, and his bride, a Roman Catholic. She retained her faith throughout her life. The ceremony took place in the main hall of the royal palace in Tirana. A wedding breakfast took place after the ceremony. The newly weds then left for Durazzo to spend their honeymoon at their "newly constructed palace." As a wedding gift, Zog promised to build a Roman Catholic chapel in the palace.
In November of 1938, it was announced that Queen Geraldine was expecting a child the following March. She gave birth to a son, Leka, on April 5, 1939. Albanians learned of the birth through an "artillery salute of 101 guns." The small country was already in the throes of the fear of an invasion from Italy. The same day as his son's birth, Zog and his cabinet had been "studying plans for strengthening the twenty-year defensive alliance that Italy and Albania signed in 1927." The country had taken "suitable military precautions" to protect the kingdom's independence.
There were reports that Italians, who lived in the country, were leaving in large numbers. The news of the Italian exodus was briefly tempered by the announcement of the Crown Prince's birth, which set off a "tremendous wave of intense nationalism." One Albanian official stated: "We are a small country but proud of our independence. We are determined to preserve it all costs."
Only two days later, Italy began their "bombardment of Albanian coastal towns." and Queen Geraldine and her newborn son fled the country by car, and spent the night in Florina, a Greek provincial town near the Yugoslav border, where none of the inns could "boat of more than the most primitive comfort."
King Zog arrived the next day in a "mud-splashed automobile," and quickly joined his wife and son at the inn. Queen Geraldine, still recovering from the birth, was unwell and unable to walk.
The Queen had not wanted to leave. "I left my husband leading his troops -- his poor insignificant little army - into battle. What could Albania do against such armed might as that which ground down on us?"
After spending several days on a Greek train, the queen was taken to a clinic in Larissa.
After spending time in Greece, Istanbul and Egypt, the exiled royal family settled in England, living at the Ritz Hotel in London, and in a house in Sunninghill, Berkshire. They later moved to Parmoor House in Buckinghamshire. In 1946, they received an invitation to live in Egypt from King Farouk. He was overthrown in 1952, and three years later, the King and Queen and their young son moved to France. Zog died on April 9, 1961 at a hospital at Suresneses, France. He was 65 years old. His only son, Leka, was proclaimed King of the Albanians.
The young Leka was educated at schools in England and Egypt. He also attended Aiglon College and the the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. He worked for some as a commodities broker, thus establishing a growing income for his family.
In 1975, the 6 foot-tall King Leka married Australian-born Susan Cullen-Ward in a civil ceremony in Biarritz, France. Cullen-Ward was raised as Anglican. The couple's only son, Leka Anwar Reza Baudouin Msiziwe Zogu was was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on March 26, 1982. He succeeded his father as King following Leka I's death in 2011. Queen Susan died in 2004. The King and Queen and Queen Geraldine are all buried in the Royal Mausoleum in Tirana.
Leka II was educated in South Africa and at Sandhurst. He is fluent in English and in Albanian. He was raised in the faith of Islam.
Leka met Elia Zaharia at a social event in Tirana. They became engaged in Paris in 2010. She is an actress and a singer, and she works for the Queen Geraldine Foundation.
The guest list for the wedding was released earlier today.
Guest List for The Royal Wedding
THE GUEST LIST FOR THE ROYAL WEDDING BETWEEN HRH CROWN PRINCE LEKA II OF THE ALBANIANS AND MISS ELIA ZAHARIA, OCTOBER 8, 2016.
Their Imperial and Royal Highnesses Archduke Georg and Archduchess Eilika
Her Royal Highness Princess Léa
Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Castro
His Royal Highness Prince Ali
His Royal Highness Prince Davit Bagrationi
His Royal and Imperial Highness Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia
Her Royal Highness Princess Irene
His Royal Highness Prince Michael and Princess Marina
Her Imperial Majesty Empress Farah Pahlavi
Her Royal Highness Princess Maria Pia of Savoy
Her Royal Highness Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy
Their Serene Highnesses Prince Philipp and Princess Isabelle
Their Royal Highnesses Prince Guillaume and Princess Sibilla
His Royal Highness Prince Nikola II Petrović-Njegoš
Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem
Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Braganza
Their Royal Highnesses Crown Princess Margareta and Prince Radu
Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria
His Imperial Highness Grand Duke George
Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine
Her Majesty Queen Sofia
Thurn und Taxis
Her Serene Highness Princess Gloria
Her Serene Highness Princess Elisabeth
The United Kingdom
Their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princess Michael of Kent
Some of The Others
His Serene Highness Prince Gundakar and Her Royal Highness Princess Marie of Liechtenstein
Her Serene Highness Princess Imaculata of Liechtenstein
Her Serene Highness Princess Charlotte of Liechtenstein, Mrs PK Van der Byl
His Royal Highness Prince Michel of Yugoslavia
Her Royal Highness Princess Maria Theresa of Bourbon-Parma
Their Imperial & Royal Highnesses Archduke Joseph Karl Habsburg and Her her Imperial & Royal Highness Archduchess Margarete of Austria.
Her Imperial & Royal Highness Archduchess Johanna Sophie of Austria
His Highness Prince Joachim Murat
Prince Maurizio Ferrante Gonzaga del Vodice
Prince Alvaro de Orleans-Borbon and Princess Antonella de Orleans-Borbon
HSH The Prince d`Arenberg
Princess Sonia Poniatowsky
Prince Maurizio Ferrante Gonzaga del Vodice