Thursday, 1 December 2011

How Albania made a king at the Paris Bristol

Many things have occurred in Bristol hotels -- births, deaths, marriages. But a coronation must surely top them all. Leka Zogu (pictured here) was proclaimed King Leka I of Albania by his countrymen in exile in a function room at Le Bristol in Paris on April 15, 1961. This followed the death of his father, the self-proclaimed Zog I, who had been living in exile since the Italian invasion of 1939.

News of the event comes with the announcement of Leka's death yesterday (November 30) in a hospital in Tirana at the age of 72. He had been born in Albania's capital just a few days before the family went into exile, and spent much of his life in South Africa. In 1997 a referendum was held on the monarchy, which was defeated by two-thirds of the vote. After vigorously protesting the legitimacy of the result, he left the country, returning to live there in 2002, two years before his Australian wife, Susan Cullen-Ward, died. He is survived by their son, also called Leka, who works in the foreign ministry.

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