Today would have been the 105th birthday of Queen Geraldine, the consort of King Zog 1 Albania and the mother of Leka 1, Crown Prince of Albania.
Geraldine was born in Budapest which was at the time, the capital of Austria-Hungary. She was the daughter of Count Gyula Apponyi de Nagy-Appony, a part of the noble Apponyi line. Geraldine’s mother was an American diplomat’s daughter, Gladys Virginia Steuart.
She was introduced to King Zog 1 in December 1937 and then visited Albania, getting engaged shortly after. She married the king on 27 April 1938 in the presence of Prime Minister of Italy, Benito Mussolino. Geraldine was a Roman Catholic and King Zog was a Muslim. They received an open-top Mercedes Benz as a gift from Adolf Hitler and travelled in it on their honeymoon.
Their son Prince Leka Zogu was born in 1939.
The rule of King Zog was cut short after Italians invaded Albanian in April 1939 and the family were forced into exile. Geraldine was queen for two days shy of one year. They travelled to England via Greece, Turkey, and France, living in the Ritz Hotel and Ascot.
Geraldine’s husband died in 1961 and following his death, she preferred to be known as the Queen Mother of Albania. She returned to Albania in June 2002 after the law was changed to allow her return. She continued to state that her son, Leka was the legitimate king of Albania.
She died on 22 October 2002 at the age of 87 in Tirana’s military hospital from lung disease and a series of heart attacks. Geraldine was then buried at the public cemetery of Sharra before being exhumed and reburied at the Royal Mausoleum in Tirana. In 2004, her son Leka, Crown Prince of Albania accepted the Mother Teresa Medal that was awarded to her posthumously in recognition of her philanthropic efforts for the Albanian people.
Today, President Ilir Meta honoured her birthday by quoting a few lines from a letter sent by writer Ismail Kadare to the Queen, seven months before her death.
“Although this country has brought you much more worries than joy, you give a message to all, the noble message that: Homeland can be loved even when it is poor and difficult “.