There were rebellions and struggles against a weakened Ottoman Empire after 1910 with Albanians finally declaring their independence. The nations of Europe recognized this in 1913 but many Albanians were upset at how their borders were drawn and they had trouble finding a national leader or a national leader the rest of Europe would respect. The first modern Albanian monarchy came about in early 1914 with the elevation of the German Prince Wilhelm von Wied to be Sovereign Prince of Albania (to the rest of Europe, in Albania he was titled as King). His aunt, the Queen of Romania suggested him for the job and he turned it down before the Austrians persuaded him to accept. He went to Albania to take up his throne, adopting the reigning name of Skanderbeg II in tribute to the traditional Albanian hero. But the odds were certainly stacked against his long-term success. Naturally, many Albanians viewed him as an outsider but even many in the rest of Europe were not ultimately of help because few seemed to take Albanian independence seriously. During the “Scramble for Africa” the Kingdom of Italy had wanted Tunisia but hoped to gain credit for being quiet and modest. They received nothing, France grabbed Tunisia and when Italy complained they were told to look to Albania if they wanted a colony. Likewise, many in Romania expected Albania to follow their wishes because Prince Wilhelm had been nominated by the Queen and Austria-Hungary, which heavily subsidized Albania, practically viewed the principality as an unofficial part of the Hapsburg empire (and got rather testy when Prince Wilhelm refused to contribute Albanian soldiers to the Austro-Hungarian war effort in World War I).
In the aftermath of World War I the situation in Albania was still far from stable and it was not until 1924 that a new government was officially declared and recognized by the other powers. Again, however, one has the impression that most outsiders did not take Albanian independence seriously as the Allies effectively recognized it as an Italian protectorate as well. There had been plans to partition the country and Albania was plagued by in-fighting and assassinations. A list of all the marriage-alliances, foreign ties, coup attempts and actual coups could fill a library. Suffice it to say though that the most successful man on the ground was Ahmed Bey Zogu. He first seized power in 1922, during a time of great confusion, but by 1924 was forced to step down and leave the country. However, in time he came back with support from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, anxious to increase their influence. Ahmed Zogu accepted their help but had no intention of putting their interests before those of Albania. After taking power again, a republic was declared with Ahmed Zogu as President with dictatorial powers and to compensate for the loss of Yugoslavian support (who felt themselves betrayed) he turned to the Kingdom of Italy, by that time under the control of Benito Mussolini.
|King Zog I|
Development was occurring but it was painfully slow and the warring factions never really went away. Most dangerous for King Zog was the extent to which Albania had become indebted to and dependent on Italy for financial support. The King realized this and tried to distance himself but it was too late and Albania was still not able to stand alone. He nationalized the Catholic schools, dismissed Italian military advisors, cut the national budget and tried to make other alliances. However, Yugoslavia was unfriendly, as was Greece (whom the British were allied to) and Germany was on the side of Italy. In any event, the Nazi Party could not have been pleased when King Zog humanely opened Albanian borders to Jews fleeing persecution in Germany. Despite all the foreign investment, Albania also remained quite poor and in 1939 King Zog defaulted on the loans from Italy. Mussolini ordered the occupation of Albania shortly afterward, Italian troops landing just after King Zog and his family left the country for Greece.
|King Victor Emmanuel III|
Albanians loyal to King Zog never wavered in their support of him over the years and declared his son Crown Prince Leka to be “King of the Albanians” as his father had been when Zog died in 1961. However, the Kingdom of Albania was never really able to firmly establish itself and become accepted nor was the title of King Zog ever widely recognized by the international community. Part of this was the means by which he became “King of the Albanians” and part was the title itself, implying claims to Albanian populated territories within the borders of Allied countries from World War I like Serbia or Greece. The royals courts, at that time, were also still reluctant to accept self-made royalty. Royals marrying commoners was still illegal in most European monarchies and taken altogether it is not surprising that, when in power or in exile, the other royal families had little to do with the House of Zog. That attitude, however, has not been replicated by most monarchists and I at least have been surprised by how much widespread monarchist sympathy there is for the legacy of the late King of the Albanians. To compare, I have seen more objections to the Emperor Napoleon as not being a “real” royal figure than I have to King Zog even though one might expect the reverse. Why is this?
|"King Leka I" and "Queen Susan"|
|Leka II and Elia Zaharia|