His Majesty King Leka of the Albanians was born in Tirana, the Royal Palace, 5th of April 1939. He died on the 30th of November 2011, aged 72, at Mother Teresa Hospital, Tirana.
The birth of an heir to the throne was celebrated with great jubilation and the Royal Guard gave a 101 gun salute.
Prince Leka began life in exile in various countries. After travelling across Europe, the Royal Family settled in England, first at the Ritz Hotel in London, then moving for a very short period in 1941 to South Ascot, near Ascot in Berkshire, and later to Parmoor House, Parmoor, near Frieth in Buckinghamshire.
After the war King Zog, Queen Geraldine and Prince Leka moved to Egypt, where they lived at the behest of King Farouk I. Leka was educated at Parmoor House. In 1946 he attended the British Boys School, where he continued until 1954. In Alexandria, Egypt, he attended Victoria College and then went to Aiglon College, Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland, where he graduated in 1956.
He was fluent in several languages, including Albanian, French, English, Spanish, German and Arabic. He also spoke some Italian.
Prince Leka officially became heir apparent and Crown Prince to the throne on the 5th of April 1957, on his 18th birthday. Prince Leka became King upon His father’s death. King Zog died on the 9th of April 1961.
Oath as King of the Albanians in accordance to the Royal Constitution of 1928
Crown Prince Leka gave his oath as King of the Albanians at the Hotel Bristol in Paris, on the 15th of April 1961, before The Royal Government in exile, former deputies of the Albanian Parliament, and 70 official delegates chosen as representatives from the Albanian Diaspora.
The National Assembly was invoked according to Acts 51 and 55 of the Albanian Royal Constitution of 1928, where upon it was declared that The Crown Prince would become King of the Albanians.
His Majesty gave his oath on the Bible and Quran before the National Assembly and invited dignitaries as the sovereign Leka I, King of the Albanians.
From 1961 onwards King Leka continued the resistance movement in exile. He also maintained the Albanian Royal Government in exile, which was recognized internationally with all entailed privileges, until the final return of the Royal Family to Albania in 2002.
In 1962 the Royal Family moved from France to Madrid, Spain, which was under the rule of General Francisco Franco. King Leka built a friendship with King Juan Carlos of Spain and later with the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
In the summer and autumn of 1967, His Majesty visited the United States of America. King Leka paid his respects to the graves of Monsignor Fan Noli and Albania’s former Ambassador to the United States of America, Faik Konica. He met with the leaders of “Vatra”, The Legality Party and The National Front, known as the “Balli Kombetar”. The visit was the start of a worldwide campaign to mobilize and unite the Albanians against the Communist Dictatorship.
In 1966-67, He went on operational duty as a Taiwanese observer to Vietnam. Later he traveled to Thailand and with the support of the Thai Army; he recruited Thai and Myanmar soldiers to train Albanian volunteers in Guerrilla tactics.
King Leka met and forged a friendship with the Governor of California, future President of the United States of America, Ronald Regan. In 1967 he famously gifted a live baby elephant to the then governor, a symbol of the United States Republican Party.
In the late 1960-s, King Leka’s attempt to build a training camp for the Albanian Liberation army in Libya was aborted by the September 1969 coup d’état and the fall of King Idris bin Muhammad al-Mahdi as-Senussi.
In 1975, King Leka sent a memorandum to the Helsinki conference bringing attention to Albanian sovereignty. In June 1977, King Leka sent a stern message to the Belgrade security conference stating:”There will never be peace and understanding in the Balkans if Albanian territorial integrity of Kosova and Cameria is not recognized.” During this time, King Leka’s resistance, propaganda and military operations being carried out in Albania, Kosova and Macedonia intensified.
It was for these reasons that, in 1979, the Royal Family was forced to leave Europe and move to Rhodesia. King Leka and the Royal Family were taken hostage by the Gabon Government on the flight, en route to Rhodesia, to be held for ransom. President Omar Bongo released the family and members of the Royal Court upon hearing, through the intermediation of the Rhodesian Foreign Minister Pieter Kenyon Fleming-Voltelyn Van der Byl, that King Leka was a Muslim.
The Royal Family lived on a farm on the outskirts of Harare during the height of the Rhodesian War. After the Lancaster House Agreement, the Royal Family was advised to move to South Africa, knowing the new President, Robert Mugabe, was sympathetic to the Tirana Regime.
The political climate in South Africa started to change with the onset of the 1999 Kosova War, as South Africa openly supported the Slobodan Milosevic Serbian government. King Leka was preparing to attend the Rambouillet negotiations when, on the morning the 5th of February 1999, the South African deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs notified the Royal Family that their diplomatic immunity had been revoked. That same day the South African police arrested the King and members of the House Hold and seized the Royal Arms collection. Whilst in prison Leka fell violently ill and was hospitalized. No explanation was ever given to the family for what caused this abrupt change of health, other than the suspicion of possible poison. King Leka never fully recovered. Within three months, all police charges were dropped by the authorities, and by Court Order the arms collection was returned to the Royal compound in Broadacres, near Johannesburg.
The Conference of Madrid (1975) was a successful action to unify the Albanian political and non political communities under the slogan “Nation Above All”, and in thus creating a worldwide Albanian front against the communist regime.
The conference was aimed at finding a military-diplomatic and political solution to end communism and to reunify the Albanian Nation.
The Conference implemented a non negotiable stance on the sovereignty and the independence of Albania and adopted the philosophy of further resistance.
King Leka insured the act-agreement of the unification and coordination of the diplomatic-political activities of the Albanian Diaspora, through the approval of the Temporary Council, Leading to the creation of the National Liberation Army of Ethnic Albania. The National Liberation Army would play a pivotal role in carrying out operations against the Communist dictatorship in Albania.
On the 8th of October 1975, King Leka married Susan Cullen-Ward at a civil ceremony in Biarritz France, at the Hotel de Ville, in the presence of representatives of the Albanian community. France was chosen because of the legal similarities with Albanian Royal laws, both being based on the Napoleonic code.
On the 10th of October a large ceremony was held before the clergy in Toledo Spain. Muslim, Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican priests blessed the newlyweds. The event was attended by representatives of the different Royal Houses and the Albanian community.
King Leka first returned to Albania in 1993, but was only allowed to stay in the country for less than 24 hours before being informed by the Albanian National Informative Service, “SHIK”, that he had to leave. In the early 90s, the Minister of the Royal Court, Abedin Mulosmanaj, and members of the Royal Court toured the country. The Queen Mother Geraldine and Queen Susan would send medical assistance in country.
His Majesty returned again on April 12 1997, after 58 years in exile. Welcomed home by 10.000 supporters at the airport, He greeted the crowd with the phrase “Peace, Unity and Brotherhood”.
Albania was going through a period of prolonged anarchy after the fall of the pyramid schemes. The state had collapsed, along with law and order. King Leka was the only leader free to visit Albanian cities and villages throughout the country without bias, whilst the Albanian Socialist Party and Democratic Party leaders were only able to travel to their relative strongholds.
King Leka’s meetings drew extraordinary participation. Attendees in: Burrel were 15.000+, in Burgajet 12.500+, in Tirana 20.000, in Vlora 10.000, in Korça 12.500, in Lushnje 10.000, and in Shkoder with a record breaking crowd of 60.000.
Alongside the general parliamentary elections on the 29th of June 1997, a popular referendum on the form of the system was held so as to choose between a Constitutional Monarchy and a Republic.
The exit polls, primary results, and the center vote counting results all showed a victory for the Constitutional Monarchy, with a fluctuating overall count between 55% and 75% of the vote in favor. This prompted some international media to declare early victory in favor of the Monarchy. These early results were also confirmed by international observers in different areas of the country before the ballots were sent to Tirana.
Fourteen days later, the Central Electoral Commissioners voted 8 to 6 against the Monarchy and declared the victory to the Republic (Decision Nr.1355, date 13/07/1997). This controversial and biased decision went against the electoral law which needed a 2/3 majority of the Central Electoral Commission and had other irregularities. Three hundred thousand Monarchist votes disappeared.
The official CEC result stated: 1.423 209 people voted, 450.478 in favor of the Monarchy with 61.630 Monarchist votes considered invalid.
The Royal Court and the Legality Party challenged the Central Electoral Commission’s decision to the Constitutional Court. The 9 judge panel voted 5 against the Monarchy and 4 in favor of the Constitutional Monarchy, with one judge absent. The decision (Nr.44, date 27/08/1997 V-44/97) was heavily politicized. The Chief Justice, Hon. Rustem Gjata, voted in favor of the Monarchy.
The final constitutional verdict accepted that there were wide spread abuse in the vote counting process against the Monarchy, including demonstrations of force and violence against electoral officials. The decision included one given example of the referendum result for the city of Lushnje which was lost entirely, as well as pro-Monarchist votes in other cities being declared invalid/lost because of bureaucratic technicalities. The final court verdict accepted to increase the total vote tally by only 6% in favor, for a total of 39.25%, which had no effect on the final result.
Months after the referendum, pro-Monarchy ballets were found by the media and members of the public dumped in rivers and garbage heaps.
King Leka decided to leave the country so as to prevent the mounting political pressure and public tension from negatively impacting the situation and pushing Albania into a civil war led by interested political entities.
Later in June 1998 the Democratic Party of Albania, the main opposition party, and the Legality Movement, with other opposition parties backed a resolution in parliament to call for the return of King Leka, but it fell 11 votes short of the 71 votes needed to beat the Socialist bloc to gain majority approval.
Dr. Sali Berisha, who was President at the time of the referendum, publically admitted “the referendum was held in the context of flames of the communist rebellion and therefore cannot be considered a closed matter. The Stalinist principle of: ’you vote, but I count the votes’ was applied in that referendum. But the fact of the matter is the Albanians voted massively for their King…”
The Royal Family was officially invited back to Albania by Parliamentary decree in 2002. A political consensus was achieved on the 17th of June 2002 when 9 parliamentary group leaders signed a proclamation which was followed by an official invitation signed by bipartisan group of 74 parliamentarians out of the 140 seat assembly. On Friday the 28th of June 2002, at 11:15 the Royal Family returned home landing at Rinas airport on a private Boeing 727, after traveling from Lanceria airport, South Africa. The Royal Family was welcomed by a festive atmosphere and thousands of supporters.
King Leka became involved in activities of the Nation and staunchly opposed all acts of corruption and miss-governance in Albania and Kosova. He worked vigorously to ensure the well-being and freedom of the Albanian Nation.
King Leka believed that Albania should maintain itself as a bridge between the East and West. He was a strong advocate for Albanian National Unity.
In 2005 King Leka became the spiritual leader of “The Movement for National Development” a wide coalition of political parties that took part in the national elections the same year. Unfortunately, ill health put a stop to further political activities in the following years.
King Leka passed away at the Mother Teresa Hospital Tirana in the 30th of November 2011. The Albanian government declared a Day of National Morning and ordered all institutional flags to be lowered. The state funeral was held at the Albanian parliament in Tirana and was attended by Albanian and foreign dignitaries and the general public.
The mayor of Tirana, Mr. Lulzim Basha, gave the eulogy in front of the National Parliament building. The service was, according to Albanian Royal tradition blessed, by the four official religious leaders at the time, (Muslim, Catholic, Bektashi and Albanian Orthodox), with full Military honors. He was initially buried next to his wife and mother at the Sharra cemetery in Tirana. A year later, King Leka was laid to rest at the Royal Mausoleum.