Geraldine of Albania

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Geraldine Apponyi de Nagy-Appony
Geraldine, Queen of Albania.jpg
Queen consort of Albania
Tenure27 April 1938 – 7 April 1939
Born(1915-08-06)6 August 1915
Budapest, Kingdom of Hungary, Austria-Hungary
Died22 October 2002(2002-10-22) (aged 87)
Tirana, Republic of Albania
Burial26 October 2002
(m. 1938; died 1961)
IssueLeka I, Crown Prince of Albania
Géraldine Margit Virginia Olga Mária Apponyi de Nagy Appony
HouseApponyi (by birth)
Zogu (by marriage)
FatherCount Gyula Apponyi de Nagy-Apponyi
MotherGladys Virginia Steuart
SignatureGeraldine Apponyi de Nagy-Appony's signature

Countess Géraldine Margit Virginia Olga Mária Apponyi de Nagy-Appony (6 August 1915 – 22 October 2002) was the Queen consort of King Zog I of the Albanians and the mother of Leka I, Crown Prince of Albania.

Early life[edit]

Geraldine was born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary, a daughter of Count Gyula Apponyi de Nagy-Appony (1873–1924) of the noble Apponyi family. Her mother was Gladys Virginia Steuart (1891–1947), an American, daughter of John Henry Steuart from Virginia, a diplomat who served as American Consul in Antwerp, Belgium, and his wife Mary Virginia Ramsay Harding.

When Geraldine was three, the Empire of Austria-Hungary collapsed, and the Apponyi family went to live in Switzerland. In 1921 they returned to the Kingdom of Hungary which was stable under Regent Miklós Horthy. However, when Geraldine's father died in 1924, her mother and their three children (Geraldine, now nine, Virginia, and Gyula) went to live in the resort of Menton, in the south of France. When the Countess married a French officer, her Hungarian in-laws insisted that the children be returned to Hungary for their schooling. The girls were sent to the Sacred Heart boarding school in Pressbaum, near Vienna. Geraldine's happy childhood then continued at the chateau Oponice (Appony) in present-day Slovakia, Apponyi ancestral family possessions in Slovakia; at the time, the part of Czechoslovakia (whose citizenship Geraldine gained). She lived there until 1938. Her family's fortune spent, Geraldine earned a living as a shorthand typist. She also worked in the gift shop of the Budapest National Museum, where her uncle was the director.

Royal life[edit]

Geraldine was introduced in December 1937 to King Zog I of the Albanians, who had seen a photograph of her. She visited the Albanian Kingdom and within days the couple were engaged to be married. Known as the "White Rose of Hungary", Geraldine was raised to royal status as Princess Geraldine of Albania prior to her wedding.

Queen Geraldine pictured with King Zog and his sisters in exile in Sweden

On 27 April 1938, in Tirana, Albania, Geraldine married the King in a ceremony witnessed by Galeazzo Ciano, envoy and son-in-law of Il Duce and Prime Minister of Italy, Benito Mussolini. She was Roman Catholic and King Zog was Muslim. Geraldine wore a new diamond tiara, specially commissioned from Austrian jewellers, featuring the motifs of the white rose for the bride, and the heraldic goat for the groom.[1] They drove to their honeymoon in an open-top scarlet Mercedes-Benz 540K, a present from Adolf Hitler.

The couple had one son, Crown Prince Leka Zogu (1939–2011).

Zog's rule was cut short by the Italian invasion of Albania in April 1939, and the family fled the country into exile. From April 1939, Geraldine and Zog fled Albania via Greece and Turkey and settled in France, and then in England. They lived in the Ritz Hotel, London, at Ascot and, for most of the war, at Parmoor House, Frieth, Buckinghamshire, England. In 1946 they went to Egypt, and then in 1952 to France. King Zog I died in Hauts-de-Seine, France, in 1961 and their son, Crown Prince Leka, was proclaimed King Leka I by the royalist government in exile. Following this, the Royal Family moved to Spain, Rhodesia and then South Africa.

Later life[edit]

After her husband's death, Geraldine preferred to be known as the "Queen Mother of Albania".[2] In June 2002, Geraldine returned from South Africa to live in Albania, after the law was changed to allow her to do so. She continued to assert that her son Leka was the legitimate King of the Albanians.

Queen Geraldine of the Albanians died five months later at the age of 87 in a military hospital in Tirana. After being admitted for treatment for lung disease, she suffered at least three heart attacks, the last of which was fatal, on 22 October 2002.[3] She was buried by the Central House of the Army with full honours, including a funeral oration at St Paul's Cathedral, on 26 October 2002, and interred in the Sharra cemetery, Albania, in the "VIP plot". She was later reburied in the Royal Mausoleum in Tirana.

On 5 April 2004 her grandson, Leka, Crown Prince of Albania, accepted the Mother Teresa Medal awarded to her posthumously by the Albanian government in recognition of her charitable efforts for the people of Albania. Leka's daughter Geraldine (born 22 October 2020 at Queen Geraldine Maternity Hospital in Tirana, on the 18th death anniversary of queen Geraldine) was named in her honour.



  1. ^ "Queen Geraldine's Diamond Tiara". Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor blog.
  2. ^ "Queen Mother of Albania" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  3. ^ BBC News Online – Former Albanian queen dies
  4. ^ Getty Images

Further reading[edit]

  • Dedet, Joséphine "Géraldine, reine des Albanais". Paris: Belfond, 2016, published at the occasion of Prince Leka's wedding in Tirana, on 8 October 2016 (Leka being Geraldine's grandson) ; former editions: Criterion, 1997 ISBN 2-7413-0148-4 and Belfond, 2012, ISBN 978-2-7144-5090-6. Biography enriched by the Queen's testimony, by her personal archives and by a huge correspondence with the author, who has benefited of many unpublished sources.
  • Dedet, Joséphine, Géraldine, Egy Magyar No Albania Tronjan, Budapest : Europa, 2015, ISBN 978-963-405-202-9, reprinted in 2016 and December 2017, best-seller in Hungary, translation of Géraldine, reine des Albanais".
  • Pearson, O. S. Albania and King Zog, I.B. Tauris. 2005 (ISBN 1-84511-013-7).
  • Tomes, Jason King Zog, Self-Made Monarch of Albania, Stroud: Sutton, 2003 ISBN 0-7509-3077-2
  • Rees, Neil. A Royal Exile: King Zog & Queen Geraldine of Albania including their wartime exile in the Thames Valley and Chilterns, 2010 ISBN 978-0-9550883-1-5
  • The Economist, 7 November 2002 – Queen Geraldine of Albania.
  • The Independent, 24 October 2004, Obituary.
  • Patrice Najbor, Histoire de l'Albanie et de sa maison royale (5 volumes), JePublie, Paris, 2008, (ISBN 978-2-9532382-0-4).
  • Patrice Najbor, La dynastie des Zogu, Textes & Prétextes, Paris, 2002
  • Robyns, Gwen. Geraldine of the Albanians. The Authorised Biography, Muller, Blond & White (1987)

External links[edit]

Geraldine of Albania
Born: 6 August 1915 Died: 22 October 2002
Albanian royalty
Title last held by
Princess Sophie of Schönburg-Waldenburg
as Princess of Albania
Queen consort of the Albanians
27 April 1938 – 7 April 1939
Succeeded by
Princess Elena of Montenegro
as Queen of Italy