1981 | Queen GERALDINE
Geraldine Apponyi (1915-2002) was born in Budapest as a countess. Her father was a Hungarian aristocrat and first lieutenant of a Hussar regiment, Count Gyula Apponyi de Nagy-Appony, and her mother was an American called Gladys Stewart-Strale, daughter of a United States diplomat and descendant of an old family from Virginia. Geraldine’s father died in 1924 and her mother remarried a French army officer on the Riviera in July 1926. Her father’s family insisted after the remarriage that Geraldine and her two sisters be educated in Hungary and took the young girls back to Pressburg (Bratislava) in 1930. While she was attending a ball at the age of 17, a photographer took her picture. The Hungarian magazine that published it called her the ‘White Rose of Hungary’ and she achieved modest fame for her beauty. It was this picture that eventually reached the hands of King Zog of Albania, who was in search of a bride. King Zog invited Geraldine to Tirana where she arrived shortly after Christmas in 1937. She accepted the king’s proposal on New Year’s Day 1938, and was married to him on 27 April 1938. The marriage was a spectacular affair in pre-World War II Albanian history, with Count Ciano, the Italian foreign minister, and other dignitaries attending.
Marriage to King Zog in Tirana on 27 April 1938
A year later, on 5 April 1939, Geraldine gave birth to a son called Leka. However, it was in that very week that Italian forces under Mussolini invaded Albania. The royal family was forced to flee overland to Greece, a mere three days after the birth, with the feverish Geraldine writhing in the back seat of a Chrysler. After time in Greece, Turkey and France, the royal family reached exile in England where they spent the war years. From 1946 to 1955, they lived in Egypt with King Farouk (1920-1965), who was himself of Albanian origin. After the deposition of King Farouk in 1952, the Albanian royal family moved to Cannes on the French Riviera and to Paris. After the death of her husband in Paris in April 1961, Queen Geraldine moved to Madrid (October 1962) and later to Bryanston, South Africa, where she lived in exile with her son and his family. She returned to Albania on 28 June 2002 to spend the final months of her life in the country where she had once reigned.
In this recording, made on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain in July 1981 by Bernd Fischer, Geraldine Apponyi reveals how she happened to become Queen of Albania. We are grateful to Professor Fischer of the Department of History at Indiana-Purdue University in Fort Wayne for making this historic document available.