Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Just a quick rundown on the monarch with, hands down, the coolest name in modern history, HM Zog I, Skanderbeg III of Albania (1895-1961, r. 1928-1939). The icing on the awesome-cake is that Zog I, in addition to having a killer barbarian-type name, was a fucking gangster.

Born to a minor gentry family in a nasty-ass stone castle in the Albanian hills, Ahmed Zogolli was educated in Ottoman schools, became governor of his region at 16, and basically lived the life of an Albanian hill-chief. When Albania became independent in 1920, he held a bunch of government posts, including Minister of the Interior. Prime Minister in 1922, President in 1925, and, oh yeah, King in 1928. His closest royal ancestor was this guy Skanderbeg -- a pimp in his own right, about whom I'll talk some other time -- in the middle ages, but he didn't let a little thing like his claim to royalty being totally spurious stop him.

Plus, he wore his big stupid hat at a jaunty angle.

Fuck you, my hat is awesome.

Now, when Zog was just a chief, he'd been engaged to another chief's daughter, as you do. But when he became king, he figured that he could just ditch the girl and get himself a royal bride. It didn't really work out, because no respectable European royal was going to marry someone whose claim to the crown was basically that he said so. The paint was still a little wet on that one.

Anyway, the point is that the father of the bride, by ancient Albanian custom, decided to put a cap in Zog's ass, and his partisans -- along with other factions who hated the king -- tried to assassinate Zog. A lot. By one estimate, Zog survived over fifty assassination attempts.

In one particularly exciting one, a bunch of goons tried to take Zog out while he was leaving an opera house in Vienna in 1931. As you do, Zog drew down on the attackers and started returning fire. You don't get that much with monarchs, that willingness to throw some brass if need be.

Anyway, Albania is tiny and poor as shit, so it was a natural place for Fascist Italy to want to take over. They spent a lot of time bolstering the Zog regime, and when he finally got wise and chucked them out they invaded and turfed him out. He seems to have absconded with the royal treasury and spent the rest of his life bumming around as king in exile.

Zog was basically a goon, a jumped-up bandit chieftain with unacceptable pretensions and a big, strong neighbor who picked on him. He's kind of a sad figure in a way; because his rank was so exalted, and because so many people were trying to kill him, he seems to have spent a lot of time just hanging out, playing cards with his sisters.

But for a man with that hat, and that moustache, and for the kind of approach to governance that leads to gunfights outside opera houses, I think we can spare a kind thought for old King Zog. Because if we had unkind thoughts about him, he'd probably cut our fucking throats.


At 3:33 AM, Anonymous Alex said...

I'd love to have a king called Zog. Someone we could all be proud of.

Also, I love this blog James. I wish I had a History teacher like you who makes it entertaining, rather then an excuse for an hours nap before the next class, back in the day.

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