Zog I, (Oct 8 1895 – April 9, 1961) was King of Albania from 1928 to 1939. He was previously Prime Minister of Albania (1922 - 1924) and the first President of Albania (1925 - 1928). He studied at the Galatasaray College in Istanbul, Turkey. Upon his father's death in about 1911, Zog at age sixteen became governor of Mat. As a young man during the First World War, he volunteered on the side of Austria-Hungary. He was detained in Vienna in 1917 and 1918 and in Rome in 1918 and 1919 before returning to Albania in 1919.
Upon his return, Zogu became involved in the political life of the fledgling Albanian government that had been created in the wake of the First World War. He became leader of a major reformist party, and his political supporters included many southern landowners and northern nobles, along with merchants, industrialists, and intellectuals. During the early 1920s, Zog served as Governor of Shkodër (1920-1), Minister of Interior (March-November 1920, 1921-1924), and chief of the Albanian Military (1921-1922).
Zog was officially elected to the post of President of Albania by the Constituent Assembly on January 21, 1925, taking office on February 1. His government followed a staunch Western European model.
The reforms included the building of the country's infrastructure, the indigenization of religious bodies, prohibitions against cruelty to animals, etc. Zogu's principal ally during this period was Italy, which loaned his government funds in exchange for a greater influence over Albanian policy.
On September 1, 1928 Zog was crowned King Zog I of the Albanians (Mbret i Shqiptarëve - in Albanian) and Field Marshal of the Royal Albanian Army.
Zog's mother was declared Queen Mother of Albania, and his brother and sisters took a Royal status as Prince and Princesses Zog.
kingdom's constitution forbade any Prince of the Royal House from serving as Prime Minister or a member of the Cabinet and contained provisions for the potential extinction of the Royal Family. The constitution also forbade the union of the Albanian throne with that of any other country. Under monarchy, the King of the Albanians, like the King of the Belgians, exercised Royal powers only after taking an oath before Parliament; Zogu himself swore an oath on both the Bible and the Quran following the policy of gradual nationalization and weakening of religions in Albania.
In 1929 the monarchy abolished Islamic law in Albania, adopting in its place a civil code based on Swiss Law. Religious schools were gradually closed throughout the country, especially in the south where the Orthodox Church engaged in anti-Albanian propaganda and activities in a process of assimilating Albanians into Greeks.
In April 1938, Zogu married Countess Geraldine de Nagy-Apponyi, a Roman Catholic aristocrat who was half-Hungarian and half-American. Their only child, HRH Crown Prince Leka, was born in Albania on April 5, 1939. Two days after the birth of his son and heir, on Good Friday - April 7, 1939, Mussolini's Italy invaded Albania. The country's small army was no match for the Italian motorized regiments, therefore the government and monarch did not resort to war, and fled the country instead. Mussolini declared Albania a protectorate under Italy's King Victor Emmanuel III. Zogu and his family were forced into exile.
While in France, the Royal Family survived the German air raid during the invasion, reputedly because the entourage was travelling in a Mercedes-Benz identical to Adolf Hitler's, which in fact had been a wedding present from the German dictator. The royal family settled in England, and in 1946 in Egypt at the behest of King Farouk, an Albanian by origin, until the latter was overthrown.
Zogu finally chose to make his home in France, living the lifestyle favoured by exiled monarchs, that of the Riviera recluse. Zogu passed away in Hospital Foch, Suresnes, Hauts-de-Seine, on April 9, 1961 at the age of 65. His grave is now found at the Thiais cemetery near Paris
On Zogu's death his son Leka was pronounced H.M. King Leka of the Albanians by the exiled Albanian community, while the country was under Hoxha's regime. His widow, Queen Geraldine, died of natural causes in 2002 at the age of 87 in a military hospital in Tirana, Albania.
During World War II, the royalist resistance in northern Albania was largely ineffective. While the Albanian establishment mostly opted for collaboration with Germany, it was the partisans helped by the West who took control of the country. They were able to defeat the royalist and nationalist forces as the war ended.
Zogu attempted to reclaim his throne after the war. Sponsored by the same Western countries that had formerly helped the communists, some forces loyal to Zogu attempted to mount invasions but were continually ambushed due to intelligence sent to the Soviet Union by British spy Kim Philby. However, Albania now had a communist government led by Enver Hoxha who remained in power for 45 years. After the fall of communism a referendum conducted in 1997 proposed to restore the monarchy in the person of Zogu's son, Leka Zogu. The official results stated that about two-thirds of voters favoured a continued republican government.
Tirana's central avenue has since been renamed by the current Albanian government to "Bulevardi Zogu I" in honor of the King.