Queen Geraldine was born Countess Geraldine Apponyi in 1915 in Buda, Hungary. Her father was an impoverished Hungarian count from an ancient Hungarian noble family, her mother was an American heiress. After a whirlwind engagement in Paris, her parents rushed off the platform of Geneva station to marry at St Joseph's Church in 1914 before their connecting train arrived to take them to Hungary.
Geraldine enjoyed an idyllic childhood divided between Vienna, Menton in the South of France and the Apponyi family castle at Nagy Apponyi in Hungary.
She attended balls, and it was at one, in the presence of Franz Lehar, the composer, that a photograph was taken that was to change her life. The photograph was seen by King Zog of Albania. Zog had spent happy times in Vienna in his youth, and was in the process of selecting a bride there.
Geraldine was invited to visit Tirana on the strength of this image, and went in December 1937, chaperoned by a family friend, Baroness Ruling.
Their wedding took place in April 1938 with Mussolini's envoy, Count Ciano, as the witness. They drove to their honeymoon in an enormous scarlet open-top, supercharged Mercedes Benz 540K, a present from Hitler.
In 1939 with the Fascist annexation the family duly fled to exile. King Zog and Queen Geraldine travelled through Europe with their court and her son Prince Leka. When they were in Sweden the group was also joined by Queen Geraldine's grandmother, who then lived with them. In England, the court spent time at Lord Parmoor's house in the Chilterns.