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Simeon II: I did not want to hold a referendum on a monarchy, I would divide the Bulgarians

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In its issue of May 2021, Biograph magazine (biograph.bg) published an extensive article by the journalist Nikola Nikolov, regarding the history of the Albanian royal family.

His Majesty gave an interview to the magazine, in which he shared his memories of his close acquaintance with the Albanian royal family.

We publish the full text of the King’s interview:

Simeon II holds the record in world politics that we will need another lockdown time to count them. His Majesty is the last remaining head of state of this world since the time of the Second World War.

He not only remembers, but also embodies to a large extent many of the turbulent socio-strategic events of the second half of the 20th century – the rise and fall of communist regimes, the end of colonialism, the Cold War, the struggle for civil rights, the Middle East process, on the foundations of a united Europe.

Despite the rampant pandemic of the deadly coronavirus in the last days of 2020, His Majesty gave me the honor of receiving me at the Vrana Palace to talk about his close acquaintance with members of the Albanian royal dynasty, about what it is like to be king away. from the homeland and why no monarchy has survived in the Balkans today.

– Your Majesty, immediately after the war you visited the famous British “Victoria College” in Alexandria, where your classmates are King Hussein bin Talal from Jordan, King Leka I and the heirs of countless Middle Eastern families with blue blood. What was it like for your teachers to enter a classroom full of so many crowned people every day?

-Oh, we all appeared as regular students, with our surnames or pseudonyms. As you probably know, I was recorded under the name “Rislki”. It is unlikely that there were more than two or three management members at the school who knew the true identity of the children. And future monarchs are well prepared from birth on how to behave in society and not to flaunt their origins, so we hardly bothered the teachers that much.

– Did you maintain personal relations with the members of the Albanian royal family?

– Yes, although Zogu I was moving in a much higher orbit than us, if I may say so. The then ruling dynasty in Egypt, Farouk, was of 1/16 Albanian descent, and this gave it serious political influence. When my mother and sister and I left Bulgaria in 1946, we were accompanied by two faithful servants and had almost no means. King Zogu was at the other pole, practically confused with his entire royal court, always surrounded by dozens of companions.

– What kind of person was the late Albanian monarch?

– Difficult to describe, especially through the eyes of a child. Very determined and generous for sure. You know, when we left our homeland, the People’s Republic of Bulgaria refused to issue us passports. Then Zogu provided us with Albanian diplomatic documents. They have never been used, but they are an interesting artifact, I will provide you with a copy. It was governed by the ancient tribal laws of the local Sunni clans. Always armed to the teeth. I remember every time we visited our home he took off his outer garment. then he ritually took out his revolvers and set them aside. This is how he demonstrated his friendship and respect – “I feel safe in your house”.

– I guess the similar fate of Balkan kings in exile brought the two families together?

“Zogu I understood perfectly well the difficult financial situation we were in.” Whenever he visited us, he would leave the servants a tip equal to at least their monthly salary. It was his way of helping us financially without offending us. He knew that it was difficult for us to pay our employees, and with these gestures in the form of a gift, he de facto supported them.

– What did the Albanians owe their enviable financial position to?

– As far as I remember, Zogu was talking about shares in Western European companies. You see, over the years he had made both enemies and many friends in Italy, Austria, in the English secret services. We must not forget that he also supported an armed resistance movement in his country.

– Did the heir to the throne Leka look like his father?

– “As for the love of guns, for sure.” I remember that at the age of 11 he did not part with his nagan. I asked Goot what was being kept so well, he replied, it was about family vendettas between the different Albanian tribes. He claimed that his father survived at least 55-60 attacks. Of course, you have heard about the case when he was shot in the parliament, but he continues to deliver his speech.

– Yes, Leka seems to be extremely proud of what happened and often tells it in various interviews. And did he himself carry this military spirit?

– He even managed to intimidate the Spanish government years later, when we lived there at the same time. He had made a small army of veterans of the French wars in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, I think Thais. They conducted military exercises, thundered, and nailed the authorities. Leka could not boast of how ferocious and well-trained his men were. The cabinet gave him several days to leave the country. I remember we sent him to the airport, I asked him to carry a weapon this time. And what I see? Leka not only had a revolver, but his wife, Susan, had one in her purse. He had trained her to shoot too.

– Susan Cullen-Ward is also an extremely interesting person.” She was the first Australian citizen to become a member of a royal dynasty.

– In her homeland, however, she was never recognized as a queen. Foreign Secretary Peacock compromisedly issued her a passport with a sort of aristocratic nickname, “Susan Cullen-Ward, known as Queen Susan.” By the way, I have witnessed similar curious incidents with other monarchs, but in the name of discretion I will refrain from mentioning names.

– Your paths with Leka are often intertwined in different parts of the world, which meeting is most vividly imprinted in your memories?

– You know, it is actually relatively recent, from the years when I was Prime Minister of Bulgaria. We went on an official visit to Tirana and were accommodated in the government residence, which is the former royal palace. Leka had already returned permanently and was living in a rented house just meters away. I was forced to meet him on the steps of his own palace, which is somewhat awkward …

– Hardly so against the background of the turbulent and often paradoxical Balkan history … And in this regard, Your Majesty, why has not a single monarchy survived in our part of Europe today? Communist regimes can hardly be accepted as a sufficient explanation.

– By no means, I think that the roots of the phenomenon are deeper, probably in the Ottoman rule. The distant ruler, who is unknown as a person and too careless to the care and needs of his subjects, but does not fail to collect his taxes, cannot help but cause lasting skepticism towards the institution. Unfortunately, this has survived to this day, although history has shown us that many of Europe’s most democratic and prosperous societies are monarchies.

– However, Leka I managed to provoke a referendum on the form of government in Albania, although it lost it. Why did you never do that, did you lack political levers?

– I did not want to create additional division in Bulgarian society, I have always tried to act as a unifier. There was no right moment, we always had more important and urgent tasks ahead of us.

– Going back to our specific monarchical heroes, now at the head of the Zogu family is Leka II, who actively participates in the politics of his homeland.

– Very educated, educated and easy to communicate young people. An example of ethnic and religious tolerance, marrying a local Albanian Christian girl.

– In his words, however, the desires of his father and grandfather for a Greater Albania, which is the dominant power in the Balkans, are often evident. Is this more populism, or a real possibility today, 12 years after Kosovo’s declaration of independence?

– Such concepts are not only the subject of the policy of a particular person or country, but depend on many European and global factors. It is true that we have recently seen a certain crack in the idea of ​​peace and security for the Western world, this “pax Americana”. However, I do not see specific reasons for ethnic tensions in the Balkans, if I have understood your question correctly.

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