A couple of months ago the Australian Mary Donaldson
married the Crown Prince of Denmark, to much publicity and well-wishing, and in the normal course of events will one day become queen. Australia produced another queen, who has died uncrowned
and unrecognised in Albania
. Her marriage to the self-styled King Leka
was happy personally, but she followed him through many exile
s, scandals, and doubts.
Susan Barbara Cullen-Ward was born in the Sydney suburb of Waverly on 28th January 1941 but grew up on a sheep station near Cumnock, and attended the Presbyterian Ladies' College in Orange, then Sydney Technical College. She taught art, and was briefly married. At a dinner party in Sydney she met Leka, son of the first and last Albanian king, Zog.
King Zog was a regional chieftain who had become president in 1925, had elevated himself to king in 1928, and fled Albania in 1939 with his newly-born son as the Italians took it over. After the War the communists ruled, and Zog died in Paris in 1961. Albanian expatriate monarchists recognised Leka as king, but he had little realistic hope of taking power. He was living in Spain with the support of Franco when in 1975 he and the beautiful and stylish Susan married in Biarritz, across the border in France. In the eyes of his followers she became Queen Suzani of the Albanians; guided by Leka's mother Queen Geraldine, she learnt Albanian and came to consider herself so.
She could not have an Albanian passport, of course; her Australian one compromised by calling her "Susan Cullen Ward, known as Queen Susan".
Leka is a gun-runner, and possibly CIA-funded. He has found refuge in dictatorships and been arrested or thrown out of democracies. After Franco's death the democratic Spanish government disapproved of his arms cache, and they went to Rhodesia. After the Smith regime fell they went to apartheid South Africa. After the fall of the Albanian communist regime of Enver Hoxha and Ramiz Alia they did go briefly back to Albania in 1990, and were welcomed by some of the population, but were thrown out by the new government, alarmed by the firepower of their entourage.
They returned in 1997, for a referendum on the monarchy, heavily defeated, but Leka and Susan and their son (Crown Prince Leka, b. Johannesburg, 1982) finally made a home there in 2002. She died being treated for lung cancer at the age of 63, on 17th July 2004. Queen Susan lay in state at the royal palace in Tiranë and was buried beside Queen Geraldine.
Obituaries in Daily Telegraph and Sydney Morning Herald:
More information on Royal Family of Albania: