Queen Susan of the Albanians

I bet you’re all so sunk in republican depravity that you didn’t even know Albania — like Narnia — had a Queen Susan. You should read the _Daily Telegraph_ more. Queen Susan was an Australian drover’s daughter, who pitched up in Johannesburg, with her husband, the 6′ 9″ King Leka, son of King Zog I.

bq.. There were always questions about how Leka lived. Such good friends as the Shah of Persia, President Richard Nixon (a distant cousin) and the CIA are thought to have helped.

The royal couple enjoyed a close personal relationship. They both had a keen liking for smoking. He affectionately called her “Roo”, and showed some signs of allowing her to check some of his more outlandish instincts. For more than a decade she tried to lead as ordinary a life as her roles of housewife, mother and queen permitted.

Out shopping, she often called herself Mrs Smith or Mrs Jones because shop assistants were so bamboozled by her title that they would ask “Queen? That’s a funny name, Mrs Susan.”

p. Perfectly normal for Johannesburg society, one might think.

But the story has a more sinister side to it. The photograph in the paper, unfortunately not reproduced on the web site, shows Susan to be a tasty blonde, gazing admiringly up at her husband. But he doesn’t look in the least bit Albanian. On the contrary, with his quiff and heavy spectacles, he looks rather bookish. Only the characteristic set of his mouth is familiar.

Suddenly I realise who it is — my old friend “Clifford,”:http://homepage.ntlworld.com/clifford.longley/biog.html for 20 years the religious correspondent of the _Times_, then a leader writer on the _Daily Telegraph,_ perhaps the only holder of that office also to hold a Labour Party card. Now he lives in seclusion in Kent, a practising magistrate who writes frequently for the _Tablet_. I knew he had written “a first-rate book”:http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0340786566/andrewbrownssite on imperialism and the religious imagination. I knew he had a reputation for deviousness when he was Father of the Chapel on the _Times_ during the great strike there. But never for a moment did I imagine that he was also the King of Albania.

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