LEKA WAS a two-day-old prince in 1939, when he was spirited away from Albania ahead of Mussolini's invading army. He later moved to Egypt, Spain, Rhodesia and South Africa, selling arms but always listing his occupation as "king" on his home-made Kingdom of Albania passport. After communism collapsed in 1993, he returned to his native land but was expelled after 24 hours.
So how come King Leka I is back in his chaotic land of birth and treated with respect?
"In Albania, there is such turmoil that politicians and government authorities see me as a stabilizing factor," he says. "That is why I was allowed to return."
It is doubtful that the pretender will ever reclaim the throne that his father, a tribal strongman, usurped in the 1920s. But the possibility exists: Albania's President Sali Berisha and his rival, Prime Minister Bashkim Fino, have agreed that a referendum on restoring a constitutional monarchy should be on the ballot in June's parliamentary elections.