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Skanderbeg (1405 – 1468) is the great national hero of Albania. He allied the Albanians together and defended the region from Ottoman expansion for more than two decades (until his death from malaria—a rare end for Baltic war leaders who opposed the Ottoman Empire). It is unclear whether Skanderbeg was precisely a king—he never styled himself as anything other than “Lord of Albania”—which makes it fitting that the so-called crown of Skanderbeg is only ambiguously a crown. Some historians refer to the headdress instead as the helmet of Skanderbeg. The item in question is certainly a helmet, but it is an uncommonly magnificent and ridiculous helmet which could certainly merit status as a crown. Manufactured of white metal, the helmet features elaborate gold roses, a gold band, and is surmounted by a horned goat’s head made of bronze.
The crown was carried into Italy by Skanderbeg’s heir after Albania fell to the Ottomans after his death (ironically Skanderbeg’s son married one of the last descendants of the Palaiologos family—the last royal house of Byzantium) and it eventually made its way into the collection of an unrelated lord and finally into the Hapsburg royal collection. Periodically Albanian kings and aspirants have petitioned the Austrians for return of the helmet/crown (most recently King Zog unsuccessfully attempted to repatriate it in 1931). It still remains a possession of the Austrian state and is currently housed at the Neue Berg Collection of Arms and Armour in Vienna.