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Longest serving monarchies:
Long may they reign

October 2016

If you keep up with recent news, you will have seen that King Bhumibol of Thailand has died after an amazing 70 years on the throne. Unbelievably he had been on the throne during the entire life of most of us, giving his country stability during all the changes that have been taking place across the world and in society during the last few decades.

Presenting a stable figurehead for a country is often the main job of the world’s current kings and queens today although some still have complete rule and control. While during the last few centuries so many countries have rejected royalty for republics, today there are still 26 monarchies in the world, a large network of kings, queens, sultans, emperors and emirs who altogether rule over 43 countries.

Monarchs who enjoy absolute or nearly total rule of their countries include many in the middle east plus King Mswati III of Swaziland and Sir Hassanal Bokiah, Sultan of Brunei. King Mohammed VI  of Morocco still has significant powers, although he can no longer dissolve parliament or call for new elections.

Most other royal families enjoy limited powers or really a figurehead role of their country; but nevertheless they are generally highly revered and valued by their people.

The death of King Bhumibol now means our own Queen Elizabeth II is the world’s longest serving current reigning monarch. She has been on the throne for most of our lives, becoming Queen 64 years ago in February 1952. 

This is an amazing achievement. Only one other serving monarch comes close...Tunku Abdul Halim, the sultan of Kedah (supreme King of Malaysia) since 1958 (see below).

Tunku Adbul Halim, the sultan of Kedah
Source: Kepresidenan Indonesia

Interestingly, the very longest ever serving monarch was Sobhuza II, King of Swaziland who ruled between 1899 to 1982; an amazing 83 years. However, he did start his reign when he was just six months old although his coronation wasn’t held until he was three, when he could at least stand up for the ceremony!

Source: Wikipedia

Sobhuza II (above) managed 20 years longer than our own Queen Victoria, although she still achieved an exceptional length on the throne of 63 years and seven months.

There are a lot more kings and queens competing for the shortest reign, but most of these are from centuries ago. In more recent times, during the last century King Mindaugas II was particularly unlucky, enjoying his reign over Lithuania for just 3 months and 21 days before the country declared itself a republic in November 1918. Mbret William of Albania was equally unfortunate, being ousted after 6 months and 27 days due to the outbreak of the First World War. The rule of Sultan Jamshid bin Abdullah of Zanzibar was equally abrupt, lasting just 6 months and 11 days before his reign was brought to an end by a revolution and the abolition of the sultanate.

Go back a century and more and there are more names that can qualify for short reigns. Possibly the shortest serving monarch of all is Louis XIS of France who ascended the throne on August 2nd 1830. He abdicated just 20 minutes later, although some historians say this is too short a time to be recognised as a reign.

This year our Queen Elizabeth II has been celebrating her 90th birthday; but officially she has two birthdays a year, one her real birthday in April and one for formal celebrations in June. If you add both birthdays together, then at 180 years, she certainly would be the world’s oldest reigning monarch by a very long way!!!


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