Who Are The Longest Reigning Monarchs In History?

The late Queen Elizabeth II has plenty of company.

by Kadin Burnett
Originally Published: 
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (L) waves to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (R) as she departs...

On September 8, Buckingham Palace announced the passing of Her Majesty The Queen, Elizabeth II. She died peacefully at Balmoral Castle, concluding her 70-year reign as a monarch. At seven decades, Elizabeth II was the longest reigning British monarch, and the second-longest reigning monarch in history. As we remember her life, here’s a look back at the longest ruling figures of all time.

1. French King Louis XIV, France (72 years, 110 days)

King Louis XIV began his reign in May of 1643 at the age of four. During his reign he dispensed of his chief minister and oversaw every inch of his empire, taking time to deal with daily meetings, documents, and letters. Though King Louis XIV was married, like many monarchs of the era, he had countless affairs culminating in innumerable illegitimate children. One of the stains on his legacy was his violent persecution of the Huguenots, a sect of French Protestants. In a deathbed admission, the king confessed to loving war “too much,” before dying in 1715, aged 76.

2. Queen Elizabeth II, United Kingdom (70 years, 214 days)

After being crowned Queen of Great Britain in 1952, the young Elizabeth was ushered into ruling at 25 years old. Over the course of her reign, the colonial reach of England established the monarch’s rule over upwards of fifteen countries across the globe. Her passing at age 96 in 2022 marks the end of her 70 years as one of modern history’s most storied rulers.

3. Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand (70 years, 126 Days)


Remembered as one of history’s richest royals, Thai King Adulyadej is the only American born monarch on this list. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts (his father was studying at Harvard at the time of his birth), Adulyadej took the throne in 1946 at age 18 after his brother, King Ananda Mahidol, was found dead from a gunshot wound in his bed. Though his death was believed to be a suicide, some also believed the king’s passing was foul play. King Adulyadej was a famous jazz lover and an accomplished saxophonist and composer up until his death in 2016 at 88.

4. Johann II, Liechtenstein (70 years, 91 days)

Presiding over the small European nation of Liechtenstein, Johann II was 18 when he began serving as the country’s prince from 1858 until his death in 1929. However, the length of his reign isn’t his only historical anomaly. Johann II was a famous introvert, not one to be seen as social events, nor in the public eye, though he remained a patron and supporter of the arts. He never married or fathered any children, but his philanthropy earned him the nickname Johann the Good. He was succeeded by his younger brother Franz I after his passing at 88.

5. K’inich Janaab Pakal, Maya Empire (68 years, 33 days)

One of the more ancient monarchs to appear on this list, Pakal ruled over the Maya city-state of Palenque from July 615 to August 683, beginning when he was 16. He served as the architect behind the Maya civilization; most famously the Palace of Palenque, a labyrinth of courtyards, statues, and sculptures. He also presided over the construction of the Temple of the Inscriptions, a pyramid that would go on to house Pakal’s sarcophagus upon his death, at approximately age 84. Some more outlandish theories believe that Pakal’s brilliance came from contact with extraterrestrials, thus earning him the diety-level respect and the nickname “Pakal the astronaut.”

6. Franz Joseph I, Austria/Hungary (67 years, 355 days)

Franz Joseph became Emperor of Austria in 1848 at age 18, before going on to being crowned King of Hungary and building the Austro-Hungarian empire. Though he oversaw incredible European expansion, his life was marred by tragedy — most famously, the death of his son Archduke Rudolf, who took his own life in a suicide pact with his mistress Mary Vetsera in 1889. Franz Joseph and his wife Elisabeth were devastated by the public tragedy, though there would be more to come: a little less than a decade later, Elisabeth was stabbed to death by a protestor while holidaying in Geneva, Switzerland in 1898. Their son’s death would cause the line of succession switch to Joseph’s brother Archduke Karl Ludwig, who took over when Franz Joseph died in 1916, aged 86. Karl Ludwig’s heir, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, became known worldwide when his assassination directly led to the start of World War I.

7. Ferdinand III, Sicily (65 years, 90 days)

As the eldest son of Ferdinand II, Ferdinand III was present for the councils and royal affairs of his father, and was named Archduke of Austria in 1621 at age 13. He would later be crowned King of Hungary in 1625 and King of Bohemia in 1627. Ferdinand III also strong armed his way to commanding Habsburg armies in 1634, and defeated the Swedes at the first Battle of Nördligen that same year. He would go on to be elected as King of the Romans in 1636 at age 28 following the death of his father. Known as a Holy Roman emperor, Ferdinand III created the Peace Party at the Habsburg Imperial Court during the Thirty Years’ War, which would go on to end said war with the Peace of Westphalia. Though he wasn’t ultimately all that willing to compromise on religious practices, he did end three decades of religious war in Europe, and help grant greater freedoms to Protestants In Hungary. He was succeeded by his son Leopold I after his death in 1657, aged 48.

8. Queen Victoria, United Kingdom (63 years, 216 days)

Before being surpassed by Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria served as the longest reigning British monarch. She took the throne in 1837 at age 18, and would go on to define what would become the Victorian era. She mothered 9 children, was a grandmother to 40 grandchildren, and a great-grandmother to 88 grandchildren, earning her the name Grandmother of Europe. Though she was famous for her maternal stats, many of her subjects opposed the way she ruled over a global empire, with colonies extending to all over Africa and India. At one time, a third of the world’s population was under the British rule during her reign, memorializing her as one of the most far reaching rulers in history until her death in 1901 at age 81.

9. James I, Aragon (62 years, 319 days)

Originally born in France, James I or James the Conquerer was one of the most renowned medieval kings of Aragon, the area now recognized as northeastern Spain. Born in 1208, James I was crowned at age 5; by 1227, James I was leading war campaigns capturing the likes of Majorca and Ibiza. In 1233, James led a three-year campaign to recapture the Kingdom of Valencia, which culminated in the further growth of Aragon territory. He married twice, once in 1221, and again in 1235, and would go on to divide his many realms amongst his sons. He gave his eldest son Peter Aragon, Valencia, and Catalonia, while his younger son James was given the Balearic Islands, Roussillon, and other Pyrenean counties. In a further bid to extend his reach, he married Peter to Constance of Sicily, which allowed for the Kingdom of Sicily to be placed under the control of Aragon. Aragon remained a sovereign country until James I’s death in 1276, aged 68.

10. Hirohito (Emperor Shōwa), Japan (62 years, 13 days)

Kaku KURITA/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Emperor Shōwa was born Michinomiya Hirohito, but was given the name Shōwa, which means “bright peace,” or “enlightened harmony, posthumously. In 1921, he became the first crown prince of Japan to travel to Europe; he was named prince regent upon his return after his father was forced into retirement due to mental health struggles. In 1924 he married Princess Nagako Kuni, and was crowned emperor in 1926 after his father’s passing. As a ruler, Hirohito was afforded complete authority, and even suppressed a coup attempt in 1936.

In 1945, when defeat loomed for Japan in World War II, Hirohito made a national broadcast to announce that Japan would accept the Allies’ terms of surrender. But Hirohito’s legacy extends far beyond Japan’s participation in World War II. Under pressure from the Allies, he became the first Japanese emperor to renounce his divinity. In an effort to unite state and people, Hirohito became a more public and social figure, allowing press to document his social life, which increased his popularity and preserved Japanese imperialism. In 1975, he became the first Japanese emperor to meet with a president when he met Richard Nixon. Upon his death at 1989 at age 87, Hirohito was succeeded by his son, Prince Akihito.

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