World Facts

Longest-Reigning Monarchs

The living monarchs with the longest reigns today hail from all parts of the world, from Europe to the Middle East and Asia.

The course of governmental history around our globe has been largely characterized by concentrated powers. Leaders of the past have largely been men and women who have ruled their respective dominions from around the world with absolute authority. However, as times have changed and most countries have moved towards more democratic means of governance, most reigning monarchs have had their powers greatly reduced or removed altogether, leaving most major decisions to be decided by democratically elected officials. A number of countries, however, have maintained ceremonial monarchs as figureheads to preserve longstanding aspects iconic of their respective histories and cultures. The succession line in most monarchies is pretty much clear cut from the first in line to the last in line, with most monarchs reigning for very long periods, often until their death. In a few circumstances one may find those who have abdicated their thrones due to old age, poor health, or personal reasons, and others who have been removed forcibly by way of coups administered by their rivals. With longevity of rule in mind, below we list the current monarchs with the longest uninterrupted reigns, whether they are ceremonial figures or absolute authorities.

7. Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden - since 1973

Carl XVI Gustaf is the currently reigning Swedish King. He assumed the reigns of the kingdom at the young age of 27 years old following the demise of Gustaf VI Adolf, his grandfather, on the 15th of September, 1973. His father, who would have been next in line to the throne, perished in a plane crush when he was just a year old. He adopted the title "King of Sweden, breaking the centuries-old tradition held by his predecessors of being given the much longer title of "By the Grace of God King of the Swedes, the Goths/Geats and the Wends." He is among the longest reigning current monarchs having been king for 42 years. He has been considered among the most modernized royals of the 20th century, especially after he picked the slogan "For Sweden with the times."

6. Sultan bin Mohamed Al-Qasimi III of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates - since 1972

He belongs to the Supreme Governing Council of the United Arab Emirates, and is also the present ruler of the Sharjah Emirate. He has reigned since the 25th of January, 1972, when the ruler in place at the time was assassinated in an attempted coup. At this time, he was only 32 years of age. He is the 18th Sultan of the Sharjah Emirate, in a succession of Al-Qasimi sultans that can be traced to as far back as the seventeenth century. His reign has largely been uneventful, with the sultanate experiencing peace and stability throughout his reign.

5. Margrethe II of Denmark - since 1972

Margrethe II is the reigning Queen of Denmark. She is the Commander in Chief of the defense forces of Denmark, and also the supreme leader of Church of Denmark. Nonetheless, she is only a constitutional monarch, and makes no political decisions. She is from the House of Glucksberg, which originally came from North Germany. She took the reins of the monarchy when her father, King Fredrick IX, died on the 14th of January, 1972. She is the longest reigning among the three Scandinavian monarchs. Having been born in 1940, she only became a presumptive heir in 1953 after an amendment of the constitution. She will be the reigning monarch as long as she lives, unless she decides to abdicate her throne, upon which the next in line would ascend to it.

4. Qaboos bin Said al Said of Oman - since 1970

The current Sultan of Oman climbed to power after overthrowing his father in a palace coup in the year 1970. He is the fourteenth descendant of the Al Bu Sa'idi dynasty's founder. After overthrowing his father on the 23rd of July, 1970 with the goal of bringing to an end the country's isolationist policies, he established an absolute monarchy. When he became Sultan, he declared that the nation would not be referred to as "Muscat and Oman" anymore, but the "Sultanate of Oman" instead. His reign has been characterized by a remarkable transformation of the country into one that today has a thriving health sector, good roads, free education, and widespread access to utilities such as electricity and running water. Oman is among the most stable countries in the Middle East, with the Sultan maintaining close ties with both the US and Britain. Qaboos has no sons and, in the event of his demise, the royal family is mandated to pick a successor within three days. If they fail to agree within this time, a letter written by the Sultan containing his preferred choice would then be opened.

3. Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu of the Zulu, South Africa - since 1968

The country of South Africa is headed by a president who is the leader of government. However, the traditional leaders of its original peoples are still valued and recognized in a constitutional clause. The Zulu people make up the Zulu Kingdom, which is ruled over by a traditional king. Goodwill Zwelithini is the current ruling Zulu nation monarch, a role he's been holding since the demise of his father in 1968. In order to avoid assassination, he went into hiding for a period of three years (1968-1971) as Prince Israel Mcwayizeni kaSolomon acted as the king regent. He is the eighth Zulu kingdom monarch, and will continue to rule the kingdom until his death or, if he chooses, abdication.

2. Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei - since October, 1967

Hassanal Bolkiah is the twenty-ninth and current reigning Sultan of Brunei, one of the few remaining absolute monarchies. He was born on the 15th of July, 1946 as the eldest son of Sir Omar Ali III. Brunei experimented with democracy after being urged by the British in 1962, an exercise which saw the Brunei People's Party capture nearly all the legislative seats. The party led a revolution against Sultan Omar Ali, Hassanal's father, but with the help of British troops the revolt was crushed. Omar declared a state of emergency, ultimately reassuming absolute powers for the Sultan that endure to this day. Hassanal rose to reign over the sultanate on the 4th of October in 1967, after his father abdicated in a desperate attempt to resist the concurrent clamors for democracy and pressures from communists. Omar Ali III went on to rule away from the public eye until he had a disagreement with his son and the army pledged allegiance to Hassanal. After Brunei gained full independence from the British on the 1st of January, 1984, Hassanal declared himself the King, Prime Minister, and Minister of Defense.

1. Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Realms - Since February, 1952

Queen Elizabeth II is the reigning queen of the United Kingdom and the independent members of the Commonwealth who still ceremonially recognize the British Crown. Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on the 21st of April 1926, she has reigned since the 6th of February, 1952. She rose to the throne when her father died while she was on a trip to Kenya. She was born in London as the eldest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York, who later became King George the VI and Queen Elizabeth. Her father rose to the throne upon the abdication of her uncle, Edward VIII, whose impending nuptials with a divorced socialite threatened a constitutional crisis. She is the oldest living monarch of all time in British history.

The Longest-Reigning Current Monarchs Around the World

RankMonarchYear That Reign BeganCountry
1Elizabeth II1952The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth
2Hassanal Bolkiah1967Brunei
3Qaboos bin Said al Said1970Oman
4Margrethe II1972Denmark
5Sultan bin Mohamed Al-Qassimi III 1972United Arab Emirates (Sharjah)
6Carl XVI Gustaf 1973Sweden
7Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi1974United Arab Emirates (Fujairah)
8Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi III1981United Arab Emirates (Ajman)
9Mswati III1986Eswatini
10Akihito 1989Japan

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