The world’s longest-reigning living rulers: from Queen Elizabeth II to Sheikh Dr Sultan

As the British queen celebrates 70 years on the throne, we reveal the monarchs, rulers and heads of state around the world who have had the longest reigns

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Celebrating seven decades on the throne ruling over the UK, and as Head of State of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II has cemented her position as the longest-reigning living ruler.

Ascension Day on February 6, 2022, marked the 95-year-old monarch’s 70th year on the throne, following the death of her father, King George VI, of a coronary thrombosis aged 56. Elizabeth flew back to Britain from a royal tour of Kenya to be crowned Queen at the age of 25.

Queen Elizabeth II celebrated the milestone of becoming the longest-ruling UK monarch back in September 2015, when she surpassed the reign of Queen Victoria, who came to the throne in 1837 at the age of 18 and ruled for 63 years and 216 days, ending on January 22, 1901, when she died aged 81.

We take a look at the five longest-reigning living monarchs

1. Queen Elizabeth II, UK and Commonwealth

Reign: Since 6 February, 1952

Officially the world’s longest-reigning living monarch, the Queen’s 70th year on the throne is the first platinum jubilee to be marked by a British ruler.

Throughout her reign, she has been served by 15 prime ministers, from Winston Churchill to Boris Johnson, and she remains the only person in Britain permitted to drive without a driver’s licence.

Firmly entrenched in the annals of popular culture, not least thanks to her colourful approach to fashion, she once said of her style: “If I wore beige, nobody would know who I am.”

2. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah ibni Omar Ali Saifuddien III, Brunei

Reign: Since October 5, 1967

One of the richest people in the world, with an estimated wealth of $20 billion according to Forbes, the Sultan became Yang di-Pertuan (Head of State) after his father, Omar Ali Saifuddien III, abdicated.

His coronation was held on August 1, 1968, and as well as being Sultan, he holds the portfolios of Minister of Defence, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Finance.

Saifuddien, 75, was educated at the Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur and graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the UK in 1967. Like his father, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and oversaw Brunei’s independence from Britain in 1984, after 96 years as a protectorate.

He celebrated his golden jubilee, to mark the 50th year of his reign, in 2017.

3. Queen Margrethe II, Denmark

Reign: Since January 14, 1972

The Queen of Denmark became heir presumptive to her father the king in 1953, after a constitutional amendment that allowed women to ascend to the Danish throne.

Following King Frederick IX of Denmark’s death on January 14, 1972, she became, at the age of 32.

She studied prehistoric archaeology at Girton College, Cambridge, and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

Celebrating her golden jubilee on January 14, 2022, Queen Margrethe II is an accomplished linguist, speaking Danish, French, English, Swedish and German, and a keen artist.

Painting under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer, her illustrations were used for Danish editions of The Lord of the Rings, which she created in the early 1970s, and which were praised by the book's author JRR Tolkien.

4. Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Sharjah, UAE

Reign: Since January 25, 1972

Sheikh Dr Sultan is the sovereign ruler of Sharjah and a member of the Federal Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates.

Succeeding his brother, Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, following his death on January 25, 1972, Sheikh Dr Sultan was previously the Minister of Education for the Emirates.

He was educated in the Emirates before earning a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering from Cairo University, and two PhDs, one in History from Exeter University and another in the Political Geography of the Gulf at Durham University. He also holds many Honorary Doctorates.

A prolific and acclaimed writer, he has published many books both fiction and non-fiction.

5. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden

Reign: Since September 15, 1973

King Carl XVI Gustaf acceded to the throne following the death of his grandfather, King Gustaf VI Adolf, on September 15, 1973.

King Gustaf’s father died in a plane crash when he was just nine months old, which pushed him up the line of succession, and he became heir apparent at the age of 4.

The father of Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Carl Philip and Princess Madeleine, Gustaf became the longest-reigning monarch in Swedish history, surpassing King Magnus IV's reign (1319-1364) of 44 years and 222 days on April 26, 2018.

A notable Porsche enthusiast, he is honorary chairman of the World Scout Foundation and the presenter of the Nobel Prizes each year.

The five longest-reigning rulers in history

1. Louis XIV of France

The Sun King is the longest-reigning ruler of a sovereign country in recorded history, sitting on the France’s throne for 72 years and 110 days between May 14, 1643 and September 1, 1715.

2. Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand

King Bhumibol the Great, also titled Rama IX, ruled Thailand from June 9, 1946 to October 13, 2016, a total of 70 years and 126 days.

3. Johann II of Liechtenstein

Johann II the Good took the throne just after his 18th birthday, ruling for 70 years and 91 days between October 5, 1840, and February 11, 1929.

4. Queen Elizabeth II, Great Britain and the Commonwealth

Having acceded the throne on February 6, 1952, the British monarch is the only living ruler on this historical list.

5. Kʼinich Janaab Pakal I of Palenque

Overseeing a period of construction and architecture that remains to this day, Pakal ruled the Mayan city in southern Mexico for 68 years and 33 days between July 29, 615 and August 31, 683.

Updated: February 21, 2022, 5:20 AM