World's longest-serving rulers now include three from the UAE

Abdication of Denmark's Queen Margrethe II puts rulers of Sharjah, Fujairah and Ajman in top five

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When Queen Margrethe II of Denmark announced her abdication on New Year’s Eve, she also reshuffled the unofficial ranking of the world’s longest-serving rulers.

For the UAE, it means Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, becomes the second longest-serving ruler out of the world's royal families – behind the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, who has ruled the Asian nation since 1967.

It also means the top two ruler for longevity are both from Muslim countries.

Sheikh Dr Sultan, now 84, became ruler of the emirate on January 25, 1972, following the death of his brother, Sheikh Khalid.

Equally remarkable is the presence of two other UAE Rulers in the top five.

In fourth place, Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, Ruler of Fujairah, is now 74 and has ruled since 1974. In fifth place, Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Ruler of Ajman, is now 92 and has ruled since 1981.

Their longevity is a testimony not just to their personal strengths, but to the stability of the UAE.

Third on the list, behind Sheikh Dr Sultan, is King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. The 77-year-old has ruled his country since 1973.

Queen Margrethe will step down from the throne of Denmark on January 14, making way for her eldest son, the Crown Prince Frederik.

Her decision to abdicate at the age of 83 is unusual.

Longest-serving monarchs in history

Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne of the United Kingdom in 1952 and held it until her death at 96 in September 2022, when she was the second-longest ruler in modern history at 70 years and 214 days.

Only Louis XIV of France had a longer reign than Elizabeth II, coming to the throne at the age of four, with a coronation at the age of sixteen. Known as the “Sun King”, he passed away in September 1715, having ruled for a record 72 years and 110 days.

More recently, Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, was King of Thailand from 1946 to 2016, making him the third longest-ruler in modern times, with 70 years and 126 days on the throne. He was succeeded by his only son, King Vajiralongkorn.

Extravagant claims for longevity have been made for monarchs from the ancient world, though.

Min Hti, a king of what is now part of Myanmar (Burma), is said to have ruled for 106 years in the 13th and 14th centuries CE.

And over 4,000 years ago, the Pharaoh Pepi II Neferkare is said to have ruled Egypt’s Old Kingdom for 94 years after ascending the throne at the age of six.

When it comes to the shortest reigning monarch, the story of a baby girl who was Chinese emperor stands out.

She was the unnamed daughter of Emperor Xiaoming, who ruled northern China in the 6th Century.

At her birth, the emperor’s mother is said to have declared her to be a boy. When the emperor died shortly after, the infant was briefly announced as the new ruler.

However, within a day had been dethroned after her grandmother revealed her true sex.

Updated: January 05, 2024, 6:00 PM