The royals of the ages have been renowned for a great many things. Vast wealth, lavish palaces, luxurious travel, absolute power and the highest social esteem are all aspects that come to mind when imagining the kings and queens of history.
Yet there’s one aspect of royal living that receives less attention and historical focus and that’s the trend for many royals to live long lives and not only enjoy a high degree of longevity but also to achieve impressive tenures on the throne.
There are few other occupations where serving for over seven decades is a common occurrence, yet the monarchs of the ages have managed some superlative stints of their times on the throne.
Here are the remarkable stories of some of the longest-reigning monarchs, along with some insights into the fascinating topic of royal longevity.
Who Were The Longest-Serving Monarchs of History?
In 2021, Queen Elizabeth II of England celebrated her Platinum Jubilee – marking a majestic 70 years on the throne. This was undoubtedly an admirable achievement – and one that saw the queen enter the history books as one of the longest-serving monarchs of history.
Yet this impressive achievement fell short of the top spot for the longest-reigning sovereign, an astonishing honor which is still held by the famous Sun King of France, King Louis XIV.
King Louis XIV Of France
King Louis XIV of France, famously known as the Sun King, was the longest-serving monarch of history, with a reign of over 72 years.
King Louis did not live as long as the late Queen Elizabeth II, he died at age 76 whereas the English queen lived to the grand old age of 96 – another two decades longer. Yet Louis XIV inherited the crown at a much younger age. He was just four years old when his father King Louis XIII died, shortly after appointing his son as the heir to the French throne.
Although a Regent Council would rule in the young king’s name for almost a decade, Louis XIV was officially the King of France for a further 72 years and 110 days.
King Louis XIV and Queen Elizabeth II may hold the records for longest-serving monarchs, but they are not the only royal rulers to reign for over seven decades.
The late King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, known as Rama IX, Was for a time the world’s longest-reigning current head of state, until his death in 2016 at the age of 88.
This enduring reign lasted for over 70 years, less than a hundred days less than his contender for the title, Queen Elizabeth who reimagined for a remarkable 70 years and 214 days.
Yet there was another candidate for this exclusive club of 70+ year reigns. Along with King Louis, Queen Elizabeth II and the King of Thailand, Johann II of Liechtenstein clocked up an impressive 70 years and 91 days on the throne, until his death in 1929.
The Longest-Reigning Monarchs Of History
In summary, here are the top ranks of the longest-serving royal rulers, according to current records:
• King Louis XIV of France: 72 years and 110 days
• Queen Elizabeth II of England: 70 years and 214 days
• Rama IX, King of Thailand: 70 years and 126 days
• Johann II, Prince of Liechtenstein: 70 years and 91 days
Long Live English Queens
The headline-grabbing longevity of Queen Elizabeth II and her 7 decades on the throne was undoubtedly a remarkable achievement and impressive legacy in royal history. Yet, it was also something of a curious trend within the history of England’s queens.
The late queen’s great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, was also famous for the many decades she served as the Queen of England. While not quite making the seven decades on the throne benchmark, Queen Victoria’s reign was one of the longest in the history of English monarchs when she died in 1901, at the age of 81, after an impressive 63 years and 216 days on the throne.
Such was the extent of Queen Victoria’s reign that a significant period of royal history is named after her tenure as queen – the famous Victorian period that lasted for numerous generations.
This royal tradition for enduring English queens dates back to perhaps one of the most famous Queens of England, from the medieval period. Queen Elizabeth I also became renowned for her enduring reign – an achievement perhaps even more remarkable given the turbulence of the period along with the reduced life expectancy of those times.
The reign of Queen Elizabeth I lasted from 1558 until she died in 1603 at the age of 69. By modern standards, this may not seem quite as impressive as the current record holders, but allowing for the times that she lived in, and the events that she lived through, hers is another example of long-serving English queens and a historic royal legacy.
Royals & Longevity
Given the length of these record-breaking reigns – entire lifetimes serving as monarchs and sovereigns – it’s easy to wonder what gives rise to such longevity and the ability to reign for so many decades.
It seems that royal living is conducive to a long life and the likelihood of reaching a great age, and this trend goes beyond the crowned heads and monarchs to the members of royal families that have also enjoyed substantial degrees of longevity.
The year before the late Queen Elizabeth II passed away, her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, died at the age of 99 – just a few weeks short of his 100th birthday.
The late queen’s mother was also famed for her long life and great age, living to be 101 years and 238 days, before her death in 2002.
The lives of kings and queens make history for a great many different reasons. Yet the sovereigns who spend many decades on the throne leave enduring legacies, not merely for their lifetimes and achievements, but also as inspiring examples of a long life devoted to serving their people and honoring their roles as monarch.