Top Ten Longest Reigning Leaders in History

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Term limits? These ten longest reigning leaders in world history laugh at the idea. Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II led Great Britain for a combined 134 years. Sobhuza II of Swaziland beat them both at 82 years. Rami IX provided an Asian representative to the “never say die” brigade at 70 years old and was one of the wealthiest monarchs. Johann II also ruled for seventy years. He did not want Alaska. Thank you, King Johann!  

Mythical Leaders 

There are many disputed claims regarding who is the longest-reigning leader in world history. For instance, some old accounts list King Min Hti of a medieval Asian kingdom as being on the throne for over ninety years. Other claimants arise in Ancient Egypt and elsewhere. 

Historians find these claims mythical or exaggerated. 

Sobhuza II (82 Years) 

Ngwenyama Sobhuza (1899-1982) of Swaziland (a South African kingdom) is the accepted winner. The debate here is the true nature of his reign. The Swazi people recognized Sobhuza as king when he was an infant. 

Swaziland was a Great Britain protectorate. The British recognized Sobhuza as a chief of his people, not an independent monarch. The country only obtained independence in 1968.

Either way, Sobhuza was a leader of his people all his life. He defended his people from unfair colonial practices. Sobhuza then led them as an independent nation, flexible about combining traditional practices with 20th-century ways.

Sobhuza was the “bull of Swazi” with over two hundred children.  

Louis XIV (72 Years) 

King Louis XIV (1643-1715) is the longest reigning leader in world history with a clear title to the prize. The king of France was the “sun king,” which was an apt symbol for someone who said, “The state, it is me” (if in French). He thought everything revolved around him.  

Louis made Versailles into a luxury palace with nobles and other hanger-ons seeking his approval. He was a supporter of the arts, himself training in ballet.  

Elizabeth II (70 Years, 214 Days)  

After her uncle abdicated for love, Princess Elizabeth knew she would be queen. Her father died younger than she expected. She was twenty-five when she became queen.  

Queen Elizabeth (1952-2022) reigned as Great Britain ended its role as a colonial power. Elizabeth’s quiet dignity and grace led her people to love and respect her. Some critics argue she did not adequately adapt the monarchy to the times. Her son became King Charles III.   

Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) (70 years, 126 days) 

Bhumibol was born in the United States while his father studied at Harvard University. 

Bhumibol ascended the throne of Thailand after the death of his brother by a gunshot wound (details still unclear). He reigned as Rama IX until 2016, making him Thailand’s longest reigning monarch. A Buddhist, King Rama provided stability as his nation underwent decades of unrest. 

He also was one of the wealthiest people in the world, with an estimated wealth of 35 Billion.

Johann II (70 years, 91 days)  

The tiny nation of Liechtenstein is one of several European microstates not part of the mythical universe of Hallmark Channel movies. He became king at eighteen in 1858 and reigned until 1929. Johann was the longest-serving European monarch in history until Queen Elizabeth. 

He issued Liechtenstein’s first constitution and granted its second as well. The constitution remains in place until today with revisions. He was a very private man who never married or had children. The United States also should thank him. Russia first offered Alaska to his country.

Johann turned them down, thinking it was not worth the money.  

K’inich Janaab’ Pakal (68 Years)

Pakal the Great (615-683) became king at age twelve. It was a tumultuous time for his Mayan kingdom. Two leaders died a short time apart. Two attacks weakened the community. 

His mother reigned before him and helped Pakal as he began his reign. His long reign oversaw the expansion of Palenque’s power. Pakal’s many accomplishments include building the Temple of Inscriptions, later his tomb. After his death, Pakal was honored as a patron god of his people. 

Franz Joseph (67 Years, 355 Days) 

Franz Joseph became emperor of the Austrian Empire at the age of eighteen in 1848. He would reign until 1916. The empire would soon end, a victim of World War I

His reign was almost cut short five years in when he escaped an assassination attempt. Franz later became the emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Multiple relatives came to a violent end, most notably his heir, whose assassination proved to be the spark that started a world war.

Chan Imix K’awaiil (67 years, 130 days) 

Some people insert one or two long-serving Byzantine kings here. There is debate over the length of their reigns.  So, I will skip them. 

Chan Imix K’awaiil is another Maya king of the city-state of Copán, Honduras.

Chan (628-695) also was known as the “Smoke Jaguar.” We do not know much about his first twenty-five years. Archeologists found many monuments from later in his reign. 

Smoke Jaguar later became a character in the Civilization III video game. 

Ferdinand III (65 Years) 

When Ferdinand was eight, his father became king of Spain. A treaty held that the king of Spain could not also be king of Naples and Sicily. His son became a boy king.

Ferdinand remained king of Sicily until 1825. He temporarily lost control of Naples during the French Revolution. He later regained control, becoming “King of the Two Sicilies.” 

Victoria (63 Years) 

After King George III lost America in a bit of unpleasantly we now honor with fireworks on the Fourth of July, he continued a long reign. He was followed for two short terms by his sons.

Victoria (1837-1901) was eighteen when she became queen. Queen Victoria was George’s granddaughter. She married her beloved Albert and had many children. Albert and Victoria promoted an image of an ideal family, including the promotion of Christmas.  

She gave her name to the “Victorian Era.”

Teach and Thrive

A Bronx, NY veteran high school social studies teacher who has learned most of what she has learned through trial and error and error and error.... and wants to save others that pain.