Special Report

20 Longest-Reigning Monarchs in History

The passing of Queen Elizabeth II this week signals the end of an era in Great Britain. When she ascended the throne in 1952, the sun had yet to set on the Union Jack, with British colonies and possessions on every continent of the globe. By the time she died, only a few islands in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Caribbean remained British possessions. (These are the most important events in the life of Queen Elizabeth in every year of her reign.)

A lot has happened over her 70-year reign, the second-longest reign of any monarch in history. There have been other heads of state who defied Father Time, societal changes, revolutions, and even assassination attempts to rule for nearly 60 years and more. To compile a list of the longest-reigning rulers, 24/7 Tempo used reference material from sources such as Britannica.com, History.com, Biography.com, and Encyclopedia.com.

If there is one thing subjects of long-reigning rulers can count on is continuity and constancy. Queen Elizabeth made frequent appearances in the media, and her image has graced the currency of a record 33 separate Commonwealth nations.

Among the hallmarks of long reigns of those who ruled empires is expansion of borders, constant wars, and consolidation of power. Under the Manchu rulers on our list, China expanded to the west and north. And during his nearly 60-year reign, France under Louis XV fought many wars that drained the nation’s treasury. His great-grandfather, Louis XIV, is synonymous with absolute monarchical power, claimed to have been bestowed by God. He was  known as the Sun King around whom the realm orbited.  

Although Great Britain’s expanse reached its height during the reign of Queen Victoria, her tenure was mostly remembered for the Pax Britannica, or period of relative peace in Europe through most of the 19th century. Between Victoria and Elizabeth II, the two ruled for a total of 133 years. (These are the most famous female rulers in history.)

Click here to see 20 longest-reigning monarchs in history

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