Monarchs — their longevity and brevity

72 years to 20 minutes

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Many of us throughout Britain are becoming increasingly proud of our current queen, Elizabeth II. Her dignity in the face of so many trials has become even more admirable as her longevity stretches for nearly 70 years.

A significant number of those admirers may consider her to hold the record for longevity of reign, but they are wrong at the time of writing this article in August 2021.

She lies in fourth place having overtaken K’inch Janahb Pakal of Palenque (615–683CE or 68 years) only last year. (Palenque was an ancient Mayan city dating from ca. 226BC to ca. 799CE in Southern Mexico.)

Louis XIV of France remains at the top of the list, having lasted over 72 years. King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, or Rama IX, followed him, reigning for 70 years 125 days, and King Johann II of Lichtenstein, comes third with his reign of just over 70 years.

These three have passed the post — or heavenly gates — while our queen is still running.

These are monumental achievements bearing in mind their vulnerability to displacement, assassination, betrayal, and the physical demands of the role over the years.

Some of these monarchs will be vaguely familiar to the public, but what of those at the opposite end of the temporal spectrum? English historians may discuss the lives of Lady Jane Grey, Sweyn Forkbeard, and perhaps, Louis XIX of France, but not at length, owing to the brevity of their reigns.

Sweyn, king of Denmark, ruled England from his capital, Gainsborough in Lincolnshire for five weeks in the 11th century while poor Lady Jane lost her head, and kingdom, in 1553 after only nine days.

Even Jane lasted four days longer than John I (15–20 November 1316), called the Posthumous. He was King of France and Navarre, as the posthumous son and successor of Louis X for the five days he lived in 1316. He is the youngest person to have been King of France, the only one to have borne that title from birth, and the only one to hold the title for his entire life. His reign is the shortest of any French king. Pretty impressive for somebody not out of their nappies (or diapers for any American readers). Although considered a king today, they did not recognize his status until chroniclers and historians in later centuries began numbering John II, thereby acknowledging John I’s brief reign.

They left us with Louis-Antoine of France or Louis Filipe of Portugal.

– Louis Antoine, the last “Dauphin”, or heir apparent of his father, Charles X, who had abdicated in July 1830. He ascended the French throne as King Louis XIX but within 20 minutes, he also abdicated, making him the joint shortest reigning monarch in history.

He shares this record with Crown Prince Luís Filipe, who on 1st February 1908 was returning to Lisbon from Vila Vicosa. Alfredo Luis da Costa and Manuel Buica, two members of a revolutionary society called the Carbonaria, shot at all the royal family, hitting his father King Carlos, Luís Filipe, and his younger brother Infante Manuel, Duke of Beja. Carlos I died immediately, while Luís Filipe lived for another twenty minutes. Manuel survived the attack, having only been shot in the arm, while the queen was unharmed. Had automatic ascension to the throne been the law, Luís Filipe would have been one of the shortest-reigning monarchs in history, with a reign of just twenty minutes..

Give our gracious Queen two more years, even without Prince Philip at her side, and she will have outlasted them all

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Adrian Arnold

Retired veterinary surgeon now a collector of trivia. Married to a wonderful wife, four children and four grandchildren. Author of A Veterinary Life on Amazon.