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10 of the World’s Oldest Monarchs Who Ruled Despite Their Age

by Jessica Fleming-Montoya
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

There have been plenty of monarchs throughout history, most of whom died young due to disease, insurrection, or other causes. However, some monarchs went on to live extremely long lives—and to continue ruling their kingdoms to boot. Here are ten of the oldest monarchs who remained on the throne despite their age.

Related: 10 Unlikely People Who Became Monarchs

10 Pepi II

Pepi II was the fifth pharaoh of the 6th Dynasty of Egypt, ruling from around the year 2325 BC. When Pepi II was named pharaoh, he was actually just four years old.

Because of how far back Pepi II’s reign dates, little is known about his time as king. What we do know is that he presided over the end of the Old Kingdom, the time period when the Great Pyramids of Giza were built. In fact, at the end of Pepi II’s reign, the Old Kingdom finally collapsed, bringing in the chaotic First Intermediate Period.

Despite knowing little about what Pepi II did during his reign, we do know that he ruled Egypt for a lengthy period of time. Pepi II remained in power for 94 years, only giving up the throne when he died at the whopping age of 98.[1]

9 Min Hti, King of Arakan

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

One of the longest reigning monarchs, and oldest at the time of his death, is actually a monarch that we know little about. The king in question is a man named Min Hti, who was King of Arakan, or modern-day Myanmar, from roughly 1279 until around 1374.

Min Hti was born sometime in the early 1270s, which would have made him around ten years old when he ascended to the throne. The king’s reign was largely characterized by wars and military conquests. His kingdom was eventually succeeded by his son, although not before it fell into a bit of turmoil.

Although the exact length of his reign is disputed, it’s estimated that Min Hti ruled for around 95 years. That would have made him somewhere between 98 and 100 years old at the time of his death.[2]

8 Elizabeth II

The Spectacular Reign Of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II | A Lifetime Of Service | Real Royalty

Elizabeth II is one of the most recent monarchs to pass away and was the Queen of the United Kingdom from 1952 until 2022.

Elizabeth was born on April 21, 1926, and was the daughter of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and Prince Albert. Interestingly enough, Elizabeth wasn’t actually in line for the throne until her uncle abdicated, leaving her father as the king and Elizabeth as the heir apparent.

When Elizabeth’s father died in 1952, he left her as the new Queen. Elizabeth’s reign was marked largely by her efforts to modernize the monarchy and create a royal family that was more relevant to popular culture.

Elizabeth went on to reign for a total of 70 years, dying at the age of 96. That makes her one of the oldest monarchs to have ruled, despite her age![3]

7 Ramesses II

The Greatest Pharaoh | Ramesses II | Ancient Egypt Documentary

Another famous Egyptian king who ruled well into his later years was Ramesses II. Ramesses II was the third king of the 19th Dynasty in Egypt and took the throne in 1279 BC. Like many other monarchs, Ramesses II was ushered into the monarchy at an early age.

At just thirteen years old, Ramesses II found himself in charge of ruling a country that had gone into decline thanks to his predecessors, Akhenaten and Tutankhamun. Still, that didn’t stop Ramesses. He went on to lead Egypt into a time of prosperity, building several great temples that still exist today.

Besides building temples, he also spent the first part of his reign conducting military exploits and improving relations with neighboring nations. All this led the Egyptians to give him the nickname of Ramesses the Great, thanks to the good he did for Egypt.

Although we can’t be sure of his age at the time of his death, historians estimate that Ramesses II was around 90 years old when he breathed his last. That makes him one of the oldest monarchs to have ever lived![4]

6 Chan Imix Kʼawiil

Quest For The 1,500 Year Old Mayan City of Copán | Fall Of The Maya | Chronicle

Chan Imix K’awaiil isn’t a king most of us have heard of. This Mayan king ruled in Copán, Honduras, from around AD 628 to 695. It’s said that he was just 23 when he took the throne, which was just 16 days after the death of his predecessor.

There is little that’s known about the first part of his reign. Still, archaeologists do credit him with building six impressive stone reliefs that were distributed throughout the Copán Valley. Besides this, he also constructed a new temple and various other structures in the area.

Chan Imix K’awaiil’s reign lasted for 67 years, and he died at the age of 90. This was an incredible feat, even back then, and he was honored for reaching this age on the altar at one of the temples in Copán.[5]

5 Rama IX

Thailand’s King Bhumibol dies at 88 – BBC News

As Rama IX, Bhumibol Adulyadej was the ninth king in the Chakkri dynasty of Thailand and was actually the longest-reigning monarch in the country. He took to the throne in 1946 following the mysterious death of his uncle.

Despite being King of Thailand, Rama IX took over the throne after Thailand had already abolished the formal monarchy. As a result, he served more as a figurehead than someone with any real political power.

Still, the king was immensely popular and spent much of his time appearing in public celebrations and endorsing political figures. In 2009, the king caught pneumonia, and his health began to visibly decline. He named his son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, his heir and successor to the throne.

Rama IX passed away quite recently, in 2016. He lived until he was 88 years old, making him one of the longest-reigning monarchs during his lifetime.[6]

4 Johann II

Liechtenstein: Where princes reign supreme | Focus on Europe

Johann II was born on October 5, 1840 and was often called Johann the Good. He was the son of Aloys II, Prince of Liechtenstein, and ascended to the throne when he was 18 years old. Despite being the king, he installed his mother as an aid to help him govern the country until 1860.

During his reign, Johann II created the first constitution of Liechtenstein. He later went on to reform it following World War I. This constitution is still in place today, although it’s undergone several major revisions since its creation.

Besides creating Liechtenstein’s first constitution, Johann II dedicated himself to strengthening ties with nearby Switzerland. He even adopted the Swiss Franc as the national currency of the country during the latter half of his rule.

He passed away in 1929 when he was 88 years old. In total, he ruled Liechtenstein for 70 years, making him one of the longest-reigning European monarchs in history.[7]

3 Franz Joseph I

Franz Joseph I – The Father of Austria-Hungary I WHO DID WHAT IN WW1?

Franz Joseph I was the son of Archduke Francis Charles and was born in Vienna on August 18, 1830. It was actually his uncle who was the Emperor of Austria and not his father. However, because his uncle had no children, Franz Joseph I was named heir.

Interestingly enough, Franz Joseph I became emperor not after the death of his uncle but after his abdication. On December 2, 1848, at just 18 years old, Franz Joseph was named the Emperor of Austria.

As quite a young monarch, he inspired hope in the citizens, and many Austrians felt that his youth showed he could be a promising leader. Despite this, Franz Joseph I went on to lead a reign of neo-absolutism up until 1859. During the later part of his reign, the monarch eased up and became a well-respected and revered man.

Franz Joseph I died in 1916 at the age of 86. His rule in Austria lasted for around 68 years and ended with him leading the country into World War I.[8]

2 Kʼinich Janaabʼ Pakal I

This Ancient Mayan City Was Home to a Legendary King

K’inich Janaab’ Pakal I was the Mayan King in Palenque, in modern-day Mexico. He is often referred to as Pascal the Great and was responsible for helping Palenque gain power as a city.

K’inich Janaab’ Pakal I technically should have become king in AD 611 when the reigning king passed away. However, at the time, he was only about eight years old and was considered too young to rule. He didn’t have to wait long to take to the throne, however, as four years later, in 615, K’inich Janaab’ Pakal I was crowned king.

When K’inich Janaab’ Pakal I took the throne, Palenque was a moderately sized city. Under the new king’s reign, however, the city grew into a huge metropolis, and much of the ruins are still buried in the jungle today.

In 683, the Mayan king passed away at the age of 80. This meant he had ruled for around 68 years in total.[9]

1 Louis XIV

Louis XIV – The Sun King Documentary

Louis XIV was the son of Anne of Austria and Louis XIII. He was born on September 5, 1638, in France and took the throne when he was just four years old!

Because of the king’s young age, he was largely neglected, leaving his mother to rule over the kingdom until he could properly manage it on his own. Worse yet, when the king was just nine years old, an uprising of Parisian nobility led to Louis suffering further misfortune, poverty, and humiliation. Many of these experiences wound up shaping poor King Louis XIV’s personality later in life.

When the king was in his early twenties, he took over the throne fully as a powerful ruler. Despite this, he was a well-loved king, known as the Sun King, and revered as an idol. He went on to rule France until his dying day in 1715 at the ripe old age of 76. That meant he held court for a whopping 72 years![10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen