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10 Rushed Royals Who Reigned for Less Than a Day

by Jessica Fleming-Montoya
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

Most monarchs had the good fortune to reign for at least a few years before turning over their power to the next in line. However, some rulers weren’t quite so lucky. Here are ten of the world’s shortest reigns and the people who ruled for less than a day.

Related: 10 Of The Most Unflattering Nicknames Given To Royals

10 Louis XIX

The King For 20 Minutes. The Curious Story Of Louis XIX

First up is Louis Antoine, the Duke of Angouleme, who took the French throne on August 2, 1830 as King Louis XIX. He was the son of Charles X, who ruled France for about six years between 1824 and 1830.

Unfortunately for Louis XIX, however, Charles X wasn’t particularly popular. Charles X was a conservative who played favorites with the French nobility. Eventually, his subjects had enough, and in 1830, a revolution was staged to overthrow the king.

The revolution was a success, and Charles X was forced to abdicate the throne. Since Louis XIX was next in line to the throne, he took over for his father. However, it seems that Louis XIX got cold feet. Seeing how his father had been treated by revolutionaries, Louis XIX decided it would be wise for him to abdicate as well. Because of his quick succession and abdication of the throne, King Louis XIX only managed to rule for twenty minutes before handing over the throne.[1]

9 Luís II

What Happened to Portugal’s Monarchy?

Luís II was the son of Carlos I, a king who ascended to the Portuguese throne in 1889. Unfortunately for King Carlos I, however, his reign was marked by political unrest.

One fateful night, on February 1, 1908, King Carlos I was returning home to Lisbon from his winter palace with his family. Despite the political unrest ravaging the country, the imprudent king had chosen not to bring a military escort.

As the royal family crossed the commercial square in Lisbon, shots rang out. One of the shots struck Carlos I, and the poor king died. This left his young son, Luís II, in charge of the throne. Sadly, Luís II was shot not long after his father, meaning that his reign, like that of Louis XIX of France, only lasted about twenty minutes.

Although some records cite Luís II as the shortest ruler of Portugal, there is still some controversy around his reign. Even though he technically took the throne from his father after his assassination, Portuguese law requires monarchs to be proclaimed by the Cortes Gerais—the General Court—which would mean the prince technically never took the throne.

However, the topic is still up for debate. So, for now, Luís II makes the list as one of the shortest reigning royals in history.[2]

8 Antipope Philip

What is an Antipope? | History Abridged

Philip was an antipope—a pope who opposed the current rule of the Catholic Church—elected as pope after Pope Paul I’s death on July 31, 768.

Philip had served as a monk in the St. Vito monastery and was backed by several Roman supporters who declared him the new pope. Despite this, his election was declared invalid, and he was accused of buying and selling ecclesiastical positions and artifacts.

Philip was then forced to remove the papal garments and was sent back to his monastery. His speedy rule as pope lasted less than a day, and he was replaced by Pope Stephen III the next day.[3]

7 Michael II

Brother of the Tsar | Michael Romanov

Michael II, or Mikhail Fyodorovich Romanov, was the brother of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Nicholas actually named his brother Michael as heir to the throne before his wife gave birth to their son, Alexei.

Once their son was born, however, Michael was now second in line for the crown. When Nicholas II abdicated for both himself and his son in an attempt to save their lives, Michael was left as the next successor to the throne.

Despite this, on March 15, 1917, when Michael II technically succeeded the throne of Russia, he made a manifesto in which he neither accepted nor rejected the crown. Instead, he stated that he would adhere to the wishes of the Russian Provisional Government.

It seems that the Russian Provisional Government wasn’t particularly interested in having a new tsar, however, because they bypassed Michael II and named Prince Lvov their leader. The result is that Michael II wound up ruling for less than a day, although some argue that he technically never took the throne at all.[4]

6 Celestine II

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pope Celestine II was a Roman cardinal who helped govern the Catholic Church during the 1100s. It seems that he did a pretty good job of it, too, as after the death of Pope Callixtus II, he was named the new pope.

Sadly, this papacy didn’t last very long. He had no more donned the papal robes and prepared for the ceremony when fighting broke out. The fights were due to factional violence within the church and unrest over who should succeed him as pope. In the scuffle, Celestine II was injured, and he made the decision to resign from his post.

In an attempt to put a stop to the violence, Celestine II abdicated his papal reign. His successor, Cardinal Scannabecchi, also attempted to resign, but he didn’t have quite as much success. He went on to become Honorius II and served as pope for six years.

Unfortunately, poor Celestine II only managed to rule as pope for a few hours before having to hand over the post. His consecration was not completed, and he was never formally enthroned, although he was duly elected as pope.[5]

5 Vira Bahu I

Ancient City of Polonnaruwa (UNESCO/NHK)

Vira Bahu I is one of the lesser-known royals and was the king of an ancient kingdom called Polonnaruwa. Polonnaruwa was a territory that today makes up Sri Lanka.

Vira Bahu I was the son of King Nissanka Malla, which means that he was next in line to the throne after his father passed away. When Nissanka Malla died sometime in 1196, Vira Bahu I was set to fill the role. The same night his father died, Vira Bahu I was crowned king of Polonnaruwa. However, his reign was short-lived.

At dawn, the commander of the army at the time, Tavuru Senevirat, stormed into the palace and killed the newly crowned king. According to Tavuru, Vira Bahu I wasn’t nearly as good of a ruler as his father and, therefore, wasn’t fit to be king. Still, considering the fact that Vira Bahu 1 only ruled for a few hours between dusk and dawn, we’ll never know whether or not Tavuru’s claims were grounded in truth.[6]

4 Victoria Kamamalu

Hawaiian Monarchs Family Tree

Another one of the shortest ruling monarchs was Victoria Kamamalu. Victoria Kamamalu was the granddaughter of the first king of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Kamehameha I. Despite being directly related to the first king of Hawaii, Victoria was by no means high up in the pecking order when it came to succession. There were a number of uncles, cousins, and brothers who should have succeeded to the throne before her.

However, in a stroke of bad luck, Victoria Kamamalu wound up becoming queen anyway. She was elected to take over the head of the king’s privy council in 1855, which gave her unique power as to who would become the next ruler of Hawaii.

You see, when Victoria’s brother, King Kamehameha IV, died unexpectedly on November 30, 1863, there was no heir to take over the throne. That left her as the Queen Regent and head of the royal council.

Her reign wouldn’t last long, however. Victoria ruled for just one day, during which she used her power to name another brother, Lot Kamehameha, as the new monarch of Hawaii.[7]

3 Michael I

Michael of Trebizond – December 13th, 1341 AD

Michael I was the emperor of Trebizond, an area that was the successor to the Byzantine Empire and made up southern Crimea and northern Anatolia. Michael I actually ruled twice as the emperor of Trebizond, although the first time around didn’t last very long.

When Michael I first attempted to seize the throne in 1341, he found his way into royalty through marriage. Michael I made a marriage proposal to Empress Irene Palaiologina, who accepted and awaited his arrival from Constantinople, where he was currently living. He was preemptively named the emperor during his voyage, even though he hadn’t arrived in Trebizond yet.

Unfortunately for Michael I, while making the voyage from Constantinople to Trebizond, a woman named Anna Anachoutlou deposed and overthrew the empress. She installed herself as queen, and when Michael I arrived, he found that his reign had ended and what awaited him wasn’t a crown but a lengthy imprisonment.

Even though his first reign lasted for less than a day, four years later, Michael I would manage to claim the throne once again. The second time around, he ruled for five years, which, although still short, was certainly longer than a day![8]

2 Wanyan Chenglin

The Great Jin Dynasty: Taizu of Jin

Wanyan Chenglin was the shortest reigning emperor of China, who ruled during the Jin Dynasty. Poor Wanyan Chenglin was alive during a time when the Mongols were fighting brutally with the Han Chinese.

On February 9, 1234, the current Chinese emperor, Emperor Aizong, abdicated and left the throne to Wanyan Chenglin. The Mongols were waging war on the Empire, and the terrified emperor decided to hang himself and leave Wanyan Chenglin in power rather than face the Mongols.

Unfortunately for Wanyan Chenglin—who ruled under the name Emperor Mo of Jin, he didn’t last much longer than his predecessor. He chose to lead a charge against the Mongols in the streets of Caizhou, where he was killed in battle. All in all, Wanyan’s reign lasted just a few short hours.[9]

1 Min Shin Saw

The History of the Pagan Empire

Min Shin Saw was a crown prince of Burma who lived during the Pagan Dynasty. The Pagan Dynasty was part of a 250-year reign of modern-day Burma.

Min Shin Saw may have had royal connections, but it seems he didn’t have royal luck. He didn’t get along with his father, King Sithu I. So his father exiled the crown prince, and Min Shin Saw was largely forgotten until 1167.

In 1167, Min Shin Saw’s brother, Narathu, decided he’d make a better ruler than their father and smothered his father to death. Hearing about what had happened, Min Shin Saw made his way back to Burma to claim the throne.

It seems that Min Shin Saw didn’t get along any better with his brother than he did with his father, however. After being crowned king in the morning, he was assassinated by his brother and his followers later that night. In total, poor Min Shin Saw only ruled for a few hours.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen