Queen Elizabeth II Becomes The Second Longest Reigning Monarch in World History

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 96, is officially the second longest-reigning monarch in world history, next only to King Louis XIV of France.

On Monday, June 13, 2022, The Queen surpassed King Bhumibol of Thailand as the second longest-reigning monarch in the world. She reigned for a total of 70 years and 127 days. If she will still alive on May 27, 2024, she will surpass the Sun King as the longest-reigning monarch in world history.

Let's get to know more about these three longest-reigning monarchs in the world.

King Louis XIV of France

He was born on September 5, 1638, at Chateau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye in France, as the eldest son of King Louis XIII of France and Archduchess Anne of Austria of the imperial house of Hapsburg. 

He belonged to the royal House of Bourbon, the same royal house of Spain today. The reigning King of Spain, Felipe VI, is his 9th great-grandson.

Painting of King Louis XIV of France, called The Sun King

At the age of four, his father died, making him one of the youngest monarchs to have ever ascended a European throne. Due to his youth, several Regents ruled the kingdom under his name. 

He was born in the age of absolute monarchies in Europe where monarchs have extended powers in both the government and the state.

He began his personal rule over France in 1661 following the death of his chief minister, the Cardinal Mazarin. He was known in history as the Sun King or the Great Louis XIV because of the many reforms he introduced in France.

He eliminated the remnants of feudalism in the kingdom and succeeded in pacifying the aristocracy, where many members participated in the rebellion during his childhood. 

He eventually became one of the most powerful French monarchs in history, consolidating a system of absolutism that endured until the French Revolution.

He married Infanta Maria Theresa of Spain, the daughter of King Philip IV of Spain and Princess Elisabeth of France (the sister-in-law of King Charles I of Britain). Infanta Maria Theresa was the older sister of King Charles II, the last Hapsburg monarch in Spain.

He had six children with his legal wife, Queen Maria Theresa, but had several illegitimate children from different women, at which historians lost count.

He died of gangrene at the Palace of Versailles on September 1, 1715, just four days before his 77th birthday. At the time of his death he had been reigning in France for 72 years and 110 days.

King Louis XIV's grandson, Prince Philippe, Duke of Anjou, founded the House of Bourbon in Spain when King Charles II, the brother of Queen Maria Theresa, died childless. He reigned as King Philip V or Felipe V in Spain.

The Hapsburg line in Spain became extinct and was replaced by Bourbon, which survived until today. The regnal name of the current Spanish King, Felipe VI, is meant to signify the continuation of the Bourbon founder's name. Felipe VI's father, King Juan Carlos I, initiated the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty in Spain.

The French monarchy was abolished in 1792 following the French Revolution that guillotined Louis XIV's great-grandson, King Louis XVI, and his Austrian wife, Queen Marie Antoinette. The First Republic of France was then declared.

Though France in the current time is already a republic, there's one direct descendant of King Louis XIV that's still reigning in Europe today, King Felipe VI of Spain, his 11th generation.

Blood ties of King Louis XIV of France to King Felipe VI of Spain: Louis XIV - Louis, the Dauphin of France - Philip V of Spain (born Prince Philippe, Duke of Anjou, he founded the House of Bourbon in Spain) - Charles III - Charles IV - Ferdinand VII - Isabella II - Alfonso XII - Alfonso XIII - Juan, Count of Barcelona - Juan Carlos I - Felipe VI.

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom)

The current British Queen is Europe's longest-reigning monarch in modern times, and the second in history after King Louis XIV of France. 

Queen Elizabeth II. World's second longest-reigning monarch in history. Credit: The Royal Family

She ascended the British throne on February 6, 1952 on the death of her father, King George VI. As of June 17, 2022, she has been on the throne for 70 years, four months, and 11 days.

The Queen was born Princess Elizabeth of York on April 21, 1926 to then Prince Bertie, Duke of York, and Elizabeth, Duchess of York. She was born at Bruton Street in Mayfair, London, at the home of her maternal grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore.

The young queen. Getty Images

She was not expected to ascend the British throne. At the time of her birth, her father was not the direct heir of her grandfather, King George V, but was only a spare to her uncle, David, Prince of Wales.

But David, who ascended the British throne in January 1936 as Edward VIII, abdicated the throne, just 11 months into his reign, in order to marry the American commoner divorcee, Wallis Warfield Simpson. 

Prince Bertie succeeded his brother as George VI, and suddenly Princess Elizabeth became an heir-presumptive. As her parents did not have any sons, Princess Elizabeth succeeded her father on February 6, 1952, as Elizabeth II, at the age of 25. She was crowned on June 2, 1953.

She married her third cousin and second cousin-once-removed, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, on November 20, 1947. They have four children.

The Queen and her eldest son and heir, Prince Charles

In 2013, the law on succession to the British throne was repealed, replacing the male-preference primogeniture with the absolute succession, which means that the eldest child of the monarch, irrespective of gender, will be the heir-apparent. It took effect in 2015 but will only affect the children born after 2013.

As of June 2022, the Queen has three male heirs in direct succession to the throne: The Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge, and Prince George of Cambridge.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand

In Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia, King Bhumibol Adulyadej was incredibly popular during his lifetime. And unlike other monarchs in the world who are constantly lampooned by the media and criticized by their subjects, King Bhumibol Adulyadej was greatly admired and revered by his subjects. Thai people showed utmost respect to him. 

King Bhumibol of Thailand third longest reigning monarch
Left: Prince Bhumibol and his older brother, King Ananda Mahidol (right) in Lausanne, Switzerland. AP images

The King was known for his love of music and photography and was a composer. During the early years of his reign, he finished two jazz compositions: "Candlelight Blues", and "Love at Sundown". He had more than 48 composition pieces.

He developed his passion for photography while growing up in Lausanne, Switzerland. It would become his lifetime hobby, seeing him during his youth hanging a camera around his neck. 

The young King Bhumibol. AP images

He was also known as a generous man, constantly striving to improve the lives of Thais, especially in the rural areas. He had programs geared toward education, agriculture, and the environment. No wonder he was called King Bhumibol The Great by his people. A title that was made official in 1987.

The revered Thai king. Getty Images

He was born on December 5, 1927, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. At the time of his birth, his parents were in Massachusetts because his father, Prince Mahidol Adulyadej, the 69th child of King Chulalongkorn, was studying medical sciences at Harvard University. They went back to Thailand in 1928.

King Chulalongkorn was the son and successor of King Mongkut of Siam, the king who was made famous in the musical, The King and I, which was also made into a movie, Anna and the King in 1999, starring Chow Yun-Fat and Jodie Foster.

His father, Prince Mahidol, died in 1929. Three years later, in 1932, chaos erupted in Thailand. His mother brought him and his siblings to Switzerland for safety. They settled in Lausanne where they continued their studies.

King Bhumibol of Thailand and Queen Elizabeth II
Their Majesties, Queen Elizabeth II and King Bhumibol

Just like Queen Elizabeth II, King Bhumibol was not expected to ascend the Thai throne. At the time of his birth, he was not a direct heir. The reigning King of Siam (Thailand) in 1927 was King Prajadhipok (Rama VII), the half-brother of his father. 

In 1932, the absolute monarchy in Thailand ended, which triggered political strife in the country. It led to the abdication of King Prajadhipok in 1935. The king was childless so he was succeeded by his nephew, Ananda Mahidol, the older brother of King Bhumibol, who was only nine years old at the time of his accession.  

King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit of Thailand
King Bhumibol, Queen Sirikit, and their only son, now King Vajiralongkorn

During the minority of King Ananda Mahidol, a regency council was set up to rule the kingdom in his name.

The family briefly returned to Thailand in 1938, but when World War II began in 1939, they returned to Switzerland. They moved back to Thailand after World War II. 

However, in June 1946, King Ananda, who was only 20 years old and unmarried, was found dead in his bedroom in the Grand Palace, just days before he was scheduled to return to Switzerland to finish his doctoral degree in law. 

King Bhumibol The Great of Thailand

His death was something of a mystery until now. No clear explanation as to why he was killed. The only official explanation given was that he died from a gunshot wound. It was later ruled as murder and two royal pages were captured and executed.

Since he was childless at the time of his death, he was succeeded by his 18-year-old younger brother, who reigned as King Bhumibol Adulyadej or King Rama IX. 

Following his accession to the throne, King Bhumibol returned to Switzerland to continue his studies. Despite his great inclination to science and technology, he switched to law and political science to prepare himself for the role of head of state. His uncle, Prince Rangsit, was appointed Regent while he was away.

While in Switzerland, he met a car accident when the vehicle he was driving collided with a truck, he was badly hurt and suffered paralysis in the face which affected his eyesight.

King Bhumibol surrounded by his family

He visited Paris, France before the car accident. There, he met Princess Sirikit Kitiyakara of the house of Kitiyakara, a branch of the Chakri dynasty. Her father, also a descendant of King Chulalongkorn, was serving as a Thai ambassador to France. 

They got married in April 1950, a month before his coronation day. They have four children. Three daughters and one son.

King Bhumibol was the ninth monarch of the Chakri (Mahidol) dynasty in Thailand. He was considered the longest-reigning current head of state between 1989 to 2016. 

During his 70 years on the throne, King Bhumibol saw Thailand plunge into political and economic turmoil, and even calamity, particularly the tsunami disaster in 2004. One of his grandsons was even killed in the tsunami.

He played a key role in Thailand's transition to a democratic system in 1992, a year after the bloody military coup, where a large number of deaths were recorded. 

It was rare for a constitutional monarch to intervene in a political conflict, however, in 1991, King Bhumibol saw it as necessary to prevent a civil war. He was also instrumental in restoring the civilian government in Thailand after military rule. 

In 2014, he was named by Forbes magazine as the world's wealthiest monarch with an estimated fortune of US$30 billion.

After suffering from a series of health issues, he died on October 13, 2016, at the age of 88. He was deeply mourned by the Thai people, and the whole country was convulsed in grief.

At the time of his death, he reigned for 70 years and 126 days, a record surpassed by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, on Monday, June 13, 2022. 

He was succeeded by his only son, now King Vajiralongkorn or Rama X. Unlike his father, the reigning King of Thailand has several wives and children, and led a rather controversial life.

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