While Pharaoh Pepi II Neferkare is SAID to have reigned over Egypt for the longest time of any monarch, there is no way of verifying the truth of the claim that he ruled for an impressive 94 years (from 2278 to 2184 BC). He was just six when he ascended the throne. However, the following kings, queens or otherwise titled personages’ reigns have been verified and can be taken as historical fact.
10. John Louis: Nassau-Saarbrucken: 19th October 1472 to 4th June 1545
The House of Nassau was a noble lineage and referred to the European aristocratic dynasty that stemmed from Nassau Castle. The lords of the castle, initially mere counts, were ultimately elevated to the title of ‘Prince’. John Louis was one of this line, reigning over the area known as Nassau-Saarbrucken for a lifetime: 72 years and 228 days. His reign stretched from the day of his birth, 19th of October 1472 until his death on 4th June 1545 and was almost entirely unremarkable! (His reign fell upon his shoulders with his birth as his father died while his mother was pregnant with the heir.)
9. Karl Frederich: Baden: 12th May 1738 to 10th June 1811
Also known as Charles Frederick, this ruler was the son of two royals: Frederick of Baden-Durlach and Amalia of Nassau-Dietz. Initially, having inherited the title from his grandfather at the tender age of ten, he was known as the Margrave of Baden and ruled strictly but well, banning torture and serfdom and supporting schools and universities as well as promoting jurisprudence and civil developments. In 1803, he became the ‘elector of Baden’ and in 1806 acquired the title 1st Grand Duke of Baden. His lengthy reign lasted a healthy 73 years and 29 days.
8. Georg Wilhelm: Schaumburg-Lippe: 13th February 1787 to 21st November 1860
This Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe became ruler at just three years old, following his father’s death. Given his excessive youth, his mother acted as his regent. When Schaumburg-Lippe joined the Confederation of the Rhine, the realm was elevated to a Principality, which promoted Georg Wilhelm from a Count to a Prince, the first Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe. He reigned for 73 years and 282 days.
7. Bhagvatsingh Sahib: Gondal: 14th December 1869 to 10th March 1944
Bhagvatsingh Sahib was an enlightened and kindly ruler, working tirelessly for his people rather than expecting them to blindly serve him. He ruled over one of the eight princely states of Kathiawar Agency, Gondal. Bhagvatsingh Sahib was a bright man and held many university degrees, including a medical degree. He inherited his title from his father at the age of 10th June 1811just four years old and had a British regent until he was of an age to take up the responsibilities of state. After his majority, he set about updating his homeland, building schools, colleges and hospitals, providing free and compulsory education to university level for both men and women, as well as radically making over the infrastructure of the whole country. (Those who were not cut out for university were still taken care of with vocational training for mechanics, carpenters and painters, amongst many other trades.) He was so effective in these projects that his subjects did not have to pay a penny in taxes: he increased the revenue of the state almost tenfold thanks to his ingenious ideas! He was also an advocate for women’s right, something almost unheard of in those times. To celebrate his fiftieth year on the throne, Bhagvatsingh Sahib gave his own weight in gold to charity, continuing to work for others until his death. By the time he died at 80, his 74 year and 87 day reign had seen his wisdom famed all over India.
6. Muhoji Rao Naik Nimbalkar: Phaltan: 7th December 1841 to 17th October 1916
Little is known of this ruler of the Indian state of Phaltan, save that he was India’s longest-reigning monarch and that he was the state’s second last ruler before it was absorbed into the Dominion of India. His, presumably peaceful, reign stretched for very nearly 75 years, running for 74 years and 315 days.
5. Christian August: Palatinate-Sulzbach: 14th August 1632 to 23rd April 1706
Also known as Christian Augustus, this monarch inherited his father’s title at the age of ten, becoming a most tolerant ruler. Not only did he allow his citizens to choose their Christian denomination, he also introduced the Simultaneum, in which churches would offer both Catholic and Protestant services. Jews, a usually persecuted and harried race, were also permitted to settle in the Duchy of Sulzbach. Under his rule, the area became known as an intellectual paradise as well as the heart of a thriving printing industry. He ruled for 75 years and 253 days.
4. Heinrich XI: Reuss-Obergreiz: 17th March 1723 to 28th June 1800
Heinrich succeeded his brother at the age of just one year old, taking the title of Count of Reuss-Obergreiz in 1723. In 1778, he was elevated to the rank of Prince, by the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, a title he held until his death. His Serene Highness, as he was known throughout his life, reigned for 77 years and 103 days.
3. William IV: Henneberg-Schleusingen: 26th May 1480 to 24th January 1559
Unsurprisingly the son of William III, William IV ruled over Henneberg-Schleusingen for 78 years and 243 days, from the age of five. In 1543-44 William embraced the Protestant Reformation. His realm was eventually broken up and divided between four branches of European royalty.
2. Bernhard VII: Lippe: 11th August 1429 to 2nd April 1511
Unlike many of the other rulers on this list, Bernhard VII was anything BUT peaceful. In fact, he was involved with so many feuds during his lifetime and lengthy reign that he was known as ‘Bernhard the Bellicose’. Many of his feuds were either in support of or in opposition to his brothers, but despite his scrappy personality, he managed to live and reign for a very long time: 81 years and 234 days! He inherited his title before his first birthday, and thus, was ruler for much of his life.
1. Sobhuza II: Swaziland: 10th December 1899 to 21st August 1982
This Swazi king has the longest verifiable reign of any monarch to date, having reigned over his small African kingdom for 82 years and 254 days. He became king at just four months old, after the sudden death of his father. His grandmother and uncle reigned until Sobhuza was old enough to take up the mantle of power himself. Much of his power was purely ceremonial as the country was under British colonial rule for much of the time, but he did have considerable influence and even attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. At Independence in 1968, he formed a political party which swept to victory with the election. However, democracy did not last long, with Sobhuza both tearing up the constitution and dissolving parliament in 1973 and finishing his reign as absolute ruler. Swaziland prospered under his reign, gradually re-acquiring control over resources from non-Swazi entities and bringing them back under indigenous control. Sobhuza II had some 70 wives who produced over 210 children, of whom about 180 survived infancy. At his death, he had over 1,000 grandchildren.