How It Works

9 Record-breaking royals

#1 Richest

King Bhumibol Adulyadej (1946–2016 / Thailand)

In 2012, the Guinness World Record holder for the richest royal was King Bhumibol Adulyadej, King Rama IX of the Chakri dynasty of Thailand. According to Forbes, his wealth amounted to £22 billion ($30 billion), and his riches included the largest cut diamond in the world, a 545-carat jewel known as the Golden Jubilee Diamond. King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away in 2016, but no royal yet comes close to taking his title. The nearest is Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei, who was reportedly worth £15 billion ($20 billion) in 2011.

 

#2 Longest reign

Sobhuza II (1899–1982 / Swaziland)

Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning British monarch in 2015, outstripping the record set by her great great grandmother, Queen Victoria. But this doesn’t yet match global records. The longest reigning European monarch was Afonso I of Portugal, who racked up an impressive 73 years and 220 days between 30 April 1112 and 6 December 1185. However, the longest verifiable reign in history belongs to Sobhuza II, Paramount Chief and King of Swaziland, who assumed his position at just four months old and remained on the throne for 82 years. Even longer reigns are rumoured but challenging to confirm. It’s believed that ancient Egyptian pharaoh Phiops II ascended his throne at the age of six in 2281 BCE and remained there for 94 years, and Min Hti, King of Arakan (now part of Myanmar), reigned from 1279 to 1374, a total of 95 years.

 

#3 Shortest reign

Sultan Khalid bin Barghash (25–27 August 1896 / Zanzibar)

There are two Guinness World Record holders for the shortest reign of a monarch, each spending less than half an hour on their thrones. Louis-Antoine of France was heir apparent when Charles X abdicated after the July Revolution in 1830. He quickly abdicated too, passing the throne to Henry, Duke of Bordeaux, before fleeing to Britain.
Crown Prince Luís Filipe of Portugal also lost his throne to a revolution. His father Dom Carlos I was assassinated in the Lisbon Regicide of 1908, and Luis died 20 minutes later. Neither of these princes actually had time to rule. The shortest reign of a ruling monarch goes to Sultan Khalid bin Barghash, who lasted just two days after taking the throne in Zanzibar. The British sent warships to siege his wooden palace, defeating him in the shortest war in history, the hour-long Anglo-Zanzibar War.

 

#4 Most travelled & face on most currencies 

Queen Elizabeth II (1952–present / United Kingdom and the Commonwealth)

Modern monarchs have the upper hand when it comes to global travel, and Queen Elizabeth II has visited more countries than any other royal. In her time on the throne she has racked up more than 1.6 million kilometres, despite, amazingly, not having a passport. As of 2012 The Queen had made state visits to 116 different countries, including all 53 Commonwealth nations, and by 2016, she’d made 256 official trips in total. But there are some places that remain off-limits. The Queen has not visited Israel, Egypt, Argentina or Greece, the homeland of Prince Philip.

Queen Elizabeth II also appears on coins in more than 35 different countries, including Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Dominica, Falkland Islands, Fiji, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Jamaica, New Zealand, Nigeria, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Rhodesia, Seychelles, South Africa, St Helena, and the UK.

 

#5 Most heirs

King Abdulaziz Al-Saud (1932–1953 / Saudi Arabia)

King Abdulaziz Al-Saud founded Saudi Arabia in 1932 and had 45 sons, from whom every Saudi king is descended. The number of daughters he fathered is not known, but Saudi Arabia’s royal family now has over 15,000 members. His eldest son, King Saud, had 52 sons and 54 daughters.

 

#6 Deadliest

Nurhaci, Tianming Emperor (1616–1626 / Liaoning, China)

Nurhaci, the Tianming emperor, spearheaded the overthrow of the Ming dynasty. He was leader of the Manchu people of northern China, who were fed up with the famine, silver shortages and tax rises of the early 1600s. He put
together a declaration of war known as the ‘seven grievances’, and the result was one of the bloodiest conflicts in recorded history.  The Ming dynasty was replaced with the Qing dynasty and, in the process, an estimated 25 million people died. In the battle of Yangzhou, lead by Nurachi’s son, Prince Dodo, 800,000 died.

 

#7 Most wives

King Ibrahim Njoya (1886–1933 / Bamum (now western Cameroon)

Henry VIII is renowned for having six wives, but he doesn’t come close to the record for royal spouses. King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia reportedly had 30; King Sobhuza II of Swaziland is rumoured to have had over 100; and King Ibrahim Njoya of Bamum had over 600.

 

#8 Longest marriage

Takahito, Prince Mikasa (Japan)

This hotly contested record is currently held by Takahito, Prince Mikasa of Japan. He married Yuriko, Princess Mikasa, in 1941 and they were together for 75 years until his death in 2016. However, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are fast catching up: they married on 20 November 1947.

 

#9 Widest rule

Queen Victoria (1837–1901 / United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, India)

The British Empire has its roots in the 16th century, but it wasn’t until the reign of Queen Victoria that it reached its peak. Queen Victoria’s empire was the largest in history, covering more than one-fifth of the world.
Competition with other European countries had driven the formation of British colonies, trading across the globe in tobacco, sugar, tea, silk, cotton, indigo dye and slaves. The first were set up in North America in the 1600s, then in Jamaica in 1655, and northwestern Canada in 1670. By 1661, the British began moving into Africa, settling an island in the Gambia River, and in 1788 the first settlements sprang up in Australia. At the start of Victoria’s reign colonies had appeared in South Africa, and during her time on the throne New Zealand and Egypt were added to the vast trading empire. In 1877 Victoria became Empress of India.

 

DID YOU KNOW? Prince William’s wedding to Princess Catherine broke the record for the most live streams of a single event



Written by Laura Mears. This article originally appeared in print in How It Works issue 105.



For more information about science and technology, visit our website now. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the latest digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works magazine, subscribe today!

Other articles you may like:

10 Things Nobody Knew This Time Last Year

20 amazing facts about stars

15 amazing science facts that will blow your mind