10 Longest-Reigning British Kings and Queens

In recorded British history, there have been quite a number of men and women to wear the British crown. But have you ever wondered which of those British monarchs wore the crown the longest? And for how long did those long-serving British monarchs reign? At what age did they ascend to the British throne? In order to answer the above questions, here is a look at the top 10 longest-reigning British kings and queens in recorded history:

Queen Elizabeth II

Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II holds the record of being the longest-reigning monarch in British history

Official Title: Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms

Birth name: Elizabeth Alexandra Mary

Date of Birth: 02:40 GMT, April 21, 1926

Place of Birth: 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair, London

Parents: Duke and Duchess of York (later George VI and Queen Elizabeth)

Royal House: House of Windsor

Date of Ascension: February 2, 1952

Predecessor: George VI

Coronation Date and Place: June 2, 1953; Westminster Abbey

Spouse: Philip Mountbatten (later Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh)

Children: Prince Charles (Prince of Wales), Princess Anne (Princess Royal), Prince Andrew (Duke of York) and Prince Edward (Earl of Wessex)

When Elizabeth II was born (April 21, 1926), very few people gave her any chance of ascending to the throne. The reason was because she was third in line to the throne, behind her uncle, Prince Edward, and her father, Prince George) . That does not seem very far away.

However, one must realize that the Prince of Wales (Prince Edward, her uncle) was a very young man–  32 years old at the time of Elizabeth’s birth. Everyone expected him to have a long and illustrious reign filled with several children of his own.  However, less than a year into his reign, Prince Edward (then Edward VIII) abdicated his throne in order to marry a divorced woman. Elizabeth’s father, Prince George, was then crowned King George VII. That’s how come Princess Elizabeth moved from a relatively obscure position in the royal line to becoming queen- the best British queen, if not the best British monarch ever.

She has been at this job ever since she was 25 years – longer than anyone in British history. Her reign has been nothing short of phenomenal.

In addition to holding the record of the longest-reigning British monarch, the Queen currently sits atop the list of the world’s oldest reigning monarch. Undoubtedly, it will take a very long time for another British monarch to surpass those stellar records of Queen Elizabeth II.

To read more about the life, interesting facts and accomplishments of Queen Elizabeth II, please visit this link.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria-- Portrait by Winterhalter, 1859

Queen Victoria- Portrait by Winterhalter, 1859

Official Title: Queen Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India

Birth name: Alexandrina Victoria

Date of Birth: May 24, 1819

Place of Birth: Kensington Palace, London

Parents: Duke and Duchess of Kent (Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld)

Royal House: House of Hanover

Date of Ascension: June 20, 1837

Predecessor: William IV

Coronation Date and Place: June 28, 1838; Westminster Abbey

Spouse: Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (married in 1840)

Children: Victoria (Princess Royal), Albert Edward (Prince of Wales, later Edward VII), Alice, Alfred (Duke of Edinburgh), Helena, Louise, Arthur, Leopold, and Beatrice

Number of years on the throne: 63 years and 216 days

Date of Death: January 22, 1901 at Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Succeeded by: Edward VII

If you thought Elizabeth II’s path to the throne was surprising, wait until you hear of how Victoria was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on June 28, 1838. As at the time of her birth in 1819, Victoria was the fifth in line to the British throne.

However, and sadly enough, the number became three after her father and later her grandfather (George III) died a few months into her birth. Victoria was now three places behind her three uncles: Prince George, the Duke of Cornwall; Prince Fredrick, the Duke of York; Prince William, the Duke of Clarence.

After unremarkable reigns of King George IV and King William IV, Victoria was crowned on June 28, 1938. Shockingly, all two of her predecessors failed to produce any legitimate children.  At the time of her coronation, she was 19 years old.

Over the course of 63 years, Queen Victoria was heavily involved in the steering her kingdom towards a path of stability. She chalked so many feats of achievements in an era that is commonly referred to as the Victorian Era.

Her steadfast dedication to family values were the admiration of many people across Europe and beyond. Along with her beloved husband, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria successfully redefined the royal family by placing it on a solid footing for the 20th century. Her reign sort of wiped the slate clean after the series of poor approval ratings that some of her predecessors had.

Read more: Major facts and accomplishments that characterized Queen Victoria’s reign

George III

George III

George III- Portrait by Johann Zoffany, 1771

Official Title: King George III, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Elector; King of Hanover

Birth name: George William Frederick

Date of Birth: June 4, 1738

Place of Birth: Norfolk House, St. James Square, London

Parents: Frederick Prince of Wales and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha

Royal House: House of Hanover

Date of Ascension: October 25, 1760

Predecessor: George II

Coronation Date and Place: September 22, 1761; Westminster Abbey

Spouse: Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Children:  George (Prince of Wales, later George IV), Frederick (Duke of York), William (Duke of Clarence and St Andrews, later William IV), Charlotte (Princess Royal), Edward (Duke of Kent and Strathearn), Augusta Sophia, Elizabeth, Ernest Augustus (later King of Hanover), Augustus Frederick (Duke of Sussex), Adolphus (Duke of Cambridge), Mary (Duchess of Gloucester), Sophia, Octavius, Alfred, Amelia

Number of years on the throne: 59 years, 96 days

Date of Death: June 29, 1820

Succeeded by: George IV

On September 22, 1761, Prince George William Frederick was crowned King of Great Britain and King of Ireland. He was 23 years old at the time of the coronation.

About 40 years later, he became King George III of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The change in title came as a result of the merger of the two countries- Great Britain and Ireland- under Acts of Union 1800.

George III’s was most characterized with several upheavals abroad. The most notable of this came from the 13 American colonies that engaged in an 8-year long American War of Independence with  George III. In the eyes of royalists, he was always regarded as the king that lost the American colonies.  His reign was also filled with several wars with his European neighbors. George III did however bring Napoleon’s army down at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo.

King George III was besieged by a several mental issues towards the later part of his 59-year reign. He was often described as “Mad King George”. His defenders and loyalists claim it was simply a mild case of bipolar disease.

George III’s ten sons and six daughters certainly dwarfs the number of children Queen Victoria had. Additionally,  he is one of few British monarchs that can boast of having two of his children become kings- George IV and William IV.

James VI of Scotland and James I of England and Ireland

James VI of Scotland

James VI of Scotland and James I of England

Official Title: King James, King of Scots, England and Ireland

Birth name: James Charles Stuart

Date of Birth: June 19, 1566

Place of Birth: Edinburgh Castle

Parents: Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley and Mary, Queen of Scots

Royal House: House of Stuart

Date of Ascension: July 24, 1567 (King of Scotland) and March 24, 1603 (King of England)

Predecessor: Mary, Queen of Scots (for Scotland), and Elizabeth I (for the English throne)

Coronation Date and Place for the Scottish throne: July 29, 1567, Church of the Holy Rude, Stirling

Coronation Date and Place for the English throne: July 25, 1603, Westminster Abbey

Spouse: Anne of Denmark

Offspring:  Henry (Prince of Wales), Elizabeth, Margaret, Charles (later Charles I), Robert (Duke of Kintyre), Mary, Sophia

Number of years on the throne: 57 years, 246 days

Date of Death: March 27, 1625

Succeeded by: Charles I

The fourth on the list of longest-reigning British monarch goes to James VI (James I- if you factor in the fact that he was also King of England and Ireland).

James’ parents were Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, and Mary, Queen of Scots. James had one of the most turbulent upbringings a child could get. At just 13 months old, the crown of Scotland fell on his head. This was after a group of noblemen (predominantly Protestants) forced his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots to abdicate on July 24, 1567.

All throughout James’s minority (an age when the monarch is a minor and therefore cannot rule), Scotland saw a total of 4 different regents- James Stewart, Earl of Moray; Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox; John Erskine, Earl of Mar; and James Douglas, Earl of Morton.

The death of the Elizabeth I, who was childless, meant that James VI became the legitimate claimant of the English throne. He staked his claim to the English throne because he was the paternal great-great-grandson of Henry VII, King of England and Lord of Ireland. James was crowned King James I of England on July 25, 1603 at Westminster Abbey. All in all, James VI ruled for a total of 57 years, 246 days before he was succeeded by his son, Charles I.

Henry III of England

Henry III

Henry III-A 13th-century depiction of Henry III’s coronation

Official Title: King Henry III of England, Lord of Ireland and Duke of Aquitaine

Birth name: Henry of Winchester

Date of Birth: October 1, 1207

Place of Birth: Winchester Castle

Parents: King John and Isabella of Angouleme

Royal House: House of Plantagenet

Date of Ascension: October 18, 1216

Predecessor: John, King of England

Coronation Date and Place: October 28, 1216, Gloucester; later -May 17, 1220 at Westminster

Spouse: Eleanor of Provence, Daughter of Raymond Berenger

Children:  Edward (later Edward I), Margaret of England (later Queen of Scots), Beatrice of England, Edmund Crouchback (Earl of Lancaster and Leicester), Katherine of England

Number of years on the throne: 56 years, 29 days

Date of Death: November 16, 1272

Succeeded by: Edward I

Henry the third of England comes in fifth on the list longest reigning British kings and queens. At the time of Henry III’s coronation he was 9 years old.

Commonly referred to as Henry of Winchester, the King had a taste for spectacular parties and religious gatherings. His oppression and exploitation of the Jews in England made alienated him from the Jews.

Henry III tried on two occasions to claim back portions of France he believed once belonged to his father. The first attempt, in 1230, was a disaster. In similar vein, the second attempt, during the Battle of Taillebourg, ended badly for the king.

Henry III’s 56 years reigned was marked by series of rebellions from renegade barons and brief period as a prisoner. His militaristic tendencies, as well as the high cost that came with them, made him an unpopular king for the majority of those 56 years.

Edward III

Edward III

Edward III. Image source

Official Title: King Edward III of England and Lord of Ireland

Birth name: Edward of Windsor

Date of Birth: November 13, 1312

Place of Birth: Windsor Castle

Parents: Edward II of England and Isabella of France

Royal House: House of Plantagenet

Date of Ascension: January 25, 1327

Predecessor: Edward II

Coronation Date and Place: January 29, 1327, Westminster Abbey

Spouse: Philippa of Hainault

Children: Edward of Woodstock – the ‘Black Prince’ (Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Wales, Prince of Aquitaine), Isabella, Joan of England, Lionel of Antwerp (Duke of Clarence), John (Duke of Lancaster), Edmund (Duke of York), Mary of Waltham, Margaret of England, Thomas of Woodstock (Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Buckingham, Earl of Essex)

Number of years on the throne: 50 years, 147 days

Date of Death: June 21, 1377

Succeeded by: Richard II

Edward III was crowned King of England after his mother, Isabella of France, deposed his father, Edward II. Isabella of France was aided by her lover Roger Mortimer, and the two marched right into England. At the age of 17, Edward III then took full control of the kingdom after ousting Mortimer.

Contrary to his father, Henry III was very successful in his battles. There were very few insurrections in his kingdom during his reign. Henry III successfully made England’s military a force to be reckoned with.

His reign of 50 years and 147 days makes him the second longest-reigning British monarch of the Middle Ages (the first was his great-grandfather Henry III). During his half a century reign, Henry III brought a lot of reforms to the legislation. He also had a reasonably efficient government. Unfortunately his reign was marred by the Black Death as well as the Hundred Years’ War.

William I of Scotland

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Official Title: William I, King of Scots

Birth name: William, son of Henry

Date of Birth: c. 1143

Place of Birth: Scotland

Parents: Henry of Scotland and Ada de Warenne

Royal House: House of Dunkeld

Date of Ascension: December 9, 1165

Predecessor: Malcolm IV

Coronation Date: December 24, 1165

Spouse: Ermengarde de Beaumont

Children: Margaret of Scotland, Isabella of Scotland, Alexander (later Alexander II), Marjorie

Number of years on the throne: 48 years, 360 days

Date of Death: December 4, 1214

Succeeded by: Alexander II

The seventh monarch on the list of longest reigning British kings and queens is William I of Scotland. William I inherited the Scottish throne after his older brother Malcolm died in 1165. Unlike his predecessor, William was a very healthy young king. He was very muscular and in top-notch physique. This partly explains why he earned the name Garbh—“the Rough”. He spent a great deal of his 48-year reign trying to reclaim his lost Earldom of Northumbria from Henry II of England.

Commonly known as William the Lion, William I of Scotland is considered the second-longest reign monarch in Scottish history- behind James VI of Scotland. He got the title “the lion” because his flag- the flag had a red lion rampant with a forked tail.

Llywelyn of Gwynedd

Llywelyn the Great

Llywelyn the Great’s statue

Official title: Prince of Gwynedd and Prince of Powys Wenwynwyn

Birth name: Llywelyn ab Iorwerth

Date of Birth: c. 1173

Place of Birth: Doywyddelan

Parents: Iorwerth Drwyndwn and Marared ferch Madog

Royal House: House of Gwynedd

Date of Ascension: 1216

Predecessor: Gwenwynwyn ab Owain

Spouse: Joan, Lady of Wales

Children: Dafydd ap Llywelyn, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, Elen ferch Llywelyn, Gwladus Ddu, Marared ferch Llywelyn, Gwenllian ferch Llywelyn, Angharad ferch Llywelyn, Susanna ferch Llywelyn

Number of years on the throne: 44-46 years

Date of Death: April 11, 1240

Succeeded by: Dafydd ap Llywelyn (Gwynedd) and Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn (Powys Wenwynwyn)

Llywelyn of Gwynedd, also known as Llywelyn the Great, was the King of Wales for about 44 years. By 27 years old, Llywelyn had become King of Gwynedd. Due to his relatively peaceful relationship with John of England, Llywelyn was able to marry John’s daughter- Joan.

However, the relationship with England grew sour when John marched into Gwynedd in 1211. After about 4 years of conflict, the two Kings signed the Magna Carta in 1215. After close to half a century on the Welsh throne, Llywelyn died in 1240. His son, Dafydd ap Llywelyn became King of Gwynedd.

Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I- The Pelican Portrait by Nicholas Hilliard.

Official Title: Queen of England and Ireland

Date of Birth: September 7, 1533

Place of Birth: Greenwich Palace

Parents: Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn

Royal House: House of Tudor

Date of Ascension: November 17, 1558

Predecessor: Mary I of England (also known as “Bloody Mary”) and Philip

Coronation Date and Place: January 15, 1559, Westminster Abbey

Spouse: None

Children: None

Number of years on the throne: 44 years, 127 days

Date of Death: March 24, 1603

Succeeded by: James VI of Scotland (also known as James I of England)

Elizabeth I’s 44 years, 127 days reign over England and Ireland puts her 9th on the list of longest-reigning British monarchs. Because she blatantly refused to marry or bare any children, Elizabeth I was commonly referred to as ‘the Virgin Queen’. She was also called Gloriana or Good Queen Bess in some cases. Elizabeth I’s highlight came when she successfully vanquished King Philip II’s Spanish Armada (a 130-ship naval fleet) in 1588.

Elizabeth I’s reign was also characterized by  two decades’ rift with her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots. The conflict ultimately culminated in the execution of Mary, Queen of Scot.

During her childhood, Elizabeth’s parents was so estranged so much that her father Henry VIII brutally executed Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn. The king accused his wife of cheating.

Elizabeth I is generally considered the last monarch to come from the House of Tudor. Her house ended because she bore no children. After her death on March 24, 1603, the English crown moved to her distant cousin, James VI of Scotland.

To read more about the life, interesting facts and accomplishments of Queen Elizabeth I, please visit this link.

David II of Scotland

King David II of Scotland

King David II of Scotland- portrait by Sylvester Harding, 1797

Official Title: David II, King of Scots

Date of Birth: March 5, 1324

Place of Birth: Dunfermline Palace, Fife

Parents: Robert I of Scotland and Elizabeth de Burgh

Royal House: House of Bruce

Date of Ascension: June 7, 1329

Predecessor: Robert I of Scotland

Coronation Date and Place: November 24, 1364 at Scone

Spouse: Joan of England (1328), Margaret Drummond (1364)

Offspring: None

Number of years on the throne: 41 years, 260 days

Date of Death: February 1371

Succeeded by: Robert II

Coming in tenth on the list of longest reigning British kings and queens is David II of Scotland. Reigning from June 7, 1329 to February 22, 1371, David II went down in history as the king that vehemently opposed English incursions into Scotland. David was only 5 years when he was crowned King of Scots.

It is believed that David II’s 41-year reign did so much for the kingdom in general. He made sure that the Scottish monarch remained intact and free from foreign influences.

David’s parents were Robert I of Scotland and Elizabeth de Burgh. At the age of 3, David lost his mother. Then, a year later, David (then 4 years old) was married off to Joan of the Tower. His groom was only 7 years old at the time. The marriage produced no child; neither did his second marriage to Margaret Drummond. Therefore, upon the death of David II, the crown moved to his distant nephew- Robert II.

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