In September 2015, Queen Elizabeth II became Britain's longest ever reigning monarch, and with a reign which eventually lasted over 70 years, the late Queen is expected to hold on to this title for a while. However, Elizabeth II is not the only monarch to have reigned for a staggeringly long time.
The history of the British monarchy spans millennia and includes the stories of monarchs who have ruled over various different areas of what we now know as the British Isles. From 1927, our King or Queen has ruled over the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland, but past longest-serving 'British' monarchs have also been rulers of just the Kingdom of England, Kingdom of Scotland, or Principality of Wales.
Join HELLO! as we look at the British Isles' top ten longest-reigning monarchs.
Queen Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II is top of the list of the British Isles' longest-reigning monarchs, with a reign which lasted 70 years and 214 days. Elizabeth acceded to the throne in February 1952 following the death of her father, George VI. She was just 25 years old at the time, however this is still older than every other monarch on this list was on the day of their accession.
Elizabeth's long reign as the Queen of Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the other 14 realms of the Commonwealth led to her becoming the first British monarch in history to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee in February 2022. Following her death on 8 September 2022, her son King Charles III became the oldest person to ever accede the throne due to his mother's long reign.
Queen Victoria became monarch on 20 June 1837 when she was aged just 18 years old. The British royal then continued to rule over the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until the turn of the next century.
Victoria's reign witnessed the industrial revolution, the expansion of the British Empire, and the Irish Famine. She died aged 81 after 63 years of rule which came to be characterized as 'the Victorian era' due to her hugely influential status as an icon of British society at the time.
King George III
The third of four Georges to reign over Great Britain and Ireland during the Georgian era, King George III also comes third in the list of longest reigning British monarchs. Acceding the throne in October 1760, George III's time as monarch lasted 59 years, during which Britain lost its American colonies as a result of the American War of Independence but also defeated Napoleon in the Napoleonic wars. George III died in 1820, after several years struggling with a mental illness.
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King James VI/King James I
King James makes it to fourth spot on this list thanks to his reign beginning when he was just one years old. Originally James VI of Scotland, following the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 without an heir, James became King James I of England and Ireland, uniting the English and Scottish crowns. He reigned for a total of 57 years until his death in March 1625, aged 58.
King Henry III ruled as King of England, Lord of Ireland and Duke of Aquitaine from October 1216 to November 1972. He died aged 65 following a 56-year long reign which included two coronations, the first at Gloucester Cathedral in 1216 and the second at Westminster Abbey in May 1220.
King Edward III reigned over England for an impressive 50 years, despite a rule which witnessed the disaster that was the Black Death ravage his kingdom. Born in 1312, Edward acceded the throne aged 14 in January 1327. During his reign, Edward warred in Scotland and France and started the Hundreds Year War, a war which lasted for many years beyond his death in 1377.
William I of Scotland, more commonly known as William the Lion, is the earliest monarch to make this list. Also known by the nickname Garbh – meaning "rough" in Gaelic – William reigned over Scotland for around 48 years from 1165 to 1214. He ascended the throne aged 24 years old and lived until the impressive age of 72.
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Llywelyn, King of Gwynedd (and Prince of Wales from 1240) ruled for a total of around 45 years. While it is unknown exactly how long Llywelyn – who was known in Welsh as Llywelyn Fawr (Llywelyn the Great) – reigned due to a lack of information regarding when he acceded the throne of Gwynedd, enough is known to place this historical figure eighth in the list of longest-reigning monarchs who have reigned over areas of the British Isles.
Elizabeth I was the final Tudor monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England and Ireland. Like her namesake Queen Elizabeth II, Elizabeth was also 25 years old when she ascended the throne in 1558, although she was a couple of hundred days younger than the modern-day Elizabethan icon when she took the throne.
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Elizabeth I's death in 1603 brought her reign to an end after 44 years which witnessed events such as the birth of Shakespeare and the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Having died without an heir, the late-Tudor monarch's death led to the unification of the Scottish and English crowns under her fellow long-reigning list member, James VI of Scotland.
King David II of Scotland reigned from March 1329 to February 1371. Like many on this list before him, David's long reign of 41 years was aided by an early succession to the throne when he was just a child aged five years old. The son of the Scots King Robert the Bruce, David II was the first Scottish king to be anointed at his coronation. David's reign saw Scotland ally with France against England in the Hundred Years' War.
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