After the death of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022, a new monarch took the title of the world’s longest-reigning ruler.
So, who is the current longest-reigning monarch in the world?
That honour goes to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, who has reigned for 55 and a half years. He will mark his 56th year on the throne on 5 October.
Hassanal Bolkiah Muiz’zaddin Wad’daulah was born on 15 July 1946 in the British Protectorate of Brunei. His father was Omar Ali Saifuddien III (Brunei’s 28th Sultan), and his mother was the Queen consort, Pengiran Anak Damit. At the time of his birth, his uncle, Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin, was on the throne. As the eldest child to the heir presumptive, Hassanal Bolkiah was second in line to the throne when he was born.
Omar Ali Saifuddien III took the throne on 4 June 1950, when his son was not yet four-years-old. The new Crown Prince was educated in Malaysia and attended Sandhurst in the UK.
When Hassanal Bolkiah was 21, his father abdicated, and Hassanal Bolkiah became the 29th Sultan of Brunei on 5 October 1967. His Coronation took place almost a year later, on 1 August 1968.
The Sultan has had three wives, but he remains married to only his first wife, Queen Saleha, whom he married in 1965. He was also married to Hajah Mariam from 1982 to 2003 and to Azrinaz Mazhar from 2005 to 2010. He has 12 children: seven daughters and five sons (one of whom died in 2020).
While the Sultan has overseen diplomatic milestones like Brunei gaining independence from the UK and joining the Association of South East Asian Nations and the United Nations, his reign has also been marked by controversy due to the strict Islamic laws enforced in the country that punishes people under Sharia law. Punishments include flogging, amputation and stoning, and the Sultan has condoned the measures. International human rights groups and the United Nations condemned the laws. The Sultan spearheaded legislation to make homosexuality a capital punishment by stoning, but international outcry led to him putting a moratorium on capital punishment for being gay and ratifying the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
He has also banned Muslims from celebrating Christmas or wearing clothing that resembles Santa Claus; the Sultan has allowed Brunei Christians to continue celebrating their important holiday.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s heir is Al-Muhtadee Billah, who is married with four children. He holds several positions in the Brunei government alongside the role of heir to the throne.
The Sultan is one of the few remaining absolute monarchs in the world and holds the position of Prime Minister of Brunei. He remains active in his royal role and travels internationally for important events. At only 77-years-old, the monarch could have several more years on the throne to extend his title as the current longest-reigning monarch in the world.