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King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia dies, aged 90

The King of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, has died at the age of 90.

King Abdullah, who acceded to the throne on 1st August 2005, was admitted to hospital on the 2 January, requiring treatment for pneumonia. His health had deteriorated since 2010. He will now be succeeded by his half-brother, Crown Prince Salman.

King Abdullah’s passing now makes Queen Elizabeth II the oldest living Monarch in the world. The President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, is now the oldest living head of state, also aged 90.

Abdullah was born in 1924 in Riyadh, although there is debate around his actual date of birth. Brought up in a strict household with traditional views, the young prince was one of 37 children and would be taught Islamic readings and literature.

Throughout his life, Abdullah held various political positions and took his first public office as Mayor of Mecca in 1961. Two years later, he would become Commander of the Saudi National Guard and lead a programme of modernisation, including equipping the Guard with sophisticated weaponry, before being appointed as Second Deputy Prime Minister in 1975 by his brother, King Khalid.

Although the Prince held traditionally Islamic views, he became an advocate for peace within the Middle East and throughout his time as Second Deputy Prime Minister would help to prevent the war between Jordan and Syria which, in turn, increased his diplomatic relations abroad.

Thought the 1970s, he was a critic of the United States’s policy in the Middle East and would continue to be vocal about the violence in the region throughout The Gulf War.

After King Khalid died in June 1982, Abdullah’s half-brother, Fahd bin Abdulaziz, became King and Abdullah would be made a Crown Prince on the same day.

It would be 13 years later, when King Fahd suffered a stroke that Abdullah would become the de facto regent of Saudi Arabia, a testament to his place within the House of Saud, acting as ruler in Fahd’s place.

Abdullah succeeded Fahd in 2005 and would continue his pro-Western foreign policy. Throughout his life, he was regarded as an ally for the US and made many visits to the country, spanning five presidencies; from President Ford in 1976 to his most recent visit with President Obama in 2009.

He was received by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2oo7 on a State Visit, amid criticism over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, in particular the treatment of women and homosexuals in the country.

Abdullah was widely regarded as one of the most powerful figures in the world and was ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the richest royals with an estimated net worth of $21 billion in 2011.

His health began to deteriorate in 2010. The King underwent surgery for his back between 2010 and 2012, and was treated in New York City and his home town of Riyadh.

Abdullah’s half-brother and successor, Crown Prince Salman, has outlived two previous Crown Princes. The Crown Prince Sultan died on 22 October 2011, after which, the title passed to Prince Sultan’s full-brother, Nayef, who passed away in Geneva, Switzerland, on 16 June 2012.

Prior to his death, King Abdullah was the oldest reigning Monarch in the world, an epithet which now belongs to Queen Elizabeth II who is currently aged 88.

Image Credits: Tribes of the World via photopin cc

About author

James is Royal Central's Director of Broadcasting and Communications. He's a recognised royal commentator and correspondent and has experience with numerous TV and radio networks including the BBC, ITV, Sky, CNN and MSNBC among others.