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European RoyalsThe Queen

Our historic Queen: how Europe’s other royal reigns measure up

We are now just 24 hours away from history. On September 9th 2015, The Queen becomes the longest reigning monarch in British history. There is huge interest in this magical moment when Elizabeth II overtakes Victoria with people around the world waiting for the day when the girl who was never meant to rule sets the record for the longest reign we’ve known. But even before the milestone is reached, the Queen’s long tenure means that she is way ahead of her European counterparts when it comes to occupying a throne.  Here’s how the rest of Europe’s ruling monarchs compare when it comes to length of reign.

Margrethe II of Denmark

The next longest reigning crowned head in Europe after the Queen is Margrethe II of Denmark who has ruled her country for forty three years.  She succeeded her father, Frederik IX, when he died on January 14th 1972.  Margrethe, who was 31 at the time, was Denmark’s first queen regnant for six centuries.

She marked her Ruby Jubilee in 2012 and at the time said she had been inspired by the Queen’s words about dedicating herself to her nation.  Margrethe’s Jubilee was celebrated with a gala banquet attended by many of Europe’s royals.

King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden is the longest reigning king on the continent of Europe

Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden

Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden is the next longest reigning monarch in Europe having been king of his country for almost forty two years.  Carl Gustaf ascended the throne on September 15th 1973, at the age of 27, on the death of his grandfather, Gustaf VI Adolf.  He had been heir to the throne since the age of seven months when his father, also called Gustaf Adolf, was killed in a plane crash.

His most recent Jubilee, marking forty years on the throne, saw the king travel across Sweden on a series of celebratory visits to different parts of the country.

Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein

Head of state since November 13th 1989, Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein may not be the best known of Europe’s rulers but he is currently the fourth longest reigning on the continent. He took his country’s throne on the death of his father, Franz Joseph II, who had ruled for 51 years.

The prince was 54 when he took power. In 2004 he handed over the business of making regular governmental decisions to his eldest son, Alois, although he himself remains head of state.

Harald V of Norway

With twenty four years under his regnal belt, next on the list is Harald V of Norway. Harald was a few weeks short of his 54th birthday when he succeeded his father, the hugely popular King Olav V, on January 17th 1991.

Harald is due to mark his Silver Jubilee next year but when he reached the 20th anniversary of his accession to the throne there were no major celebrations and the king instead spent the day quietly with his family.

Henri of Luxembourg

The Grand Duke of Luxembourg ascended his country’s throne on October 7th 2000 meaning he will shortly mark fifteen years as head of state.  He was 45 on the day of his accession.

Henri’s father, Jean, abdicated in his favour – he was 79 at the time and had ruled his country for 36 years following the abdication of his own mother.

Albert II of Monaco

The Sovereign Prince of Monaco celebrated the tenth anniversary of his accession to his country’s throne this year. Albert became ruler of the principality on April 6th 2005 on the death of his father, Prince Rainier III.

Albert had been heir to the throne since the moment of his birth and he was 47 years old by the time he succeeded. He married Charlene Wittstock in 2011 and they welcomed their twins, Jacques and Gabriella, in December 2014.

Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands

Willem-Alexander has been King of the Netherlands for almost two and a half years.  He ascended the Dutch throne on April 30th 2013 on the abdication of his mother, Beatrix, who stood aside after reigning for exactly 33 years.

Willem-Alexander, born in 1967, turned 46 three days before he became his country’s first male monarch in over a century. Beatrix’s abdication had been expected and by passing the throne to her son she ensured Willem-Alexander became the first of two new kings for Europe in 2013.

Philippe of the Belgians

Much less expected was the arrival of a new monarch in Belgium.  Philippe became King of the Belgians – the traditional title for the country’s monarch – on July 21st 2013 and just a few months after celebrating his 53rd birthday.

He succeeded following the unexpected the abdication of his father, Albert II, who gave up his throne just days short of the twentieth anniversary of his own accession.  Philippe has just marked his second anniversary as king and has so far proved a very popular monarch.

Felipe VI of Spain

The newest monarch in Europe is the King of Spain, Felipe VI, who became monarch on June 19th 2014 after the surprise abdication of his father, Juan Carlos I, which was announced at the start of that month.

Felipe was forty six on the day he became king and he is just beginning his second year as a king as Elizabeth II makes history by becoming Britain’s longest reigning monarch

Photo credit: Anna-Lena Ahlström, royalcourt.se and featured image of Felipe VI by World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC Global Summit 2015 – Members Dinner) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons