Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch, was in an unstable condition on Monday, with thousands praying for his well-being amid fears that his demise could lead to economic instability.
The 88-year-old king, who has been on the throne for more than 70 years, is a constitutional monarch with no formal political role but he is generally regarded as a unifying figure in Thailand’s complex and divided political arena.
Here’s a look at ten of the longest reigning members of royalty from around the world:
1. King Bhumibol Adulyadej or Rama IX of Thailand: He has been king since 1946, when he ascended the throne after his brother, Ananda Mahidol, died of a gunshot wound. He was formally crowned in 1950. Though the monarchy became stronger after the king imposed martial law in 1957, he later went on to play a key role in Thailand’s transition to democracy in 1992. As the King’s health deteriorated, his participation in public affairs has sharply declined in recent years.
2. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom: With nearly 65 years on the throne, she is Britain’s longest reigning monarch. She has inspired several generations of Britons, from the dark days of World War II to the current ear. She became queen when her father, King George VI, died while she was touring Kenya in 1952. She once described 1992 as her “annus horribilis” (horrible year) as the marriages of two of her children broke down and public support for the monarchy declined. She became the longest reigning monarch in Britain’s 1,200-year history last year, and was ranked number 29 on Forbes’ 2016 list of the world’s 100 most powerful women.
3. Sultan Abdul Halim of Kedah sultanate in Malaysia: He is also the supreme king of Malaysia, one of the few elected positions for monarchy anywhere in the world. The supreme king also has considerable powers in Malaysia’s constitutional monarchy and can choose the prime minister if no party wins a majority vote. The supreme king is elected by a durbar or council comprising the rulers of nine of the 13 Malay states. Halim has been the ruler of Kedah for more than 58 years but became Malaysia’s supreme king for the second time in 2011.
4. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei: He has been the sultan for more than 49 years and was regularly placed at the top of lists of the world’s richest individuals in the 1980s and 1990s. Besides serving as the head of state, Bolkiah is also Brunei’s head of government as he holds the post of prime minister. He also holds the defence and finance portfolios and head of religious affairs.
5. Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said of Oman: He came to the throne after overthrowing his father in a coup in 1970 and has been in power for more than 46 years. He completed his secondary education at Pune, where he once studied under former president Shankar Dayal Sharma. He used Oman’s oil revenues to develop and modernise infrastructure. Though he established consultative assembly and a consultative council, all decisions are made by the sultan. Oman witnessed unprecedented protests during the Arab Spring of 2011 and the sultan has no heir, triggering speculation about his successor.
6. Queen Margrethe II Denmark: She has been queen for nearly 45 years and is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the head of the Church of Denmark. The queen has no independent role in politics though, as head of state, she participates in the formation of government. The queen asks the party leader backed by the largest number of members of Parliament to form the government.
7. Sultan bin Mohamed Al-Qassimi III of Sharjah: He has been the ruler of Sharjah, one of the units in the United Arab Emirates, for more than 44 years. He is the fifteenth ruler of the emirate and overcame an attempted coup by his brother in 1987.
8. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden: He became king in 1973 after the death of his grandfather Gustav VI Adolf. His playboy lifestyle in his youth made him the butt of jokes but has earned the respect of Swedes in recent years through measures such as dropping the title “King of the Swedes, the Goths, Geats and the Wends” to be known only as “King of Sweden”. Gustaf has only ceremonial duties, such as opening Parliament sessions, after constitutional changes in 1974. The king is probably best known for presenting the annual Nobel prizes.
9. Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang in Malaysia: He has been the sultan of Pahang state for more than 42 years and served as supreme king of Malaysia during 1979-84. He has been linked to controversies over forcing some chief ministers of the state to resign.
10. Sultan Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi of Fujairah: He has been the ruler of Fujairah, one of the units of the United Arab Emirates, for more than 42 years. The sultan, who was educated in Britain, took over after the death of his father in 1974.