Check out the following monarchs, who were the world’s youngest kings and queens!
February 5th, 1952
Night was falling in Kenya, Africa, when Princess Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, set out to watch elephants and rhinoceroses gather at a watering hole. Their hotel, built into the branches of a 3,000-year-old fig tree, had a fantastic viewing platform from which they could see the fascinating wildlife of Africa. The day had been a fulfilling one, with fishing in the streams, horse-riding, and experiencing the natural beauty of Africa up close, but this was an absolute climax for the Princess, who kept saying she was going to write a letter to her parents, describing all she had seen.
As the night grew late, they went into their treetop hotel to catch a few hours of sleep, planning to awaken at dawn and continue watching the African wildlife.
February 6th, 1952
Four thousand miles away in England, during the early morning hours, King George VI, father of Princess Elizabeth, died in his sleep. Princess Elizabeth automatically, and very suddenly, became Queen Elizabeth II. Ironically, she was one of the last to find out.
A coded message was sent from London to the governor of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, but he was out of the country — and the only person who had the key to the codebook! Not until a local news reporter asked Martin Charteris, the princess’s private secretary, if the news about the King was true, did the royal party hear of King George VI’s death.
Martin Charteris crawled up the ladder to get into the treetop hotel room and quietly told Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen’s husband. Turning the radio on very low volume, they heard all the stations playing the same solemn, somber music, thus realizing the news was indeed true.
Meanwhile, the Queen was sitting in the corner of the treetop hotel room writing a letter to her father, describing in glorious detail all she was experiencing on this exotic tour of African wildlife. It was a letter that would never be sent.
It was her husband, Philip, who convinced her to leave the letter writing for a moment and have a walk together in the garden below. There, in the remote wilderness of Nairobi, Kenya, he broke the news that she was now Queen Elizabeth II of England.
She was a tender 25 years old.
Quick, when I say “king” or “queen,” what comes to mind?
Okay, except for all you chess lovers out there, it might be an elderly man sitting on a throne, with a white beard and red cloak, holding a golden scepter. Or a woman in a ball gown with a regal crown adorning her head. Perhaps you imagine a stern face, hard-set lips, and cruel features; or a kind, gentle face worn with creases, and twinkling eyes gazing at the nation. Perhaps your imagination depends on which stories you’ve just read about kings or queens.
Would you ever imagine… a teenager? A child? What about a baby, who can’t even walk or talk? Incredibly enough, these things actually did happen! At age 25, Queen Elizabeth was nowhere near the youngest in history to ever become monarch. Check out the following monarchs, who were the world’s youngest kings and queens!
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire
Crowned at 11 years old
Crowned on September 10, 1623
IF you would become king at 11 years old, which laws would you pass? Banning school? Banishing bedtime? Demanding all the ice cream in the land be brought to you, plus sprinkles?
Looks like Murad IV got a little carried away with his power, because he was known as a young tyrant. He was determined to quash any tiny signs of rebellion against his kingdom. He became so concerned about this that he actually banned tobacco, coffee, and wine shops after he suspected that citizens would gather there to plot against him. Anyone found smoking was executed.
Ironically, his rule ended in 1640 when he died of alcoholism, and it makes sense, considering he kept all the drinks for himself!
The Ottoman-Safavid War (1623–1639) took place during Murad’s rule. This war impacted Middle Eastern politics forever. In fact, it is believed to have been the start of the borders dividing Turkey, Iran, and Iraq today.
King of France
Crowned at four years and eight months
Born on September 5, 1638
Crowned on May 14, 1643
Looks like this ran in the family, because his father, King Louis XIII, had become king at nine years old. King Louis XIII died when his son, Louis XIV, was just four years old. Although he became King of France, it was in name only: his mother, Queen Anne, ruled for him until he turned 18.
King Louis XIV was called the “Sun King” because he took the sun as his emblem. He believed the entire France revolved around him, just like the planets orbit the sun. He ruled with an iron fist, attempting to control the behavior of those around him. It seems the power went to his head!
King Louis XIV established rules for dress, one of them being the nobles had to wear clothing made of the finest materials. Though it may sound ridiculous, his plan worked, and he succeeded in making France the center of fashion and culture, which boosted the economy tremendously. France (think Paris) remains a place of fashion until this very day!
King Louis XIV holds the record as the longest reigning monarch in the world: 72 years and 110 days!
Oyo Rukidi IV of Tooro
King of Tooro, one of four kingdoms in Uganda, East Africa
Crowned at three years old
Born on April 16, 1992
Crowned on September 12, 1995 (ruling until today)
What were you doing when you were three years old? Probably playing with fireman trucks and police cars if you’re a boy, and with dolls and carriages if you’re a girl. Well, little Oyo was learning how to lead a nation of more than two million. His coronation took place following his father’s death in 1995, and began at two a.m.! (Long past a three-year-old’s bedtime, huh?)
At his coronation, Oyo acted very much like a toddler, playing with his toys, fiddling with the crown, and even crawling back into his mother’s arms! He wasn’t very concerned about appearing like a king.
In fact, Oyo himself says that growing up, he was more interested in playing with his friends than fulfilling responsibilities as king. “When I was eight years old, that’s when I realized the responsibility I had, who I was, and what I had to do.”
He says he loved school because that’s where he felt like everyone else — a regular student. “Outside of school I had to be a bit more serious.”
Oyo is the 12th king in the 180-year-old kingdom, and is still ruling today, at 30 years old.
King of England and France
Crowned at nine months
Born on December 6, 1421
Crowned on September 1, 1422
Henry VI was the youngest monarch ever to rule England after his father died. Not only was this young king crowned King of England, but two months later he was crowned King of France, too! Quite a heavy load for such a small head, wouldn’t you say?
If you’re wondering how a nine-month-old baby can rule an entire nation (or rather, two nations), don’t worry — his family took the main responsibility of ruling the country.
Henry VI died a miserable death, when he was murdered in the Tower of London after a clash in monarchy politics, at the age of 50.
Queen of Scotland
Crowned at six days old
Born on December 8, 1542
Crowned on December 14, 1542
Mary’s short life was full of drama, from becoming queen at just six days old to her execution at the age of 44: orphaned from her father, plots aplenty, bloodshed, abdication, widowhood, and finally, execution.
But to start at the beginning: Mary’s father died just six days after she was born, making her queen. Obviously, Scotland couldn’t have a baby calling the shots, so there were “substitutes” who ran the country until Mary was old enough. Mary’s mother was Mary of Guise, who ruled in her place much of the time.
Mary was shipped off to her mother’s homeland to receive a proper education. She returned at the age of 18, ready to take her rightful place on the throne.
Mary married Henry Stuart, Lord of Darnley, but this turned out to be very unlucky for her. Darnley became bored of being the King Consort and wanted more power for himself. He wanted to be Mary’s equal.
After he was assassinated by people who disliked his pursuit of power, Mary married Lord Bothwell. This marriage resulted in a Scottish rebellion that eventually forced Mary to flee her country, into the arms of her English cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. Rather than protect her cousin, Elizabeth locked Mary up for the next 19 years. Somehow, Mary was roped into a plot to take down Queen Elizabeth I. After it was discovered that she was part of this plan, Mary was executed in 1587, at the age of 44.
You can say the first six days of her life were probably the most blissful.
King of Spain
Crowned upon birth!
Born on May 17, 1886
Crowned on May 17, 1886
Alfonso XIII became king before spending even one night on this Earth! He was carried on a silver tray to meet the then Spanish Prime Minister as soon as he was born. You can say he had a very grand entrance to the world!
In 1889, when Alfonso was three years old, the French newspaper Le Figaro described the young king as “the happiest and best-loved of all the rulers of the Earth.” Apparently, the young child didn’t understand yet what bearing his title meant or what a responsibility it came with!
Alfonso actually took power when he was 16. After that, things went a bit downhill….
Sadly for him, Spain was defeated in war during his reign; he was widely blamed for this. He became very unpopular as king, and ultimately had to flee the country. His monarchy was dismantled after he fled, and nothing but history remained of the baby who was born a king.
Back to the Princess who climbed a tree and came down a Queen (remember that one? In the wilderness of Kenya!): Queen Elizabeth II then went on to reign over England for 70 years and 214 days, making her the longest reigning monarch in the UK, and the second-longest in the world (quick — do you remember who was the longest reigning?!).
She died one year ago, in September, 2022.
Now, we can fully recognize the significance of Rosh Hashanah, when we crown Hashem as King! L’havdil, human kings and queens can begin their reigns at birth, or rule into their old age. They can rule a few short days, or be the longest reigning monarch in the world. But none of that makes a difference; eventually, they all pass on….
We are privileged to have Hashem as our King! He was, is, and will always, always be!
As we say in Unesaneh Tokef on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: “Ein kitzvah lishnosecha, v’ein keitz l’orech yamecha — There is no end to Your years and there is no limit to the length of Your days.”
Keep that in mind this year as you call out with pride, “V’atah Hu Melech Keil Chai v’Kayam!”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 978)
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