Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee will take place on June 2-5, 2022 Horse A race and a concert by Elton John marks her 70th year on the throne.
But who is the longest reigning British monarch? And whose reign was the shortest?
The British monarchy has existed for more than 1,200 years and spans 37 generations. According to the online history magazine, 61 members of the royal family have ascended the throne during this period Historical Britain (opens in new tab). These various rulers all trace their lineage back to England’s first king, Athelstan – but the relationship isn’t always linear. “Sometimes we think of the royal succession moving smoothly, but that hasn’t always been the case,” Carolyn Harris, a historian at the University of Toronto, told Live Science.
“A lot of the history of the monarchy revolves around war, which was literally the strongest,” sociologist Laura Clancy of Lancaster University in the UK told Live Science. Countless battles have been fought over competing claims to the crown, including the infamous War of the Roses, which lasted from 1455 to 1485 and even inspired George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones.
Related: Who will inherit the British throne?
Lady Jane Grey, who ruled England for just nine days in July 1553, is considered the shortest reigning monarch. Lady Jane was only a teenager when King Edward VI died; She reportedly fainted upon learning that she was to take his place Smithsonian Magazine (opens in new tab).
Lady Jane’s rise was swift and calculated. Her father-in-law, John Dudley, was determined to retain power and prevent Edward’s half-sister, Mary Tudor, from succeeding to the throne. So he had Mary declared illegitimate because of her Catholic faith (and the fact that her mother, Catherine of Aragon, had fallen out of favor with King Henry VIII). Then he put Jane in her place. “She’s been more of a pawn in these broader political struggles,” Harris said.
Unfortunately, Dudley’s machinations backfired – shortly after Jane was deposed, he was beheaded. Lady Jane and her husband (John Dudley’s son) were therefore executed a few months later story today (opens in new tab).
This bloody line of ascent smouldered down (mostly) in the mid-17th century with the establishment of constitutional monarchy. Today, the line of succession is clearer and much less violent – which, alongside modern medicine, means that modern monarchs tend to live longer.
Britain’s longest reigning monarch is none other than Queen Elizabeth II herself. The now 96-year-old Queen ascended the throne on 2 June 1953 at Britain’s first-ever televised coronation. “In fact, she now has the third-longest reign in recorded history,” Harris said. The second-longest reign belongs to Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), who reigned for just over 70 years, and first is Louis XIV of France with a staggering 72-year reign, according to the History Department of the University of Kentucky (opens in new tab).
Since Elizabeth came to power, the monarchy’s public role has continued to change, being less directly involved in policy implementation and taking on an increasingly philanthropic and “relatable” bent, as evidenced by the royal family Instagram account (opens in new tab).
But Clancy and other scholars point out that the monarchy as an institution is deeply connected to a particular current of British nationalism, one that thrives in older and more traditional circles. “There’s still overwhelming support for her to keep going,” Clancy said. “And it’s caught up in ideas about history and heritage and what Britain is.”
However, young Britons increasingly see the crown as a relic of the past. In a 2021 Statista survey (opens in new tab) Of nearly 5,000 British citizens, just 31% of those aged 18-24 supported the monarchy, compared with 81% of those aged 65 and over who said the same. According to the Data Analytics Group, this represents a notable shift from previous years YouGov (opens in new tab). Some British citizens even feel it is time for the monarchy to end. “Prince Charles is known to want a slimmed-down royal family. That is not enough. He shouldn’t do it at all,” columnist Simon Jenkins wrote in an article for the Guardian (opens in new tab).
In the meantime, however, the UK will celebrate the Queen’s remarkable reign in lavish fashion. Interested viewers can stream the celebrations on ABC News or BBC One.
Originally published on Live Science.