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The Men with the Most Wives in History

Patricia Grimshaw

Who had the most wives in history? Typically around the world, marriage is between two people. However, in some cases, men have intentionally married more than one woman. And in even fewer cases, men have married many more than one woman! Here are just some of the men in history who have had the most wives.

Joseph Smith

The founder of the Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint (LDS) movement, Joseph Smith, published the Book of Mormon at the age of 24. During his lifetime he married over 30 women, some of whom were already married to other men, and many of who were much younger than Smith.

Joseph Smith, Jr.

Joseph Smith, Jr.

His first wife, Emma, however, did not appreciate Smith’s polygamous ways, and may not even have known about the full extent. She accepted (temporarily) Smith’s marriage to 4 women who boarded in their house, but soon made them leave. Smith was shot dead while in prison, having been charged with treason in 1844.

Emma Smith.

Emma Smith.

After his death, non-Mormon newspapers portrayed him as a religious fanatic, while Mormons remembers him as a martyr.

Brigham Young

Brigham Young was President of the Mormon church, in his case the LDS, or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Brigham Young.

Brigham Young.

He founded Salt Lake City in Utah and served as the territory of Utah’s first governor. He married a total of 55 women, and converted 54 of them to Mormonism.

Caricature of Young’s wives, after his death.

Caricature of Young’s wives, after his death.

By the time he died in 1877, he had fathered 56 children, 46 of which reached adulthood. Of his wives, 23 survived him, 10 had divorced him, and 19 had passed away already, while the status of 4 was unknown. The university that bears his name is completely owned by the LDS.

 

Fat′h Ali Shah Qajar

The second Shah of Iran, Fat′h Ali Shah Qajar, ruled from 1797 until 1834. During his lifetime, he married around 158 women, although it has also been reported that he had more than 1,000 spouses.

Fat’h Ali Shah Qajar.

Fat’h Ali Shah Qajar.

A book published in 1874, however, disputed this stating that he only had 4 actual wives, but 800-1000 women in his harem. The specific details about his offspring are also imprecise. Depending on the record, he may have had between 56 and 130 sons, and 46 to 150 daughters.

Portrait of Fatali Shah.

Portrait of Fatali Shah.

The reason for this discrepancy is likely because not all of these children survived infancy. Therefore, while some documents state that he is “survived” by a number of offspring, this does not necessarily mean they were the only children he fathered. 160 wives are mentioned by name in the book Tarikh-e Azodi by Soltan Ahmad Mirza Azod-ed-Dowleh

King Solomon

Perhaps the most well-known polygamist of all is the wise figure of King Solomon. He is believed to have had around 700 wives, and another 300 concubines, or mistresses. According to the Bible (1 Kings 11:13), his wives included an Egyptian Pharaoh’s daughter and other princesses, as well as women who came from Ammon, Edom, Sidon, Moab and the Hittites.

King Solomon.

King Solomon.

The only spouse mentioned by name in the Bible is Naamah the Ammonite (2 Chronicles 12:13), who was the mother of Solomon’s heir, Rehoboam. However, Solomon apparently met with disapproval from God when he allowed his foreign wives to worship their own deities, and when they “turned his heart” to do the same.

He is also believed to have had a relationship with the equally famous Queen of Sheba. According to Ethiopian tradition, she gave birth to a son by Solomon, and this son became Menelik I, King of Axum.

King David and young Solomon, the haut-relief on the wall of the temple of Christ the Savior in Moscow.

King David and young Solomon, the haut-relief on the wall of the temple of Christ the Savior in Moscow.

One of the reasons King Solomon had so many wives may have been as a result of his aggressive foreign policy. In ancient times, it was not unusual for a king to give a daughter or close female relative to another king as part of the treaty terms. As a result, every time a treaty was sealed, Solomon may have ended up with a new wife.

Stained Glass window depicting Solomon.

Stained Glass window depicting Solomon.

Solomon is not unique to the Christian Bible, but is also mentioned in the Jewish Talmud and Muslim Quran. The conventional dates for his reign as King of Israel are roughly 970 to 931 BC.

Depiction by Giovanni Battista Venanzi of King Solomon being led astray into idolatry in his old age by his wives, 1668.

Depiction by Giovanni Battista Venanzi of King Solomon being led astray into idolatry in his old age by his wives, 1668.

Several other well known men have had multiple wives in recent years, including Saudi businessman Saleh al-Sayeri, who reputedly married 58 women, and has spent over $1.6 million on weddings and subsequent divorces.

Related Article: The Woman who Holds the Unbelievable Record for Having the Most Children

Likewise, Asentus Akuku of Kenya is reported to have had over 100 wives, and Nigerian-born Mohammed Bello Abubakar married 120 women in total and fathered over 200 children. It took an entire apartment building to house his family. He died in 2017 at the age of 93.


Patricia Grimshaw is a self-professed museum nerd, with an equal interest in both medieval and military history. She received a BA (Hons) from Queen’s University in Medieval History, and an MA in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada, and completed a Master of Museum Studies at the University of Toronto before beginning her museum career.