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Queen Elizabeth II Wasn’t the Longest Ruling Monarch

Rosemary Giles
Photo Credits: Unknown Author/ Library and Archives Canada/ Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY 2.0/ Cropped, and wartburg.edu/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain/ Cropped
Photo Credits: Unknown Author/ Library and Archives Canada/ Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY 2.0/ Cropped, and wartburg.edu/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain/ Cropped

Queen Elizabeth II had an impressively lengthy reign – there is no denying it. She was officially crowned on June 2, 1953, following the death of her father, King George VI, while she was on a royal tour passing through Kenya. Her accession was immediate following his death so, although her coronation wasn’t until the following year, she officially became Queen on February 6, 1952.

Elizabeth ruled the United Kingdom and its many independent states from that day until her death in 2022, totaling 70 years and 214 days. She was the queen regnant of 32 sovereign states throughout her life, and 15 by her death. As impressive as this is, she was, shockingly, not the longest ruling monarch. That title goes to French King Louis XIV, who ruled for 72 years and 110 days.

Accession

Part of the reason Louis XIV had such a lengthy reign was because he ascended the throne at only four years old. This also makes him one of the youngest kings to take the throne. He succeeded his father, Louis XIII, on May 14, 1643. Although royalty, Louis XIV didn’t have a very happy childhood, as he was largely left in the care of the servants or left unwatched. Once, he almost drowned in a pond because of this neglect.

Young King Louis XIV sitting down wearing robes and holding two scepters.
King Louis XIV in his Coronation Robes. (Photo Credit: Fine Art Images/ Heritage Images/ Getty Images)

By the age of nine, he, or rather his regent, was dealing with a coup from the Parisian Parliament and other nobles. During this time, he left the city of Paris, largely growing to dislike it because of the civil war. Those who rebelled against the crown were eventually squashed, and the young king was deemed of age to rule his country, while also being married off in a political move to his cousin Maria Theresa of Spain.

The Sun King

Throughout his reign, Louis XIV viewed himself as a representative of God, meaning he ruled in a way that demonstrated his belief in his unyielding power. He decided that he would create his royal emblem in the image of the sun, as that was what all things operated around. While in power, he made many reforms designed to improve the French army, as well as their industry and finances.

King Louis XIV in a red outfit fitting while a group of scholars look on at him.
King Louis XIV visits the Académie Des Sciences, Academy of Sciences, in Paris in 1667. (Photo Credit: Roger Viollet/ Getty Images)

The nobles that were part of the royal court had historically been a source of unrest, causing 11 civil wars in roughly 40 years. Louis managed to placate them by drawing them into a perpetually rich lifestyle. This was quite effective and he was able to stop them from causing the types of issues that they historically had.

King Louis XIV was also no stranger to war during his reign, as he was involved in the War of Devolution, the Dutch War, the War of the Reunions, the Nine Years’ War, and the War of Spanish Succession. Despite his many efforts to better his kingdom, he was largely unsuccessful, something that he reflected upon on his deathbed: “Do not follow the bad example that I have set for you. I have often undertaken war too lightly and have sustained it for vanity. Do not imitate me, but be a peaceful prince.”

Personal life

One of the most prevalent elements of Louis XIV’s personal life was the numerous mistresses and children that he had. He was officially married to Maria Theresa, with whom he had six children. Of these six, however, only Louis, le Grand Dauphin, survived past childhood. It is believed that Louis XIV was fond of his wife, although she eventually died on July 30, 1683.

His fondness for her didn’t stop the king from taking on many mistresses throughout their marriage, even having multiple children with some of them. The two most notable of these women were Louise de La Vallière, whom he had five children with, and Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart, whom he had seven children with. There were many other women that the king was involved with as well.

Françoise-Athénaïs De Rochechouart wearing an elegant dress and hat, holding a paint brush while she paints.
Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart, Marquise de Montespan, who was one of King Louis XIV’s mistresses. (Photo Credit: Fine Art Images/ Heritage Images/ Getty Images)

Eventually, he decided to officially recognize the children he had with Françoise-Athénaïs, whose governess eventually became the king’s second wife. They were married in secret, although it is believed that it was a very public secret with most people knowing about it. Although Françoise d’Aubigné was married to the king, she was never viewed as the queen of France by the people.

Creating Versailles

Perhaps Louis XIV’s most tangible creation during his reign was commissioning the Palace of Versailles located outside the city of Paris. He had a special connection with the area, having fled to the former château there during civil war as a child. Beginning in 1661, the King had the building expanded into a proper, elegant palace. He decided to move his entire royal court into Versailles and out of Paris in 1682, having it act as the country’s capital.

Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, decorated with elaborate gold and chandeliers.
The Galerie des Glaces, the Hall of Mirrors, in the Palace of Versailles, March 6, 2017. (Photo Credit: Martin Bureau/ AFP/ Getty Images)

Louis XIV continued expanding the building until 1715, although future kings continued to make alterations inside. Construction at Versailles was lavish, and included well-adorned royal apartments for both the king and queen, as well as apartments for those in his court. He also added the Hall of Mirrors, the Royal Chapel, and the Royal Opera. The royal court, however, was moved back to Paris permanently in 1789 during the French Revolution.

Death and succession

While Louis XIV is the longest reigning monarch in history, he certainly was not a healthy ruler. It is believed that he had diabetes, periostitis, frequent dental abscesses, recurring boils, gout, chronic headaches, hot flashes, dizziness and fainting spells. Ultimately, it was gangrene that caused his death on September 1, 1715. He was buried in Saint-Denis Basilica near Paris.

His body was eventually destroyed decades later by revolutionaries who entered the tomb. Upon his death, Louis’ heir was Louis, Duke of Anjou, his great-grandson who was only five years old at the time. This was an unusual selection, however, there was little choice as most of the King’s potential heirs had died before he had. His great-grandson was the only option left.

Portrait of Louis XV wearing a white wig, armor, and a blue cape.
Portrait of King Louis XV of France, also known as Louis the Well-Beloved, in 1748. (Photo Credit: DeAgostini/ Getty Images)

More from us: Queen Margrethe II of Denmark Announces Controversial Plans to Strip Grandchildren of Royal Titles

Until he came of age, the kingdom was ruled by Louis XV’s grand-uncle, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans. When he did rule for himself, he become known as Louis the Well-Beloved, reigning for nearly 59 years, the second longest of any French ruler. Nonetheless, he, nor any other ruler, has not topped the record for longest reign that King Louis XIV set hundreds of years ago.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.

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