This week is the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain ascending the throne. Although only 25 at the time, Elizabeth still had a few years on other famous – and infamous – monarchs who had assumed crowns in, or barely out of, their teen years.
King ‘Tut’ became Pharaoh of Egypt on the death of his father Akhenaten in 1333 B.C. He was 10 years old. His reign only lasted 10 years as he died at age 20, possibly from malaria. The discovery of his tomb and mummy in 1922 renewed the world’s interest in the history and culture of ancient Egypt.
Gaius Octavius Thurinus – better known as Octavian – was the great-nephew of Julius Caesar. Caesar’s will named Octavian as his adopted son and heir, and upon Caesar’s assassination in 44 B.C., when Octavian was 19 years old, the political power which Caesar had obtained passed to him. After first sharing control of Rome with, then fighting against, Marc Antony, Octavian became Rome’s first emperor in 27 B.C. and was given the title of ‘Augustus’ ( the divine one).
When her father died in 51 B.C., 18 year old Cleopatra and her 10 year old brother Ptolemy became co-rulers – and last Pharaohs – of Egypt. Unwilling to share power, she took advantage of the Roman civil wars at the time to align herself first with Julius Caesar, then with Augustus’ enemy Marc Antony, in order to legitimize her reign with the help of Roman military power.
King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine
Arguably the most famous royal couple of the middle ages. Eleanor of Aquitaine (i.e. modern western France) had a very busy year in 1137. She became the feudal lord of a large part of modern France, she married the heir to the French throne, then she became Queen of France when her father-in-law died 10 days later. Oh, and one last thing – Eleanor was 15 years old.
Henry II was the grandson of King Henry I of England. At age 14, he and the Norman nobles supporting him attempted to seize the English throne from the hated King Stephen – and failed. In 1150, at age 17, Henry was made Duke of Normandy. Two years later he married Eleanor, whose first marriage to the French King had been annulled. In 1154 Henry finally succeeded in taking the English throne. He became King of England, and the feudal lord of half of France, at age 21.
The great-great-grandmother of Queen Elizabeth became queen in 1837 when she was 18. She reigned until her death at age 82 in 1901. She is the longest reigning English Monarch at just under 64 years. Her rule during most of the 19th century saw Great Britain become the center of a world spanning colonial empire. It’s not called The Victorian Age for nothing.
Do you think you could handle being a teen monarch? Would you rule with a velvet glove, or an iron fist?