Age is just a number, even when talking about world leaders. History shows a long list of rulers well under the age of 16 who found themselves at the helm of entire empires. Although King Tutankhamen is one of those most famous youthful leaders, he is far from the youngest. Egypt’s Golden Boy took the throne when he was 9-years old. Gender doesn’t limit youthfulness in the ruling class. There have been several female heads of state named before they were potty trained. Mary the Queen of Scots, daughter of King James V ascended to the throne when she was six days old. Many mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters have served as regents during the childhoods of future kings. Sobhuza II’s mother governed the country for 22 years before the elders felt he could rule over the country’s citizens. A few decades into his reign, Sobhuza II would assume absolute control over the country and outlaw political parties.
Of course, age also isn’t indicative of good or bad leadership, as the young rulers have shown. Murad IV, the 11-year old sultan of the Ottoman Empire in 1623, later dubbed the Conqueror of Bagdad, a cruel and ruthless leader. Whereas Alfonso XIII of Spain took the throne on his 16th birthday spent most of his reign avoiding assassination due to his incompetence as the country’s leader. The danger of assassination for all leaders, regardless of age, is in fact very real. In many royal families, even family members with a chance of ascending the thrown can find themselves in danger. This is one of the major reasons for short reigns and young heirs.
10. Murad IV, Ottoman Empire
Murad IV ruled the long-lived Ottoman Empire for 37 years. Born Murad Oglu Ahmed I in Constantinople on July 27, 1612, he reigned during the decline of 630-year old Turkish kingdom. Ahmed I, Murad IV’s father died in 1618 when he was only five-years old. After the death of Ahmed I, Mustafa I, his uncle, became king. His reign did not last long, and Murad IV ascended to the throne at the tender age of 11. Kösem Sultan, his mother, ruled through him until 1632 when he took complete control of the empire. During these years, the empire began to decline. Strong, both physically and mentally, the young king excelled in archery, javelin throwing, and wrestling. These skills played a role when Murad IV took control of the empire with an iron fist at the age of 20. He banned tobacco and alcohol, closed coffee and wine shops, ordering the execution of anyone who violated the new laws. To ensure enforcement by a military that had fallen into disarray, he ordered the strangulation of over 500 of the force’s leaders. The brutal sultan executed over 20,000 men in Anatolia. In 1635, following a loss in jousting to his brother Bayezid, Murad ordered his death. In 1638, the Ottoman’s invaded Bagdad, killing over 30,000 soldiers and 30,000 civilians on the sultan’s orders. Two years later, in 1940, cirrhosis of the liver took the life of the Conqueror of Baghdad.
9. Tutankhamen, Egypt
The 11th pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Ancient Egypt took the throne at the age of nine and ruled the Middle Eastern kingdom for ten years. Despite his short reign, the son of Akhenaten and grandson of the great Pharaoh Amenhotep III overturned much of the damage done during his father’s rule. His first step restored the practice of worshiping multiple Gods, instead of just Aten, the Sun God. Soon after, he returned the dynasty’s capital, moved by his father, from Thebes to Amarna. Unfortunately, for the people, the young pharaoh passed away at the age of 19.
8. Queen Christina, Sweden
Born December 8, 1626 in Stockholm, Sweden, the young queen began her reign at the age of six following the death of her father, King Gustav II Adolf. A court of five agents under the command of the Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna ruled the kingdom until she came of age. Ready in 1644, Christina took control of the country and her contributions enriched Sweden’s place as the “Athens of the North.” She brokered a peace deal in 1648, ending a 30-year war and preventing a civil war in her country. Nonetheless, the stress proved too much for the sole heir of Sweden and she abdicated the thrown to her Cousin, Charles X. Gustav on June 16, 1654.
7. Fulin the Shunzhi Emperor, China
Shun-Chih Fulin, leader of China’s last imperial dynasty, ascended to the throne at the age of five in 1643. Dorgon, Fulin’s paternal uncle controlled the dynasty as a regent until he died in 1650. Before his death, in 1644, the army he commanded took control of Beijing, the capital of the Ming Dynasty, making Fulin the Emperor of the Qing Dynasty. Taking full control at age 12, the Shunzhi Emperor only ruled for 11 years before his death.
6. King Oyo of the Toro Kingdom, Uganda
King Oyo of the Toro Kingdom in Uganda is the only current reigning monarch on the list. Born Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru on April 16, 1992, the video game playing king ascended the throne in 1995 at the age of three. Oyo earned his bachelor’s degree in business management in 2013 and returned home. Now 22-years old, he oversees tax money allocated from the Ugandan government for humanitarian projects that improve the health and education of his subjects.
5. Puyi, China
The last emperor of China before the Sun Yat-sen Revolution, Henry Pu Yi, was crowned at age two after his uncle, Emperor Kuang-hsu died in 1908. His abdication on Feb 12, 1912 ended 267 years of control by the Manchu Dynasty and 2,000 years of imperial rule. In 1924, Pu Yi fled his palace during internal unrest in China, settling in Japanese-controlled Tientsin. Once there, the Japanese used him to gain control of Manchuria in 1931, propping him up as Pu Yi Emperor of Manchukuo. The lucky emperor held this position until 1945, when his luck ran out. Captured by the Russian Army, he spent five years imprisoned before returning to Communist China to face punishment. As prisoner number 981, he spent almost a decade tending a prison vegetable garden until 1959. Convinced of his conversion to communism, Mao Zedong pardoned the former king. Born into royalty, Henry Pu Yi died of Kidney cancer ate the age of 61 while working in a Peking mechanical repair shop.
4. Sobhuza II, Swaziland
Sobuhuza II wore the crown for the Kingdom of Swaziland for 82 years. Born July 22, 1899, his father, King Ngwane V died in 1899, leaving the thrown to his only heir, Sobhuza. When he turned 22-years old, he took control from the queen regent, ruling the country as a constitutional monarch with a parliament. Once Swaziland became independent from Great Britain in 1967, Sobhuza put into play a plan for absolute power. In April 1973, the aging leader took supreme power over the kingdom until his death on August 21, 1982. The long-surviving king had over 70 wives, over 100 children who survived infancy and over 1,000 grandchildren at the time of his death.
3. Queen Mary, Scotland
Mary the Queen of Scots’ destiny was decided when she was six days old. Born Mary Stuart on December 8, 1542 to Mary of Guise, the second wife of King James V of Scotland, she was also the great-granddaughter of Henry VII. This put her next in line for the English throne after the Children of Henry VIII. The Scottish nobles arranged for Mary to marry Dauphin Francis, the future king of France. Romance wasn’t in the cards for the two royals, two years after their wedding, the young king died from an ear infection. Mary, now a widow at 18, returned home to Scotland. However, a series of unfortunate incidents led to Mary fleeing her homeland, only to be imprisoned by her cousin, Elizabeth Tudor. A threat to the throne, Queen Elizabeth I couldn’t release Mary. Held for 19-years, the queen ordered her death in 1567, Mary was 44-years old.
2. Alfonso XIII, Spain
Spain’s Alfonso XIII assumed power in 1902, at the age of 16. Alfonso’s father, Alfonso XII died before he was born, making him king upon his birth. His mother Maria Christina of Austria held regency control until he came of age. His ignorance of politics led to political instability, with 33 governing bodies formed between 1902 and caused his own country’s defeat by intervening in 1921 during the Moroccan War. Two years later, a coup by General Miguel Primo de Rivera successfully removed Alfonso XIII.
1. Shapur II, Persia
Shapur II the Great, the tenth king of the Sasanian Empire, is unique. He is the only known royal leader crowned in-utero. Following the death of Hormizd II, Persian Royalty passed over other potential heirs in favor instead of the unborn child. Legend shows she wore the crown on her stomach. In 325, Shapur II took control of the kingdom, ruling until his death in 269.
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