15 Historical Monarchs Whose Reigns Were So Short They Barely Even Counted

Queen Elizabeth II became the world's longest-reigning monarch in 2016, and her multi-decade tenure stands in contrast to many rulers who weren't as lucky. Kings, queens, and even emperors come and go, but who was the shortest reigning monarch in history?

Many short-lived kings and queens ruled for periods of time ranging from a few months to just a few minutes. Some of them never got a proper coronation - like Lady Jane Grey, whose nine-day rule of England made her the shortest reigning British monarch - while others had reigns that were so short they were disputed or deemed illegitimate.

Regardless of the legitimacy of their reigns, however, all of the people on this list were the highest-ranking heads of state in their kingdoms for a brief window of time. Their reigns were shortened by everything from assassination and intrigue to democratic movements that sought to curb the authority of unelected leaders.

  • King Louis XIX: 20 Minutes
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    With the execution of Louis XVI in 1793, the French Revolution brought down France's centuries-old monarchy - but only for a little while. By 1814, some of Louis XVI's relatives had reestablished the monarchy.

    However, in 1830, France was in the throes of yet another revolution. The reigning King Charles X stepped aside in favor of his son Louis. King Louis XIX's reign was the shortest in history, lasting only 20 minutes. Like his father before him, Louis also abdicated.

    Louis's fleeting kingship enabled his wife to be a 20-minute queen. Marie Thérèse was the daughter of executed royals King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

    • Age: Dec. at 68 (1775-1844)
    • Birthplace: Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
  • Victoria Kamamalu: A Few Hours, Unofficially
    Photo: Charles Leander Weed / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Though Queen Liliuokalani was officially the Kingdom of Hawaii's first and last queen, another woman briefly ruled. For a brief window of time, Victoria Kamāmalu was the highest-ranking person in Hawaii.

    Victoria Kamāmalu served as the "Kuhina Nui," or co-regent, to her brother King Kamehameha IV. When he passed in 1863, her position as Kuhina Nui made her a de facto monarch - but only long enough to proclaim an official successor. She quickly appointed her other brother as king that same day.

    The new king wasted no time consolidating his power and dissolved the position of Kuhina Nui.

    • Age: Dec. at 27 (1838-1866)
    • Birthplace: Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Tsar Michael II: Less Than A Day
    Photo: Central News / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    On March 15, 1917, Nicholas II was forced to abdicate the imperial throne of Russia. Technically, he wasn't the last Romanov (Russia's ruling dynasty for more than three centuries) to hold power, as he abdicated in favor of his younger brother, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich.

    Michael was clear that he did not really want to be in a position of power in the midst of the Russian Revolution. The day after his brother's abdication, Michael issued a statement:

    A heavy burden had been laid upon me by the will of my brother, who in a time of unexampled strife and popular tumult has transferred to me the imperial throne of Russia. Sharing with the people the thought that the good of the country should stand before everything else, I have firmly decided that I will accept power only if that is the will of our great people, who must by universal suffrage elect their representatives to the Constituent Assembly. 

    Seeing the writing on the wall for the imperial monarchy, Michael essentially gave up the throne. He was eventually detained and, like so many members of his family, executed.

    • Age: Dec. at 39 (1878-1918)
    • Birthplace: Nevsky Prospect, Russia
  • The Visigoths posed a threat to the Roman Empire in its final centuries. Sigeric assumed the Visigothic kingship after the previous king, Athaulf, was assassinated. Wasting no time, Sigeric saw to it that his predecessor's family was similarly executed.

    The fate that he brought on Athaulf's children befell Sigeric as well, and he was slain after ruling for only a week.