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11 Monarchs Crowned While They Were in Diapers

Babies sure are cute. But do they make good world leaders? Here’s a peek at some of history’s youngest rulers and their reigns.

1. King Oyo (Toro Kingdom, Uganda)

In 1995, Oyo became the youngest monarch in the world. He was three years old. When the coronation ceremony began, the toddler slid off the throne, ran away, and hid in his mother’s lap. Nowadays, he sits more comfortably. He rules the Toro Kingdom, a southwestern patch of Uganda that 2 million people call home. The 20-year-old oversees a cabinet and is advised by Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni.

2. Emperor Puyi (China)

China’s last emperor was one of its youngest: In 1908, Puyi became emperor at two years old. When the crowning ceremony began, Puyi (standing next to his father) had to be carried to the throne by his father. The king-to-be was scared, and he kicked, clawed, and cried the entire time. When Puyi was six years old, a revolution erupted and the Chinese dynasty crumbled.

3. Pomare III (Tahiti)

Some babies shake rattles. Others shake up politics. Pomare III did both: he became King of Tahiti at 17 months. His mother acted as his regent, but the little king didn’t last. He died at the age of five from an unknown disease and was succeeded by his 14-year-old sister.

4. Henry VI (England)

Henry VI was the bouncing baby king of not one, but two countries. In 1422, an eight-month-old Henry became England’s youngest King. Two months later, he became France’s King. He didn’t keep the latter title for long. By 1429, Joan of Arc had helped the French take the country back. England eventually lost the Hundred Years’ War, and Henry literally went insane. When he recovered, the War of the Roses erupted, and Henry landed on the losing side again. When he was 43, Henry was locked away in the Tower of London, where he eventually died.

5. Sobhuza II (Swaziland)

Sobhuza II became King of Swaziland before he could take his first step: the tyke was crowned when he was four months old. He’d keep the job for 82 years. Sobhuza II saw Swaziland gain its independence from Britain in 1968. That same year, he helped write a constitution, which he ditched in 1973. He became an absolute ruler and left behind almost 70 wives when he died.

6. Emperor Shang of Han (China)

There you are. Standing in line at the supermarket, stuck behind that mother who incessantly babbles about her child. It’s the world’s most perfect baby, she says. It will become the next Einstein, she says. It’s a pooping prodigy, she says. Well, if you’re ever cornered at register number four, just shush her by saying, “Did you know Shang of Han became Emperor of China when he was barely 100 days old? He ruled an entire country before he had any teeth!” Sure, Shang ruled for only one year before his 12-year-old cousin took over, but his resume is still more impressive than that of any supermarket super-child.

7. Tsar Ivan VI (Russia)

When he was two months old, Ivan VI was crowned Tsar of Russia. And it was all downhill from there. Ivan and his regents held power for just one year before Elizaveta Petrovna deposed them in 1741. Ivan spent 20 years in solitary confinement, moving from fortress to fortress. When Ivan was 23, he was murdered by his jail guards.

8. Mary Queen of Scots

Mary’s reign was sandwiched between two baby Kings. Her father, James, was 17 months old when he was crowned King. Her son, also James, was 13 months old when he became the Scottish ruler. Mary, however, beat them both: She became Queen of Scotland when she was six days old. Unfortunately, she was forced to hand over the Scottish crown to her son when she was only 25.

9. John I of France

John I became King of France the day he was born (his father had died four months earlier, in July 1316). Unfortunately, John’s reign was one of the shortest in history: he died five days later. His Uncle Philip, who served as regent, took over the throne. Some suspect that Philip poisoned the infant king.

10. Alfonso XIII of Spain

Alfonso XIII was born May 17, 1886. That same day, he became Spain’s King. Despite having his entire childhood to practice, Alfonso never became a good ruler. During his reign, Spain lost its last colonies, it became overrun by a military dictator, and the monarchy dissolved. Alfonso abdicated his rights to the crown in 1941 after Francisco Franco assumed control.

11. Shah Shapur II (Sassanid Empire)

Legend has it that in year 309, Persian nobles placed a crown upon the belly of King Hormizd II’s widow. Inside was history’s first fetal king: Shah Shapur II. The in utero ruler was the ninth leader of the Sassanid Empire, a powerful Persian kingdom covering modern Iran. Shapur II ruled for 70 years. In the late 4th century, he successfully ousted Christianity from the Middle East.

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Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
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Pop Culture
The Cult of Prince Philip
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images
Ralph Heimans/Buckingham Palace/PA Wire via Getty Images

For seven decades, Prince Philip has been one of the more colorful figures in Britain's Royal Family, prone to jarring remarks and quips about women, the deaf, and overweight children.

"You're too fat to be an astronaut," he once told a boy sharing his dream of space travel.

British media who delighted in quoting him are still lamenting the 96-year-old's recent retirement from public duties. But the people of the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu are likely to be optimistic he'll now have the time to join them: They worship him as a god and have based a religion on him.

Followers of the Prince Philip Movement, which started in the 1960s, believe that the prince was born to fulfill an ancient prophecy: that the son of an ancient mountain spirit would one day take the form of a pale-skinned man, travel abroad, marry a powerful lady, and eventually return to the island. When villagers saw the prince’s portrait, they felt the spirit in it, and when he visited Vanuatu in 1974, they were convinced.

Chief Jack Naiva, a respected warrior in the culture, greeted the royal yacht and caught sight of Philip on board. "I saw him standing on the deck in his white uniform," Naiva once said. "I knew then that he was the true messiah."

True believers assign large world movements to the machinations of Philip. They once claimed his powers had enabled a black man to become president of the United States and that his "magic" had assisted in helping locate Osama bin Laden. The community has corresponded with Buckingham Palace and even sent Philip a nal-nal, a traditional club for killing pigs, as a token of its appreciation. In return, he sent a portrait in which he’s holding the gift.

Sikor Natuan, the son of the local chief, holds two official portraits of Britain's Prince Philip in front of the chief's hut in the remote village of Yaohnanen on Tanna in Vanuatu.
TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images

The picture is now part of a shrine set up in Yaohnanen in Vanuatu that includes other photos and a Union flag. In May 2017, shortly after the Prince announced his retirement, a cyclone threatened the island—and its shrine. But according to Matthew Baylis, an author who has lived with the tribe, the natives didn't see this so much as a cause for concern as they did a harbinger of the prince's arrival so he can bask in their worship.

To date, Prince Philip has not announced any plans to relocate.

A version of this story ran in a 2012 issue of Mental Floss magazine.

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History
The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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