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.