A List of the Greatest Ever Monarchs

Some months ago, I was arguing with a young deluded colleague about the greatest monarchs of history, and about the ludicrous names he advanced for this signal honour. Though I had given some names, it was much later that I thought that there should be a list of such renowned royalty to set the record straight, as well as accord recognition to the “worthies” on pattern of Dr Brewer and his list.

But as it happens, with one thing and other, the list kept of getting delayed. The methodology was also a problem. What makes a monarch great? Is it due to their deeds in their rule or the effect they have on history, even posthumously? Can you categorise them so due to any one single  act that make them immortal or should you base judgment on their cumulative life and reign? Should they be conquerors, administrators, or reformers?

Having considered these parameters, I resolved to use a mixture of all of them in my list. There are some whose place in posterity has been guaranteed by the suffix “the Great” succeeding generations have conferred on them, while some live on in public memories due to a specific attribute of their character. My list is a combination of all these, but I will explain later.

Here is the bare list, just to draw attention to these magnificent monarchs of the past, whose legend owes itself to a magnificent singular act, a series of such acts in their illustrious lives or the effect they had on the following decades and centuries, in some cases, lasting to our day and age. Further details about each of these will follow subsequently…. I shall endeavour not to delay it as much as is in my power.

So here is a list of 13 of the greatest monarchs of all time. I welcome debate on it.

Cyrus II of Persia, founder of the Achaemenid Empire (r. 559 BC – December 530 BC)

Trajan, Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus Augustus, Roman Emperor (r.28 January 98 –9 August 117)

Hārūn ar-Rashīd, the fifth Arab Abbasid Caliph, (r.14 September 786 – 24 March 809)

Alp Arslan,  the third sultan of the Great Seljuq Empire (r. 27 April 1064-15 December 1072)

Vladimir II Monomakh, a Velikiy Kniaz or Grand Prince of Kievan Rus (r.1113-1125)

Suleiman I, the Magnificent or Kānūnī Sultān Suleimān, the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, (r. 30 September 1520-5/6 September 1566)

Jalāl ud-Dīn Muhammad Akbar, the third Mughal Emperor, (r. 14 February 1556- 27 October 1605)

Peter the Great, Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov, (r. 7 May 1682 – 8 February 1725)

Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor from 1765 to 1790 and ruler of the Habsburg lands from 1780 to 1790 (r.18 Aug 1765 – 20 February 1790)

Asaf-ud-Daulah, the fourth Nawab Wazir al-Mamalik Khan Bahadur of Awadh, (r. 26 January 1775 to 21 September 1797)

James Brooke, the first White Rajah of Sarawak, (r. 18 August 1842 – 11 June 1868)

Mutsuhito, the Emperor Meiji, the 122nd emperor of Japan (according to the traditional order of succession), (r. 3 February 1867-30 July 1912)

Rezā Shāh, also known as Rezā Shāh Pahlavi or and Rezā Shāh Kabir, the Shah of the Imperial State of Iran (r. 15 December, 1925-16 September, 1941)


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Deluded Young Colleague on May 9, 2012 at 12:18

    No Alexander, Ashok, or Babur? Far from enlightening, your list makes one boil.


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