Skip to main content
A stock image of King Charles III (then Prince of Wales) at Brecon Town in Powys Mid Wales on the 4th of July 2014.

Charles III and Britain's oldest ascending monarchs

Image: Peter Rhys Williams / | Above: A photo of King Charles III (then Prince of Wales) at Brecon Town in Powys Mid Wales on the 4th of July 2014.

At the age of 73, King Charles III is one of the oldest British royals to ascend to the throne, having succeeded his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who reigned for 70 years.

Following a life of public service and charity work, King Charles III now assumes his new role as head of state, whilst also becoming the Head of the Commonwealth.

King Charles III is joined in the history books by these three other British monarchs who were also crowned in their later years.

1830: King William IV – 64 years, 308 days

Ascending the throne in 1830, William IV was almost 65 years of age when he became king. William was the third child of King George III. As the younger of the three brothers, William was not expected to sit on the British throne.

Having joined the Royal Navy at the tender age of 13, William served under the command of Horatio Nelson. He even served in the American War of Independence, where he was the target of a failed kidnap attempt orchestrated by General Washington.

Without the pressures of succession on his mind, William lived a life of much more freedom than his older brother, George IV. However, when his two brothers both passed away without leaving any heirs, the monarchy fell to William.

At the time of his reign, he had sired eight children with multiple women but didn’t have any legitimate heirs to succeed him. He ruled over Britain and the Commonwealth for a short seven years but was a much loved and respected ruler. Beloved by his people, William used his short reign to stabilise the kingdom, ready for his niece, Victoria, to succeed him.

1901: King Edward VII – 59 years, 73 days

Born Albert, Edward VII was the eldest son and second child of Queen Victoria. ‘Bertie’ was the heir apparent to the throne for nearly 60 years. He had dedicated his life to serving as the Prince of Wales, undertaking royal visits and engagements on behalf of the crown. Until recently, Edward VII claimed the title of the longest living heir apparent in British history. King Charles III now holds that honour.

Acceding in 1901, he chose to reign in the name of Edward because he didn’t want to diminish the weight of his father's legacy. Ruling for less than a decade, Edward VII did not let his late age affect his short tenure as King. Like his great uncle, William IV, he utilised his reign to create a strong and stable foundation in the kingdom ready for the rule of his eldest son, George V.

Having been a prolific smoker throughout his life, the final years of Edward’s life were marked with ill health. Despite his worsening bronchitis, dizzy spells and difficulty breathing, Albert continued to work late into the night of his death.

1820: King George IV – 57 years, 169 days

When George IV ascended the throne in January 1820, he was no stranger to the power that came with the crown. Having ruled on and off as Prince Regent since 1811 due to his father’s bouts of poor mental health, when George IV finally became king at the age of 58, his own health was less than ideal.

He had lived a life of excesses and extravagance that became synonymous with the regency era, making him unpopular with his people. Despite living through a time of relative global peace, the public viewed George as a drunken, lazy and lecherous old man. When he died ten years later at the age of 68, little sorrow was shown for the monarch's passing. The Times even printed a scathing summary of his rule, stating:

"There never was an individual less regretted by his fellow-creatures than this deceased king. What eye has wept for him? What heart has heaved one throb of unmercenary sorrow? ... If he ever had a friend – a devoted friend in any rank of life – we protest that the name of him or her never reached us."