Meet The World's Oldest Living Royals

With the best healthcare money can buy and loyal aides closely monitoring their every move, royals the world over are known for their longevity. It's therefore not out of the ordinary to see an esteemed aristocrat reach their late 90s or even celebrate their 100th birthday (and then some). 

Prince Philip, for instance, may have lived to 99, but he was by no means the oldest British royal of all time. Similarly, Queen Elizabeth II's death came as a shock; although she reached the grand old age of 96, many expected her to attain a similar centurial status as her mother, who died in 2002 aged 101. Perhaps this image of the death-defying monarch is shaped by public perceptions of the royals as otherworldly figures who are seemingly thus free from the frailties that afflict ordinary folk.

The same can be said for the aristocratic class across the globe. With 26 countries still maintaining constitutional monarchies, extreme old age is a phenomenon mirrored to varying degrees. Though members of many international dynasties enjoy lengthy and prosperous lives, their endurance is often contentious due to the disparity in quality of life seen among ordinary citizens. According to research by Bayes Business School, royals live 26% longer than the average person, something that other studies have attributed to a combination of good genes and better quality of life, including a more varied diet and regular exercise. These royals are proof that 90 is the new 80.

Beatrix of the Netherlands (age 85)

While the late Queen Elizabeth II was evidently never interested in giving up the throne so that King Charles III could succeed her, the same cannot be said for Beatrix of the Netherlands. After 33 years as queen, Beatrix abdicated to allow her son, Willem-Alexander, to take over in 2013. Born in 1938, Beatrix lived through WWII, during which time her parents took her to the United Kingdom, followed by Canada, to shield her from the horrors of war. In 1980, she ascended the throne following the abdication of her own mother, Queen Juliana. But her coronation was controversial, with protests sweeping the nation in opposition to public spending on lavish events at a time when homelessness was rife.

During her lengthy reign, she suffered a number of tragic losses. In 2002, her husband, Prince Claus, died aged 76 following a history of Parkinson's disease, heart problems, and depression. Then, in 2013, she suffered another blow when her 44-year-old son, Prince Friso, died 18 months after a catastrophic skiing accident left him comatose. She had reportedly visited her ailing son every weekend in the hospital before he succumbed to his injuries.

According to the 2021 documentary "Beatrix: The Queen Who Gave Up The Crown" (via Express), Beatrix found solace in fellow elderly royal Queen Elizabeth II, with the two women reportedly suffering from loneliness as the years passed them by. "They're united by being quite lonely at the top," said journalist Tina Adebayo.

Juan Carlos I of Spain (age 85)

Juan Carlos I of Spain abdicated so that his son, Felipe VI, could ascend the throne. The royal, who was born in 1938, gave up his monarchical duties in 2014 after spending just shy of 40 years in power. Despite enjoying a long reign free from controversy (for the most part), he was embroiled in a number of scandals toward the end of his tenure as king. 

In 2020, he faced allegations of historic misuse of public money. As reported by Politico, he went on luxury trophy-hunting vacations while Spain was suffering from the aftermath of a recession, allegedly sent $100 million (originally gifted by Saudi royals) to his rumored lover, and apparently hid away millions in untaxed funds. Subsequently, he went into exile in Abu Dhabi. Two years later, he re-emerged in Spain, albeit fleetingly, to a frosty reception. "This is someone who did a very good job, politically, and then at the end of his reign made a series of terrible personal and professional mistakes," royal author Ana Romero told Politico. "[In Spain] he is not having to pay a legal price for what he has done, but there are things that he has to pay for morally."

Despite his advanced age, Juan has apparently enjoyed an active love life. In 2021, The Times reported that the Spanish secret service administered hormones to diminish his libido, which was apparently causing issues for the state.

Harald V of Norway (age 86)

Born in 1937, King Harald V has ruled Norway since 1991. Harald has close ties to the British royal family; he is second cousins with the late Queen Elizabeth II and expressed his immense sorrow when she died in 2022. But while the Windsor clan typically plays by the rules — save for the rebellious Prince Harry — Harald has been known to break royal tradition. In 1968, he caused quite a stir when he wed Queen Sonja, then known as Sonja Haraldsen, as she was a commoner. But the couple has enjoyed a happy marriage for over 50 years, proudly defying convention.

Following a long reign relatively free from calamity, the king was united in grief with the nation following the July 2011 terror attacks, in which white supremacist Anders Breivik murdered 77 people. In an interview with The New York Times that year, Harald reflected on presiding over a nation in mourning. "I felt very helpless, really," he said. "All these families who had either just got someone back from this or had just got the message that they weren't coming back; it was a very strange atmosphere. Wherever you turned there were people in grief."

He may be approaching 90, but the king has championed progressive causes in recent years, showing solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and refugees. In 2021, he marked 30 years as king, though he's been unable to perform many of his duties of late due to ill health.

Queen Sonja of Norway (age 86)

King Harald V's wife, Queen Sonja, is also an elderly royal, having been born in 1937. Initially a reluctant queen, Sonja admitted that she used to regret her decision to devote herself to a life of royal duties. "When adversity comes, one wishes one had chosen differently, but that is how it is for everyone," she revealed in the book "Norway's First Ladies" (via Hello!). But in addition to serving her country, she has always made time for her own hobbies and interests.

An avowed lover of the arts, she founded an art scholarship in 2011. Now in her late 80s, she is showing no signs of slowing down, having opened her own gallery in 2021.

Despite enjoying a royal career generally free from contention, she generated headlines in 2022 when she claimed that Americans have little understanding of the importance of the monarchy. The remarks were made in reference to her daughter, Princess Märtha Louise, leaving royal duties behind in order to be with her boyfriend, American conspiracy theorist and self-styled shaman Durek Verrett. "Americans have no idea what a kingdom is. So it's no wonder he doesn't realize," she said at a press conference (via Hello!). "Americans don't understand the bearing of this here. They don't. He thought he could do whatever he wanted without compromising us at all." However, she did add that she is happy for her daughter and gets on well with Verrett despite their differing opinions and values.

Princess Alexandra of Kent (age 86)

Princess Alexandra of Kent, aka the Honourable Lady Ogilvy, is Queen Elizabeth II's first cousin (her father, the Duke of Kent, was King George VI's brother). Born in 1936, the octogenarian aristocrat has led a colorful life, having lived through a world war and two coronations.

She shared a close bond with Elizabeth, who gifted her clothing during WWII. "They were very kind to me, my cousins — I think it was Princess Elizabeth mainly — they let me have one or two of their dresses," she revealed in the documentary "Elizabeth At 90 – A Family Tribute" (via the Daily Mail). At 11, she was a bridesmaid at Elizabeth and Prince Philip's 1947 wedding. Years later, in 1963, the queen's 13-year-old daughter Anne would serve as a bridesmaid at Alexandra and Angus Ogilvy's nuptials. Sadly, she would outlive her husband by two decades, with Angus dying in 2004, aged 76, due to complications from throat cancer. Poignantly, he died the day after his wife's 68th birthday.

Having been a working royal for most of her life, Alexandra was always ready to help out whenever Elizabeth needed her to step in for royal duties. For instance, when the queen began suffering from mobility issues and ill health in 2022, Alexandra took her place at the Buckingham Palace Garden Party. "Alexandra was the closest thing that the Queen had to a sister," reflected royal expert Daisy McAndrew in the documentary "Princess Alexandra: The Queen's Confidante" (via Express).

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (age 87)

Prince Edward has enjoyed considerable longevity. Born in 1935, he inherited the title of Duke of Kent when he was just 7, following the untimely wartime death of his father, Prince George.

As with Alexandra, Edward was tirelessly loyal to his cousin, Queen Elizabeth II. On numerous occasions throughout the queen's reign, he supported her with the utmost devotion. He paid homage at her 1953 coronation, a role that the then-teenager found daunting. "My chief anxiety was that I would forget my lines," he wrote in his memoir, "A Royal Life." "I had been given the impression that I had to remember them so I had learned them by heart." Over half a century later, he stood by the queen's side on the balcony of Buckingham Palace at the Trooping of the Colour in 2022, exemplifying his unyielding duty.

Edward has proven himself a highly resilient royal. In 2013, the then 77-year-old suffered a stroke. However, a spokesperson revealed that the elderly duke was already on the road to recovery. "My understanding is he's feeling well and looking forward to resuming official engagements as soon as possible," they said, per The Herald Scotland. To this day, he continues his princely duties. In 2022, he became the only royal to walk the funeral procession for both the queen and King George VI. The following year, he attended King Charles III's coronation, having done the same for Charles' mother 70 years earlier.

Michiko, Empress of Japan (age 88)

As the wife of the former Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko served Japan from 1989 until 2019, when her son, Naruhito, took over monarchical duties. A member of the Imperial House of Japan, the oldest monarchy in the world, she was born in 1934 and wed Akihito in 1959. The marriage caused a scandal due to the couple's differing social status; although Michiko is the daughter of a millionaire industrialist, she was regarded as a commoner, with traditionalists arguing that royal marriages should always be arranged. There were even death threats made against her family at the time.

Eventually, however, the public came to embrace Michiko and she became a popular figure, lauded for defying stuffy convention. In 2009, Japan celebrated Michiko and Akihito's 50th wedding anniversary. "Fifty years ago when I left an ordinary family to join the new environment of the imperial family, my heart was filled with uncertainty and anxiety," Michiko said, per Reuters. "For me to be here today by his majesty's side, welcoming our golden wedding anniversary, truly seems to be as if in a dream."

Though she suffered some setbacks during her reign — namely a number of stress-related ailments — Michiko is still going strong. In October 2022, she celebrated her 88th birthday and it was reported by Kyodo News that she still keeps up her daily routine despite a diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis some months prior.

Akihito, Emperor of Japan (age 89)

In 2019, Akihito became the first Japanese emperor to abdicate in 200 years. During his 30-year reign, he was a progressive figure. In keeping with Japan's postwar pacifist stance, he devoted much of his sovereignty to educating others on the perniciousness of ultranationalism, having lived through WWII as a youngster. "That time produced in him strong feelings against war and its chaos. You could call it a hatred of war," his childhood friend, Mototsugu Akashi, told NPR. Notably, he refused to ever visit the Yasukuni shrine, a memorial in Tokyo, as it has long been deemed a commendation of war criminals. On the 70th anniversary of the Surrender of Japan in 2015, he expressed deep remorse over the country's war crimes.

Following his abdication, he implored the young people of Japan to never forget the carnage that occurred during WWII. "It is important not to forget that countless lives were lost in the second world war," he said, per The Guardian. "And that the peace and prosperity of postwar Japan was built upon the numerous sacrifices and tireless efforts made by the Japanese people, and to pass on this history accurately to those born after the war."

In 2022, he turned 89, and while he may be close to 100, Akihito enjoys all his usual pastimes. Namely, he is continuing with his lifelong research into goby fish and, in 2021, discovered two new varieties while studying at the Biological Laboratory at the Imperial Palace.

Albert II of Belgium (age 89)

Albert II reigned as King of Belgium from 1993 to 2013. Though born into privilege, he didn't have the easiest start in life. Born in June 1934, his mother, Queen Astrid, was killed in a car accident a little over a year later. She was just 29. Then, he lived through the horrors of war when he was a young boy, having been deported from Belgium to Germany in 1944.

After his childless brother, King Baudouin, died on vacation in Spain in 1993, Albert was crowned king. His reign was blighted by scandal. In 1999, there were allegations that he fathered a lovechild, Delphine Boel, with noblewoman Sybille, Baroness de Selys Longchamps, with whom he reportedly had an affair in the '60s. When she attempted to track her father down, Boel claimed that the king rebuked her. "You must never call me again," he allegedly said, per The Independent. "I want to hear nothing of this whole thing any more. Besides, you are not my daughter." In 2020, a DNA test confirmed that Albert is indeed Boel's father.

Due to ill health, the then 79-year-old Albert abdicated in 2013, with his son, King Philippe, taking over. "I realize that my age and my health are no longer allowing me to carry out my duties as I would like to," he said, per the BBC. His health has continued to decline since then and he was hospitalized with dehydration and a blood infection in June 2023.

Katharine, Duchess of Kent (age 90)

The wife of Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, Katharine, Duchess of Kent celebrated her 90th birthday in February 2023 and is currently the oldest living British royal. Due to health problems (she has chronic fatigue syndrome), Katharine left royal duties behind in 1996. Since then, she has opted to remain inconspicuous, so the aforementioned birthday celebrations marked a rare public appearance for the otherwise media-shy duchess. But a lack of public sightings doesn't mean that Katharine hasn't been living a full and enriched life.

A lifelong lover of music, Katharine is proof that it's never too late to embark on a new career path. In 1996, the then 63-year-old did just that when she became a music teacher at a state-funded school. "When I was teaching the first thing I began to notice was the power of music as a stimulant to these children to give them confidence and self-belief. I began to see that happen all the time," she revealed on "The Alan Titchmarsh Show" (via The Telegraph) in 2011.

In an interview with The Telegraph in 2022, she addressed speculation that she had become a recluse after opting out of royal life. Rather, Katharine explained, she simply wanted a more normal existence away from the spotlight. "There was nothing that I felt I wanted to hide away from ... I was supported through it as well," she said. "The Queen said: 'Yes, go and do it,' so I did."

Sirikit, the Queen Mother of Thailand (age 90)

Formerly the Queen of Thailand, Sirikit was married to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for 70 years. When her husband died in 2016, her son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, took over kingly duties and Sirikit became the Queen Mother of Thailand.

Born in 1932, the nonagenarian is a much-loved figure and is particularly popular among her Buddhist country's Muslim minority. Thai royals are typically expected to steer clear of politics, but Sirikit broke royal protocol in 2004 when she made a plea for violence catalyzed by the South Thailand insurgency to end. Then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra declared that Muslims were responsible for the violence, claims that were disputed by Muslim groups, who accused the PM of Islamophobia. On her 87th birthday (the Queen Mother's birthday is also Mother's Day in Thailand) in 2019, tributes poured in for Sirikit via the "Celebrate Your One-in-a-Million Love Mom" event at the Siam Paragon Mall. The exhibit commemorated Sirikit's efforts to help marginalized communities, as well as her cultural, scientific, and artistic endeavors.

Since 2012, Sirikit has mostly shied away from public life due to a series of health problems. In 2016, the palace released a statement (via Reuters) revealing that she had been suffering from "insufficient blood in the brain." She was hospitalized with flu-like symptoms in 2019, though she was discharged after making a marked improvement. Despite these health concerns, in August 2022 she made a rare public appearance in celebration of her 90th birthday.

Princess Marianne Bernadotte, Countess of Wisborg (age 98)

Prior to becoming a member of the Swedish Royal Family, Princess Marianne Bernadotte was an actor at the Royal Dramatic Theater in Stockholm. It was there she caught the gaze of Prince Sigvard Bernadotte of Sweden. He made Marianne his third wife in 1961, despite opposition to the actor not being a descendant of nobility (the prince's previous wives were also commoners). The couple was married for over 40 years until Sigvard died in 2002, aged 94.

Born in 1924, Marianne became a popular royal after tying the knot with the prince. Lauded for her sense of style, she was frequently photographed sporting high-end designer ensembles and was fond of Pierre Balmain, with whom she was close friends. In 2017 there was even an exhibition at Millesgården Museum in Lidingö, dedicated to her iconic outfits. In addition to Marianne's sartorial interests, she has devoted much of her life to philanthropic endeavors, mostly efforts to help those with dyslexia. All the while, she has remained down to earth. "I never call myself princess," she told The New York Times in 2010. "But the people who know the circumstances call me that." 

Approaching her 100th birthday, Marianne opened up about her longevity in an interview with NewsBeezer in 2019. "I do not do anything special," she explained. "I hate going out and going for a walk, but I spend a lot of time with friends and my family and I'm not very alone."

Yuriko, Princess Mikasa of Japan (age 100)

Yuriko, Princess Mikasa is the great aunt of Emperor Naruhito of Japan. Born in 1923, she was married to Takahito, Prince Mikasa from 1941 until his death, aged 100, in 2016. After 75 years of marriage, she was at her husband's side when he died. One of the oldest living royals in the world, Yuriko has been involved in various charitable causes throughout the years, lending her name to the Japanese Red Cross and the Imperial Gift Foundation, where she previously served as president. 

Her old age has come at a price, though. She has outlived all three of her sons, and has just two surviving children, both daughters. Suffering from heart failure and pneumonia, she was hospitalized in 2020 but made a swift recovery. In 2022, she contracted and survived COVID-19. It was reported that, despite her advanced age, she was only experiencing mild symptoms.

Her endurance has been attributed to a regular but gentle exercise regime and a plethora of hobbies, including reading, watching TV, and a passion for baseball. In June 2023, she celebrated her 100th birthday. "Today, I was able to reach the milestone of 100 years old, over 80 years after joining the imperial family at the age of 18," she said in a statement, per Japan Times. "I would like to continue spending my days while praying for people's happiness."

Marianne, Princess zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn of Germany (age 103)

The oldest living royal is Marianne, Princess zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn. Born in 1919, the Austrian noblewoman is the daughter of Baron and Baroness Mayr-Melnhof. She became a princess in 1942 when she wed Prince Ludwig zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn. 

By no means an idle aristocrat, Marianne fell in love with photography as a tween, having been encouraged to pursue her passion by her British governess. "If you are intent upon pursuing such an expensive pastime, then make sure to paste the photos properly into an album," was the advice the governess gave the young Marianne, per Porsche. Having been an adult during the outbreak of WWII, she used her protected upper-class status to immerse herself in her passion, chronicling life during wartime through portraits of children.

Thereafter, she mingled with the elites of the art and fashion world, befriending the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Andy Warhol while attending glitzy events both at home and abroad. In 2000, she released a photography book, "Mamarazza" (named so after a nickname given to her by Princess Caroline of Monaco), which details her high society dalliances across the globe. Though over a century old, she remains as stylish as ever; in 2018, she was snapped draped in jewels and finery as she downed a glass of wine on her birthday, partying like she was 99 (via Getty Images).