26

A similar question was asked about only British monarchs. The conditions in this question are the same, but for monarchs world-wide.

For the sake of this question, tribal chiefs are not considered monarchs, even if all hundred members of his tribe called him king. The monarch must be a ruler of a state which is recognized as a state by at least some other states.

It is important that he must have been the monarch at the time of the battle, otherwise current British princes will become eligible to this position in the foreseeable future. He also must have been an armed participant (even if he didn't use his weapons), and also not an accidental one (so if the capital is besieged and he just so happens to be in the palace at that moment without taking part in the military actions, it doesn't count).

If the monarch turns out to not be a Western (European or American) one, then I'm also interested in the last Western monarch to participate in a battle.

  • @Semaphore : ... and presidents, dictators, and general secretaries can also be recognized as rulers of a state. I wanted to narrow it down on actual monarchs. – vsz Dec 3 '14 at 21:09
  • ...which means that "must be a ruler of a [recognised] state" is not really a helpful qualification. Hence my previous comment. – Semaphore Dec 3 '14 at 21:14
  • What if the monarch has just visited the front, like a commander? Should he shoot or be under fire or lead an attacK? – Anixx Dec 3 '14 at 21:16
  • If you think the second sentence can cause confusion, I can gladly remove it. – vsz Dec 3 '14 at 21:16
  • @Anixx : were there such occasions, where the monarch just visited? I guess Napoleon would count as a valid answer if there was nobody more recent, as he took an active role on the battlefield. I don't want it to become a heap paradox, this is why I didn't try to formulate even more elaborate rules. If a reasonable person might think that he "participated", without bending linguistics too much, than I'll gladly accept it. – vsz Dec 3 '14 at 21:19

11 Answers 11

21

King Haakon VII of Norway was present in active combat zones during the German invasion of Norway in 1940.

King Michael I of Romania was head of state and the official military commander in chief of Romania from 1940 to 1944, although he did not direct the fighting. In 1944 he staged an armed coup, ousting military dictator Ion Antonescu. If you consider that action to be a battle, he might qualify as the last actual European king to fight in battle.

In terms of an actual battle commander and fighter, the last "king" in Europe is probably Miklos Horthy, who was titled a "Regent", very similar to a king. Horthy was a military hero who commanded both large ground and naval forces throughout World War II and was wounded in battle. Even though he was technically a regent for Charles IV, Hungary was, at that time, still a kingdom, so he was effectively the King of Hungary, especially considering that Charles had died many years before.

In terms of post-war kings, few have had to fight large battles because of the general peacefulness of world. The most active and recent king is probably King Gyanendra of Nepal (picture below) who was deposed in 2008 and fought the Maoist insurgency for years in Nepal.

King Gyanendra

27

During the First World War, King Albert I of Belgium assumed personal command of the Belgian Armed Forces.

He wasn't just visiting the front - he went into the fields with his troops and commanded them in the fighting, including at the pivotal Battle of the Yser. I don't know if this counts as "taking part in military actions" - it kind of depends on whether one interprets that as physically fighting vs being a frontline commander. Though according to Wikipedia German troops refrained from shooting him, which would suggest he was rather in the thick of it.

At any rate, afterwards King Albert stayed and continued to direct the Yser Front until the end of the war (while the Belgian government evacuated to France). In 1918 the King commanded the Belgian wing of the Allied Hundred Days Offensive, including the Fifth Battle of Ypres. This is just a few months after peace on the Eastern Front.

  • Which link mentions not shooting him and about where in, is it found? (You basically linked all of History 101...;) – Mazura Dec 4 '14 at 6:38
  • @Mazura The first link. As that sentence says, "... according to Wikipedia ..." - I have no idea if it is remotely true, though. – Semaphore Dec 4 '14 at 6:49
  • There is much speculation on whether Albert I of Belgium actually took part in these battles at all. First there are a number of documents that show there was an agreement between the previous monarch and Germany not to declare war. Furthermore there are speculations Albert I was forced by the Belgian government to continu war. I live in the town where Albert I is said to have managed the remaining part of Belgium. The only story one hears is that he had promised to reward engineers that explored the Yser and he didn't kept his promise. Most stories on monarchs are propaganda I think. – Willem Van Onsem Mar 28 '15 at 16:47
6

Does this count (North Yemen)?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_al-Badr

5

Apperently Michael II of Romania visited the positions as well diring WWII. Whether it counts depends on what you consider participation in battle

enter image description here enter image description here

  • 3
    The question stipulates that the monarch must be an "armed participant": merely visiting the front doesn't seem to count. – David Richerby Dec 4 '14 at 1:01
  • @David Richerby he most likely was armed. Or it is required that the monarch was shooting? – Anixx Dec 4 '14 at 1:03
  • He's not visibly armed. And was he participating or merely observing? – David Richerby Dec 4 '14 at 1:08
  • 3
    @David Richerby what one has to do to be participationg? Shoot himself? Did Napoleon shoot himself or was he merely observing? – Anixx Dec 4 '14 at 1:35
  • 1
    Hitler shot himself – Clint Eastwood Dec 4 '14 at 18:49
5

I think, the question is simply too broad for a definitive answer.

What is a "reigning monarch" and what defines a "battle"? A friend of mine has been working as an MD at a missionary hospital in Papua New-Guinea. There are still wars between tribes and they have chieftains. Does a chieftain count as "reigning monarch" and do those conflicts count as "battles"? If so, then the answer is: They still do. The same for the ISIS. Do their commanders count as "reigning monarchs"? They call themselves like that and most were, at least at the beginning, involved in battles.

If we limit it to European monarchs, then you have already a number of answers to choose from. If we don't, however, we need clearer definitions of what we talk: What counts as "battle"? Who counts as "reigning monarch" and what is meant by "participate in battle"?

  • 3
    This is the most accurate answer. – user5001 Dec 4 '14 at 17:12
  • 1
    Well, I wouldn't call it "accurate" as it doesn't really point to any answer covered by the question. It rather tries to point out the weak points of the question ;) But thanks anyway. – Patric Hartmann Dec 5 '14 at 14:34
4

Nicolas II of Russia has repeatedly visited front during WWI.

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

  • 3
    The question stipulates that the monarch must be an "armed participant": merely visiting the front doesn't seem to count. – David Richerby Dec 4 '14 at 1:02
  • @David Richerby in the first photo it is clearly visible that he was armed. – Anixx Dec 4 '14 at 1:04
  • 2
    Do ceremonial weapons count? Was he a participant? For example, President Bush visited the troops in Iraq at least once but I wouldn't say he was "participating" in the war. – David Richerby Dec 4 '14 at 1:07
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    Dude, I don't have a precise definition. There's no precise definition in the question. Yes, shooting somebody would obviously count. To my mind, just showing up, saying "Hey, guys, I'm the king, keep up the good work" and leaving again doesn't. The boundary is vague and somewhere between the two. What did he actually do? – David Richerby Dec 4 '14 at 11:52
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    This comment tips the balance; if the boundary is vague, then the question should be closed as opinion based. – Mark C. Wallace Dec 4 '14 at 16:41
3

If a coup d'état counts as a battle (60 deaths during that day), then this case is quite recent:

President Allende of Chile was victim of a military coup d'état on 1973. During the coup he actually shot his gun (an AK-47) while defending the presidential palace. Finally he killed himself that same day. The siege of the presidential palace lasted five hours.

The Wikipedia page of that event shows the information as a battle.

  • I'm not sure Allende was a monarch – Mark C. Wallace Sep 23 '16 at 16:50
  • @MarkC.Wallace he was trying to become one, but the coup foiled his designs. – KorvinStarmast Sep 23 '16 at 22:11
  • @KorvinStarmast That's a (highly) non-trivial asseritoon that would have to be supporyed in the answer itself. – Spencer Mar 12 '17 at 17:28
  • @Spencer Modern Monarch are autocrats, such as Kim in Korea and Assad in Syria. Passing it down ... – KorvinStarmast Mar 12 '17 at 21:45
  • @KorvinStarmast Maybe, but it's unsupported opinion whether this applies to Allende or not. Anyway, the answer as it is still doesn't answer the question. – Spencer Mar 12 '17 at 21:58
2

Gustav II Adolf of Sweden was killed in a cavalry charge, in 1632. Charles XII was killed in battle in 1718. I'm not saying he was the last monarch to see battle action. What counts here is that modern warfare already dawned. They themselves are reputed for major innovations in the way war is waged, and for building one of the most advanced armies of their time - that of Sweden. We are dealing with the age when the officer corps took a distinct form from the rest of the army. The nobles started assuming the roles of officer. Their sphere of combat activity crossed less and less from that of the rank and file. In the feudal age, the nobles and common soldiers fought side to side because the army did not form a disciplined body, so there was no need of officers. If there is no such thing as a specialized officer corps, the idea of a monarch active in battle isn't such shocking a thing. Only if a nation has an advanced military organization, such as Britain in the XX century, the idea sticks out. King Charles, for whom the role of officer already supplanted completely that of soldier, was killed in 1718, so my best guess is that no later than the XVIII century the last Western monarch participated in a battle directly. Charles XII was quite atypical, in the sense that he had a disdain for pain, and loved war very much, which made him ignore the custom of his time.

Even the fact that Macedon fought personally is quite shocking, since his basic role was that of a tactician - he who thinks and motivates (as opposed to he who acts), and the military organization of his age admitted well the idea of a non-combatant commander.

You should consider that monarchs stopped fighting personally when the risk of being killed stopped being correlated with the amount of protection they received. In pre-gunpowder warfare, the best set of armor, the best horse and several hundred hand-picked warriors - the best of the realm - forming besides you - dropped the chance of you being killed by at least 95%. Once gunpowder changed the nature of war, this reduction became a mere, say, 5%. No matter how well the leader was protected, it was still relatively easy for him getting killed. If Charles died in 1718, and if he was the last to be killed, he most certainly was one of the very last to fight, since if you fought, chances were 95% you got killed.

  • I think Charles XII was a participant unwillingly, possibly, his staff place was attacked after the army defeated. It is like a monarch killed after his capitol captured or bombed. – Anixx Dec 4 '14 at 23:20
  • 3
    Andrei Albu - Charles XII was definitely not the last reigning European monarch to lead in battle. King Louis XV of France (died 1774) and King George II of Great Britain (died 1760) also led in battle. Napoleon commanded many battles as Emperor. – M.A. Golding Jul 24 '16 at 4:12
  • @MAGolding: The question actually says "participated in battle" (but then qualifies with need not have used weapons). Charles XII fought personally on several occasions. He may have been the last king to do that. – Tomas By Dec 28 '18 at 22:22
1

In Europe the Italian War of 1859 had several battles with one or more monarchs present and more or less commanding their forces and taking the chance that if things went wrong they might have to fight enemies with guns or swords.

At the Battle of Magenta 4 June 1859 King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia and French Emperor Napoleon III were present.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Magenta1

At the Battle of Solferino 24 June 1859 King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia and French Emperor Napoleon III and Austrian Emperor Franz Josef were present.

It was the last major battle in world history where all the armies were under the personal command of their monarchs.2

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Solferino3

In Africa, Sultan Abd ar-Rahman Gaourang II of Bagirmi (reigned 1885-1918) and the famous warlord Rabih az-Zubair (c. 1842-1900) lead their armies in several battles.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaourang_II_of_Bagirmi4

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabih_az-Zubayr5

Rabih invaded and conquered Bagirmi in 1893. Rabih then invaded the large though declining empire of Bornu in 1893. He conquered and ruled Bornu for years and modernized the government.

Rabih was sufficiently recognized by European powers that in 1898-1900 France sent three separate invasion forces against him. The Foureau-Lamy Mission marched south from Algeria, the Voulet-Chanoine Mission marched east from Senegal, and the Bretonnet and Gentil Missions moved north from the French Congo.

At the Battle of Togbao July 17, 1899 the Bretonnet Mission with 5 Frenchmen, 66 African soldiers, and Sultan Abd ar-Rahman Gaourang II with 400 Bagirmi warriors fought Rabih with 2,700 riflemen and 10,000 lancers and bowmen. Gauorang was wounded but escaped with most of his men and the Bretonnet Mission was wiped out. Three cannon were captured by Rabih.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Togbao6

Rabih repulsed the Gentil expedition with 344 soldiers and 5 cannons at Kouno on August 16, 1899.

Gentil ordered now to attack the palissade with a bayonet assault, that was repelled after hard fighting by Rabih in person with only a few hundred men still resisting around him.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kouno7

The Foureau-Lamy Mission and the remains of the Voulet-Chanoine Mission under Paul Joalland united in March 1900 and captured the village of Kousseri from Rabih on 3 March. The Gentile mission arrived on April 21 and on April 22 Rabih fought the French at the Battle of Kousseri.

There were about 700 French soldiers plus Sultan Gaourang II with 600 riflemen and 200 cavalry on one side and 10,000 infantry and cavalry with firearms plus numerous auxiliaries with lances and bows on Rabih's side. Rabih was defeated and killed while trying to flee.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kouss%C3%A9ri2

Thus the last European monarch to fight, or at least command, in battle must have been in or after 1859, and the last monarch in the world to to fight, or at least command, in battle must have been on 22 April 1900 or later.

-1

For Europeans, I think the battle of Waterloo might be the most recent example, in which the French army was led by French emperor Napolean, as commanding general, and Dutch King William I was a leading general on the side of the Allies.

  • 2
    Don't you mean William II? If so, he only became King William II in 1840, 25 years after Waterloo. Therefore, he wasn't a reigning monarch at the time of the battle. – Steve Bird Sep 25 '16 at 20:25
  • IIRC, during the Battle of Waterloo the Duke of Wellington was told the artillery had a good shot at Napoleon. The Duke's answer was - "It is not the business of general officers to be shooting each other." – TheHonRose Sep 25 '16 at 22:46
-1

Many monarchs still remain the supreme commander of a kingdom's armed forces. While they have been trained as officers and commanders the title is mostly ceremonial. However if we go back a hundred years the title wasn't ceremonial. They mostly participated as much as any such a high ranking general/field marshal would. This still was carried on in ww2 even though the number of monarchs had drastically declined. Even those few that sometime found themselves in proximity to the front line wasn't directly commanding those troops, they had the overall command and units followed the command hierarchy. Commanding armies engaged in combat is tecnically participating as one takes part in it. After all, a battle isn't just fought in the trenches.

  • 2
    This doesn't add anything that isn't in other answers and doesn't really answer the question. – KillingTime Mar 12 '17 at 11:53

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