The Queen of the United Kingdom and 15 other Commonwealth realms, Queen Elizabeth II is the world's oldest living monarch and longest-reigning current monarch. The first child of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother , she ascended to the throne in 1952. Despite the press criticism of the royal family, she continues to be a popular figure in UK.
The last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and the last true pharaoh of Egypt, Cleopatra is described as an extremely beautiful woman who was also intelligent and educated with command over numerous languages. Her romance and military alliances with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony have inspired numerous art works.
The Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for over six decades, Queen Victoria reigned for longer than any of her predecessors. Her rule witnessed the vast expansion of the British Empire and ushered in a period of industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military changes. Her Golden and Diamond Jubilees were celebrated with great pomp and show.
Counted amongst the greatest military commanders of all times, Alexander the Great successfully created one of the largest empires—from Macedonia to Persia and India—of the ancient world. The son of King of Macedonia, Philip II, he ascended the throne at the age of 20 and achieved unprecedented success before he died at the age of 33.
Julius Caesar is considered one of the greatest military commanders in history and played an important role in the events that led to the downfall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. He assumed control of the government after a civil war. He was assassinated by rebel senators on the Ides of March, 44 BC.
The founder and first Great Khan and Emperor of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan is often considered to be the greatest conqueror of all time. A brutal ruler, he enjoyed exceptional military successes and occupied a substantial portion of Central Asia and China. Besides his military accomplishments, he is also credited with revitalizing the Mongol Empire's writing system.
Mary, Queen of Scots was the ruler of Scotland till 24 July 1567. After an uprising against her, Mary sought protection from her first cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England. However, the Queen perceived her as a threat and kept Mary in confinement for eighteen and a half years. Ultimately Mary was beheaded for plotting to assassinate the Queen.
The Empress of Russia for almost 35 years, Catherine the Great was the country's longest-ruling female leader. An ambitious ruler, she rapidly expanded the Russian Empire and is credited with modernizing the country along Western European lines. She supported the ideals of the Enlightenment and the period of her rule—the Catherinian Era—is considered the Golden Age of Russia.
10 Anne Boleyn
The queen of England from 1533 to 1536, Anne Boleyn played an important role in the political and religious upheaval that led to the beginning of the English Reformation. She is widely regarded as the most important and influential queen consort of England. She was charged with adultery, incest, and treason and was executed by beheading in 1536.
Augustus, the first Emperor of the Roman Empire, ruled from 27 BC to 14 AD. He transformed Rome from a republic to an empire after Julius Caesar’s assassination. He annexed new territories, brought about peace and prosperity and laid the foundation of an empire that lasted for nearly 1500 years. Historians regard him as an effective but controversial leader.
Alfred the Great, king of Wessex, cemented his place in history as a legendary ruler who led his kingdom to victory in wars that seemed hopeless. He is known for his brilliant strategies and defensive measures. He prevented England from falling to the Danes during his rule from circa 871 to 886. He’s also credited with promoting learning and literacy and curbing corruption.
Also known as Charles the Great, Charlemagne ruled as the king of the Franks, king of the Lombards, and emperor of the Romans at different time periods. Not surprisingly, he had a major impact during the Early Middle Ages as he went about uniting the majority of central and western Europe, for which he is called the Father of Europe.
William the Conqueror was the first Norman King of England who ruled from 1066 to 1087. William's conquest had a profound impact on England; his government merged elements of the Norman and English systems that laid the foundations of the medieval English kingdom. He is credited with building castles, mottes, and keeps, including the White Tower and Tower of London.
Marcus Aurelius played an important role in the Roman Empire. A Stoic philosopher, Marcus was part of the Five Good Emperors and the last emperor of the Pax Romana—a 200-year-long period of relative peace in the Roman Empire. Also a writer, his work Meditations is regarded by many as one of the greatest works of philosophy.
16 Wilhelm II
Wilhelm II reigned as the King of Prussia and German emperor from 1888 to 1918. He is credited with promoting scientific innovation and building a blue-water navy, which strengthened Germany’s position as a great power. However, he was also responsible for getting his country involved in World War I, which eventually brought an end to the Hohenzollern dynasty’s rule.
Catherine de' Medici was an Italian noblewoman who played a key role in the political affairs of France during the rule of her sons, a period which came to be known as the age of Catherine de' Medici. Catherine is credited with saving the monarchy from deposition during the French Wars of Religion.
Cyrus II, or Cyrus the Great, founded the first Persian empire, the Achaemenid Empire. His kingdom extended from Western Asia to Central Asia. He advocated centralized administration, with the help of local governors. The biblical Edict of Cyrus, named after him, talks about the return of the Jews to Israel.
Constantine the Great served as the Roman emperor between 306 and 337. During his reign, he enacted financial, administrative, military, and social reforms to strengthen the empire. Constantine the Great is also credited with introducing the solidus, a gold coin which became the standard for European and Byzantine currencies for over a thousand years.
Henry VII of England played an important role in popularizing the House of Tudor by becoming the first monarch of the house; he ruled as the king of England from 1485 until his death in 1509. He is credited with several economic, diplomatic, and administrative initiatives.
The dictator of Italy from 1925 to 1945, Benito Mussolini founded the Fascist Party in 1919. It opposed class discrimination and supported nationalism. But when in power, Mussolini crushed rival political parties, trade unions, free press and free speech. He was overthrown by his former colleagues in the Fascist government in July 1943 and ultimately shot dead in April 1945.
Vladimir Lenin played a key role in the history of Russian politics by developing a political ideology called Leninism. During and after his lifetime, Lenin had a massive influence over international communist movement. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential and significant personalities of the 20th century.
Qin Shi Huang is credited with founding the Qin dynasty, the first dynasty of Imperial China. He reigned as the first emperor of a unified China from 221 BC to 210 BC. Under his rule, the Chinese state expanded greatly and he also enacted major political and economic reforms. His life and work inspired several films like The Emperor's Shadow.
Henry VIII, the second monarch of the Tudor dynasty, ruled England from 1509 to 1547. He married six times, leading to differences with the Roman Catholic Church, which prohibited divorce, thus forming the Anglican Church. The "father of the Royal Navy," he was known for his tyranny and extravagance.
A queen of the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, Nefertiti was the Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten. She and her husband reigned during a period marked by great prosperity in Ancient Egyptian history. Some scholars even claim that she reigned independently for some time following her husband’s death though this claim is a matter of debate.
Mary I, the queen of England from 1553-1558, is remembered as the ruler who sought to return England to the Catholic Church. She persecuted many Protestants and got nearly 300 of them burned at the stake. Most of them were common citizens. Many also died in prison and hundreds fled the country. This earned her the ignominious nickname ‘Bloody Mary’.
Catherine of Aragon was one of the most popular English royal consorts of all time. A patron of Renaissance humanism, she gained widespread admiration for starting a program for the relief of the poor. A woman who was ahead of her time, Catherine commissioned The Education of a Christian Woman, a controversial book promoting women's right to education.
Boudica served as a queen of the Iceni tribe. She is regarded as a British folk hero for leading an uprising against the Roman Empire, which wanted to conquer her land. She has remained a prominent cultural symbol in the UK. A bronze statue named Boadicea and Her Daughters is located in London, facing the Palace of Westminster.
Many biographers consider Anne, the Queen of Great Britain, a weak and irresolute woman. It is said that she lacked political astuteness and was easily influenced by others. Though she was troubled by poor health throughout her life, she became increasingly obese and ill during her 30s and eventually died at the age of 49.
36 Kublai Khan
Also known as the Emperor Shizu of Yuan, Kublai Khan served as the fifth khagan of the famous Mongol Empire. After the division of the empire, Kublai Khan founded the Yuan dynasty in China and ruled as the first Yuan emperor from 1271 until his death in 1294. Hence, he played an important role in re-creating a militarily powerful China.
Claudius was made the Roman emperor by the Praetorian Guard after the assassination of Caligula, his nephew and predecessor, and ruled from 41 to 54 A.D. He was slightly limp and deaf since childhood, but his reign was marked by financial stability. He was succeeded by his grand-nephew, tyrant Nero.
Widely considered one of the greatest tacticians and military leaders in history, Timur is credited with founding the Timurid Empire, which attained its greatest extent under the leadership of Timur. His empire laid the foundation for the rise of the more prominent Islamic gunpowder empires, such as the Mughal Empire, which then ruled the Indian subcontinent for almost 330 years.
Chandragupta Maurya established the Maurya Empire in India. He was mostly advised by philosopher Chanakya. He conquered the Nanda Empire and fought the Seleucid-Mauryan War, too. His reign was marked by religious tolerance, and cultural and economic prosperity. He later relinquished his throne and became a Jain monk.
Charles V served as the Holy Roman Emperor, King of Italy, and King of Germany from 1519 to 1556. From 1516 to 1556, he ruled as the King of Spain. His personal union of the American and European territories was the first collection of kingdoms that were described the empire on which the Sun never sets.
Shivaji was an Indian warrior-king. He is credited with founding the Maratha Empire, which became a force to reckon with during the 18th century. He is also credited with creating his own navy. Considered one of the most important Indian kings and a hero of the Hindus, Shivaji's life and work have inspired several works of art, including films.
Anne of Cleves was the Queen of England for 6 months in 1540, as the fourth wife of King Henry VIII. Their unconsummated marriage deprived led to the annulment of the marriage, following which she received a settlement and came to be known as the King's Beloved Sister.
50 Xerxes I
Xerxes I ruled the Achaemenid Empire from 486 to 465 BC as the fourth King of Kings. During his reign, Xerxes I supervised the completion of several construction projects at Persepolis and Susa. A popular ruler, his life has been adapted into several plays and films; in the 1960 movie Esther and the King, Xerxes is played by Richard Egan.