For more than five decades, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has reigned over the tiny, oil-rich Asian kingdom of Brunei.
The monarchy, which has been around for hundreds of years, has endured turbulent times. In the late 19th century, Britain intervened in the country’s affairs, and Brunei became a British protectorate in 1906 under a treaty that allowed the ruling dynasty and its line of succession to remain intact. During World War II, between 1941 and 1945, Japan occupied the country.
As head of state, Bolkiah also serves as prime minister, in charge of the country’s armed forces and Finance Ministry. The monarchy sparked international outrage when it announced in April that it would begin stoning those charged with adultery or homosexuality under a new penal code based on sharia law. Celebrities including George Clooney and Elton John quickly condemned the crackdown and called for a boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Hotel Bel-Air and seven other hotels in Europe owned by the sultan.