Sobhuza II: History, Family, Reign, & Accomplishments

Is this southern African monarch, Sobhuza II, the longest-serving ruler in recorded history? World History Edu presents everything that you need to know about Ngwenyama Sobhuza II, the famous king of Swaziland who helped his nation gain independence from Great Britain in 1968.

Ngwenyama Sobhuza II – History, Family, Reign, & Accomplishments


He was born in Zombodze, Swaziland, on July 22, 1899, and was enstooled on Swaziland’s throne just four months after his birth. However, because the British was colonizing Swaziland at the time of his enstoolment, he was initially the designated Paramount Chief of the colony, spending the first twenty-one years of his kingship under his grandmother’s regency.

Sobhuza was educated at Zombodze Primary School and later enrolled at the Swazi National School. In 1916, he moved to Cape Prove Province, South Africa, to study at Lovedale Missionary Institute, where he completed his secondary school education in 1918. He studied anthropology in the United Kingdom before assuming his royal obligations.

He is immortalized in the history of Swaziland for steering the country towards complete independence from the British in 1968. He is praised for doing so peacefully without resorting to violence or shedding blood. Initially, the British recognized him as a mere paramount chief, but he later assumed full authority and led his nation toward a tribal system of governance that in a way was appropriate to modern systems.

Sobhuza II’s success as ruler was primarily based on family and political relationships. It is widely believed that his numerous marriages—over 65—helped unite the country by connecting all significant families to his clan, the “Dlamini,” which accounted for around 25% of the entire population. He fathered more than 200 children, including Prince Khuzulwandle Dlamini and Prince Makhosetive.

He died in Mbabane, Swaziland, at 83 on August 21, 1982. Following his death, it was rumored that he was poisoned. Upon his death, his heir and youngest son Mswati III ascended to the throne.

Family & Enstoolment

Born into the royal house of “Dlamini,” his father called him “Nkhotfijeni,” which translates as “stone lizard,” as he believed that he lived like a lizard among stones when he was conceived during the war between the Swazis and the Boers. His grandmother also named him “Mona,” which means “jealousy” in Swazi.

He was the only child of Inkhosikati Lomawa Ndwandwe (Queen Mother of Swaziland from 1925 to 1938) and King Ngwane V (King of Swaziland between 1895 and 1899). He had many half-siblings, including Princes Mshengu and Mkukwane.

His father died just four months after his birth, during his dance at the “Incwala” ceremony on December 10, 1899. The royal council then declared the four-month-old baby the new king and named him King Sobhuza II, after his ancestor Sobhuza I. However, since he was an infant, his grandmother, Gwamile Labotsibeni Mdluli, took over the role of regent. Her third son, Prince Malunge, also assisted her.

Reign & Achievements

On December 22, 1921, Queen Regent Labotsibeni Mdluli relinquished control, allowing Sobhuza II to take on his full duties as the monarch of Swaziland. His subjects then addressed him as the Ngwenyama (King) Sobhuza II. However, since the country was then under British rule, the British merely acknowledged him as a paramount chief at the time.

His direct reign endured over six decades (from December 22, 1921, to August 21, 1982), during which time he oversaw the successful independence of Swaziland from Britain in 1968, eventually forcing the government of Britain to recognize him as King of Eswatini (Swaziland).

After assuming the monarch, his primary task was to reclaim Swazi lands and property from British businesses and associates. In 1922, with the aid of a Swazi delegation, he visited King George V in Great Britain to tackle the issue. He also filed his petition to the British Privy Council, requesting the restoration of Swazi territories. Unfortunately, it was flatly rejected. However, he never gave up, constantly pressing his claims for the next 15 years. Eventually, the British government consented to return some of the lands to the Swazis, increasing their ownership of the territory from 37% to over 50%.

Along with the struggle to regain Swazi lands, he established the “Swazi Commercial Amodada” in 1923. It helped to improve the finances of his people by issuing licenses to many businesses on Swaziland’s reserves. He also founded the Swazi National School, a deliberate attempt to offset the strong influence of foreign and missionary doctrines at the time.

Sobhuza II of Swaziland

Sobhuza II was instrumental in helping Swaziland gain independence in 1968

During World War II, he was declared Swaziland’s Native Authority. Sobhuza II’s fame grew with time, which enabled him to thwart the Britain’s attempt to incorporate the Swazis into the Union of South Africa. After closely monitoring the nations that had gained independence from the British, he played many significant roles in various events that led to the independence of Swaziland without violence.

He objected to the British government’s proposed post-colonial Westminster constitution, which gave him the status of a constitutional monarch. As a result, he established the Imbokodvo National Movement, a political party, through his advisory council, which ran in the 1967 pre-independence elections and won every seat in the legislative assembly. As a result, Swaziland was proclaimed an independent nation with a limited monarch and an elected parliament on September 6, 1968.

Sobhuza II expertly combined social and economic advancements with tribal customs as a constitutional monarch. He notably built a private army, through which he was able to revoke the constitution and dissolve the legislature on April 12, 1973. In addition, he banned all political parties and began ruling as an absolute monarch. Finally, he adopted a new constitution in 1978, which called for a complete return to tribal governance.

He formed a new parliament, “Libandla,” in 1979, which had an Electoral College comprising eighty appointees, chosen from forty of the “tinkhundla” (local councils). Tribal elements dominated the parliament, and it merely served advisory roles.

During Sobhuza II’s reign, Swaziland’s economy enjoyed many successes. Vast land and many natural resources and minerals owned by the British and non-Swazi people were brought under the native control of the Swazis during his reign. He also knew the value of establishing good relations with other nations. His reign saw Swaziland join the Organization of African Unity, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the United Nations. Additionally, the country established various diplomatic missions abroad.

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King Sobhuza of Swaziland died on 21 August 1982 at Embo State house. The monarch was 83 years old. Prior to his death, he had appointed Prince Sozisa Dlamini to the position of  ‘Authorized Person’, a senior official who advises a regent. Initially, it was decided that Queen Dzeliwe serve as regent; however, after a royal fued, Dweliwe was deposed by Sozisa. Dweliwe was replaced by Queen Ntfombi, one of the youngest widows of Sobhuza.

From 1983 to 1986, Ntfombi reigned as queen regent (Ndlovukati) on behalf of her young son, Prince Makhosetive Dlamini, who had been designated as Crown Prince (Umntfwana). Makhosetive Dlamini was crowned King Mswati III in 1986.

Sobhuza II’s successor Mswati III was crowned Ingwenyama and King of Swaziland, on 25 April 1986 at the age of 18

The Zulu connection

Goodwill Zwelithini KaBhekuzulu (1948-2021), former king of the Zulus of South Africa, was the son-in-law of Sobhuza. King Goodwill Zwelithini married one Sobhuza’s daughters, Mantfombi Dlamini (1953-2021), who went on to be the queen consort of the Zulu nation from 1977 to 2021. On the death of King Goodwill Zwelithini, Mantfombi Dlamini served as the queen regent of the Zulu nation from March 2021 to April 2021. As the Great Wife of Zwelithini, Mantfombi bore many children for King Goodwill, including King Misuzulu.

Sobhuza II was also related (by marriage) to Zenani Mandela, one of the children of anti-apartheid icon and former South African President Nelson Mandela. Zenani tied the knot with Sobhuza II’s son Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini in 1977.

Sobhuza II: Fast Facts

Reign: 1899-1982

Successor: Mswati III

Predecessor: Ngwane V

Born: July 22, 1899

Place of birth: Zombodze, Eswatini

Died: August 21, 1982, aged 83

Parents: Ngwane V and Lomawa Ndwandwe

Education: Swazi National School in Zombodze; Lovedale Institution, South Africa

Spouses: over 65, including Ntfombi Tfwala

Children: Over 200, including Mswati III, Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini

Did you know?

  • In his minority, his grandmother, Gwamile Labotsibeni, and his uncle, Prince Malunge, served as regents.
  • Sobhuza II was one of the foreign dignitaries that attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London in 1953.
  • In the 1960s, he opposed Britain’s imposition of the Westminster constitution on Swaziland. The constitution meant that Sobhuza was to act as a constitutional monarch.
  • He became an absolute monarch in April 1973. This came after he dissolved parliament and repealed the constitution.
  • Owing to vast number of children he fathered, he came to be referred to as the “Bull of Swazi”. Sobhuza had hundreds of consorts. And out of the over 200 children that he gave birth to, about 175 survived infancy. It’s been estimated that he had over 1,100 grandchildren, King Misuzulu, king of the Zulu nation.
  • Ngwenyama Sobhuza II was one of the longest-serving monarchs in recorded history, reigning as the King of Swaziland (Eswatini) for 82 years & 254 days.
  • Ingweniyama (or Ngwenyama) means “Lion” in Swati (Swazi). Other variations of the title include iNgwenyama, Ingwenyama, or ingweinyama, which means “king”.

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