King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was hospitalised with pneumonia several weeks ago, died at 1 a.m. local time today, it has been announced. The King was believed to be 90 years old. Under the Saudi succession rules, which means that the crown passes between the many sons of the country's founder, King Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud), King Abdullah is succeeded by his half-brother Salman, who is believed to be 79 years old and in indifferent health.
King Abdullah came to the throne upon the death of his older half-brother King Fahd in August 2005, but had by then already been the country's actual ruler since King Fahd suffered a serious stroke ten years previously. In a Saudi context, King Abdullah, who was very popular with his people, was seen as a moderate and a reformer, who gave for instance the media and women more freedom, but as an absolute monarch he presided over one of the world's most barbaric regimes.
King Abdullah outlived two crown princes, Sultan, who died in 2011, and Nayef, who passed away in 2012, before appointing Salman Crown Prince. For good measure, he appointed another half brother, Muqrin, Deputy Crown Prince last year.
Muqrin, now Crown Prince, is a mere 69, but the youngest son of Ibn Saud, meaning that the shift to the next generations - the grandsons - will probably occur after him.
The death of King Abdullah makes Queen Elizabeth II of Britain the world's oldest monarch.