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Regnal year

A regnal year is a year of the reign of a sovereign. From Latin regnum meaning kingdom, rule.

The oldest dating systems were in regnal years, and considered the date as an ordinal, not a cardinal number. For example, a monarch could have a first year of rule, a second year of rule, a third, and so on, but a zero year of rule would be nonsense. Applying this ancient epoch system to modern calculations of time, which include zero, is what led to the debate over when the third millennium began.

An era name was assigned as the name of each year by the leader (emperor or king) of the East Asian countries of China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam during some portion of their history. The people of the country referred to that year by that name. Era names were used for over two millennia by Chinese emperors and are still used by Japanese emperors. It could last from one year to the length of the leader's reign. If it lasted more than one year, numbers were appended to the era name. If it lasted the entire length of the leader's reign, then that leader is often referred to by that name posthumously. However, the leader was often given a more complex formal posthumous name as well. It should not be confused with a temple name, by which many leaders are known. The Republic of China era can be construed to be an era name, albeit one without an emperor.

Reckoning in various cultures

In ancient times, calendars were counted in terms of the number of years of the reign of the current monarch. The oldest such reckoning is preserved in the Sumerian king list.

In England, and later the United Kingdom, until 1963, each Act of Parliament was defined by its serial number within the regnal year in which it was enacted. Each regnal year begins on the anniversary of the day the sovereign succeeded to the throne. A table of English regnal years, from 1066 to 1962, is given here

The Zoroastrian calendar also operated with regnal years following the reform of Ardashir I (3rd century).

Asian era names


The Chinese eras or Nian Hao were used sporadically from 156 BC and continuously from 140 BC. Until 1367 several were used during each emperor's reign. From 1368 until 1912 only one era name was used by each emperor, who was posthumously known by his era name.


Korean eras were used from 391 to 1274 and from 1894 to 1910. During the later years of the Joseon Dynasty, years were also numbered from the founding of that dynasty in 1393. From 1952 until 1961, years were numbered in Dangi in South Korea, counting from the founding of Gojoseon in 2333 BC.


The official Japanese system or Nengo numbers years from the accession of the current emperor, regarding the calendar year during which the accession occurred as the first year. The current emperor Akihito succeeded to the throne in 1989, and the new era name Heisei was decreed by the Cabinet. Thus that year corresponds to . The system was in use sporadically from 645 and continuously from 701. Until 1867 several were used during each emperor's reign. From 1868 only one era name has been used by each emperor. Since 1868 each emperor has been known posthumously by his era name.

Notable king lists

See also

External links

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