List of Bulgarian monarchs

The monarchs of Bulgaria ruled the country during three periods of its history as an independent country: from the establishment of the First Bulgarian Empire in 681 to the Byzantine conquest of Bulgaria in 1018; from the Uprising of Asen and Peter that established the Second Bulgarian Empire in 1185 to the annexation of the rump Bulgarian principality into the Ottoman Empire in 1396; and from the re-establishment of an independent Bulgaria in 1878 to the abolition of monarchy in a [1] referendum held on 15 September 1946.

Monarchy of Bulgaria
Simeon II
StyleHis Majesty
First monarchAsparukh
(as Kanasubigi)
Last monarchSimeon II
(as Tsar)
Abolition15 September 1946
ResidenceRoyal Palace
Pretender(s)Simeon II

Early Bulgarian rulers possibly used the title Kanasubigi (Khan), later knyaz (prince) for a brief period, and subsequently tsar (emperor). The title tsar, the Bulgarian form of the Latin Caesar, was first adopted and used in Bulgaria by Simeon I, following a decisive victory over the Byzantine Empire in 913. It was also used by all of Simeon I's successors until the fall of Bulgaria under Ottoman rule in 1396. After Bulgaria's liberation from the Ottomans in 1878, its first monarch Alexander I adopted the title knyaz, or prince. However, when de jure independence was proclaimed under his successor Ferdinand in 1908, the title was elevated to the customary tsar once more. The use of tsar continued under Ferdinand and later under his heirs Boris III and Simeon II until the abolition of monarchy in 1946.

While the title tsar was translated as "emperor" in the First and Second Bulgarian Empires, it was translated as "king" in modern Bulgaria.

In the few surviving medieval Bulgarian royal charters, the monarchs of Bulgaria styled themselves as "In Christ the Lord Faithful Emperor and Autocrat of all Bulgarians" or similar variations, sometimes including “... and Romans, Greeks, or Vlachs".

This list does not include the mythical Bulgar rulers and the rulers of Old Great Bulgaria listed in the Nominalia of the Bulgarian khans as well as unsuccessful claimants to the throne who are not generally listed among the Bulgarian monarchs.


Khanate and First Bulgarian Empire (681–1018)

Image Title Name Reign Notes/Death
Dulo dynasty (681–753)
Khan[a]Asparukh681–701Son of Khan Kubrat, ruler of Old Great Bulgaria. After his victory at the Battle of Ongal in 680 he formed the country of Bulgaria. Died in 701 in battle against the Khazars.[2]
KhanTervel701–721Received the Byzantine title Caesar in 705 for helping Justinian II recover his throne.[3][4] Tervel aided the Byzantines during the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople. Died in 721.[5]
KhanKormesiy721–738Unknown date of death.[6]
KhanSevar738–753Last ruler of the Dulo dynasty. Died a natural death or was dethroned in 753.[7]
Vokil clan (753–762)
KhanKormisosh753–756Beginning of a period of internal instability. Deposed in 756.[8]
KhanVinekh756–762Murdered in 762.[9]
Ugain clan (762–765)
KhanTelets762–765Murdered in 765.[10]
Non-dynastic (765–766)
KhanSabin765–766Might have been of Slavic origin. Deposed by a People's Council in 766, fled to the Byzantine Empire.[11]
Vokil clan (766)
KhanUmor766Ruled for only 40 days. Deposed in 766 and fled to the Byzantine Empire.[12]
Non-dynastic (766–768)
KhanToktu766–767Killed in the forests of the Danube in 767 by the opposition.[13]
KhanPagan767–768Murdered by his servants in the region of Varna.[14]
Krum/Dulo dynasty (768–997)[b]
Khan[15]Telerig768–777Son of Tervel. Fled to Constantinople in 777 and baptised.[16]
KhanKardam777–803End of the internal crisis. Stabilization and consolidation of the country. Unknown date of death.[17]
Khan[18]Krum803–814Famous for the battle of Pliska in which the Byzantine emperor Nikephoros I perished. Krum is also famous for introducing the first written laws into Bulgaria. Died a natural death (very likely from a stroke) on 13 April 814. There are several theories regarding his death.[19]
Ruler of the many Bulgarians[21]
Omurtag814–831Known for his construction policy, administrative reform and the persecution of Christians.[22]
KhanMalamir831–836Third and youngest son of Omurtag. Died of natural causes at an early age.[23]
KhanPresian I836–852Almost the whole of Macedonia was incorporated into Bulgaria.[24]
Prince (Knyaz)[c]Boris I Michael I[d]852–889Christianization of Bulgaria; adoption of Old Bulgarian as the official language of the State and the Church; recognition of an autocephalous Bulgarian Church.[25] Abdicated in 883, died on 2 May 902, aged around 80.[26] Proclaimed a Saint.
PrinceVladimir889–893Eldest son of Boris I. Tried to restore Tengriism. Deposed and blinded by his father in 893.[27]
Prince/Emperor (Tsar)
Emperor of the Bulgarians and the Romans (claimed)[28]
Emperor of the Bulgarians (recognized)[29]
Simeon I893–927Third son of Boris I, raised to become a cleric but enthroned during the Council of Preslav. Bulgaria reached its apogee and greatest territorial extent. Golden age of Bulgarian culture. Died of a heart attack on 27 May 927, aged 63.[30]
Emperor of the Bulgarians[31]
Petar I927–969Second son of Simeon I. His 42-year rule was the longest in Bulgarian history. Abdicated in 969 and became a monk. Died on 30 January 970.[32] Proclaimed a Saint.
EmperorBoris II970–971Eldest son of Petar I. Dethroned by the Byzantines in 971. Accidentally killed by the Bulgarian border guards in 977 when he tried to return to the country.[33]
EmperorRoman977–991 (997)Second son of Petar I. Castrated by the Byzantines but escaped to Bulgaria in 977. Captured in battle by the Byzantines in 991 and died in prison in Constantinople in 997.[34]
Cometopuli dynasty (997–1018)
Emperor of the Bulgarians[35]
Samuel997–1014Co-ruler and general under Roman between 976 and 997. Officially proclaimed Emperor of Bulgaria in 997. Died of a heart attack on 6 October 1014, aged 69–70.[36]
EmperorGavril Radomir1014–1015Eldest son of Samuel, crowned on 15 October 1014. Murdered by his cousin Ivan Vladislav in August 1015.[37]
EmperorIvan Vladislav1015–1018Son of Aron and nephew of Samuel. Killed in the siege of Drach.[38] His death brought the end of the First Bulgarian Empire which was annexed by the Byzantine Empire.

Proclaimed monarchs during Byzantine rule (1018–1185)

Image Title Name Reign Notes/Death
EmperorPeter Delyan1040–1041Claimed to have been descendant of Gavril Radomir. Led an unsuccessful uprising against Byzantine rule.[39]
EmperorConstantine Bodin1072Named Constantine Bodin and Descendant of Samuel, he was proclaimed Emperor of Bulgaria after the sainted emperor Petar I during the Uprising of Georgi Voiteh.[40] Between 1081 and 1101 he ruled as King of Duklja.

Second Bulgarian Empire (1185–1396)

Image Title Name Reign Notes/Death
Asen dynasty
EmperorPetar II (also known as Peter IV)1185–1190Originally named Theodore, he was proclaimed Emperor of Bulgaria as Petar IV during the successful Uprising of Asen and Petar. In 1190 he gave the throne to his younger brother.[41]
EmperorIvan Asen I1190–1196Younger brother of Peter IV. A successful general, he ruled until 1196 when he was murdered by his cousin Ivanko.[42]
EmperorPetar II (Peter IV)1196–1197After his brother's death, he returned to the Bulgarian throne. Murdered in 1197.[41]
Emperor of Bulgarians and Vlachs, the Romanslayer
Kaloyan1197–1207Third brother of Asen and Petar. Expanded Bulgaria and concluded a Union with the Catholic Church. Murdered by plotters during the siege of Salonica.[43]
EmperorBoril1207–1218Son of a sister of Kaloyan. Deposed and blinded in 1218.[44]
Emperor of the Bulgarians and the Greeks[45]
Ivan Asen II1218–1241Eldest son of Ivan Asen I. The Second Bulgarian Empire reached its apogee. Died a natural death on 24 June 1241, aged 46–47.[46]
EmperorKaliman Asen I1241–1246Son of Ivan Asen II. Born in 1234, he died, possibly after being poisoned, in 1246, aged 12.[47]
EmperorMichael II Asen1246–1256Son of Ivan Asen II. Murdered by his cousin Kaliman.[48]
EmperorKaliman Asen II1256Murdered in 1256.[49]
EmperorMitso Asen1256–1257Son-in-law of Ivan Asen II. Fled to the Nicaean Empire in 1261.[50]
In Christ the Lord Faithful Emperor and Autocrat of the Bulgarians[51]
Constantine I1257–1277Bolyar of Skopie. Killed in battle in 1277 by the peasant leader Ivaylo.[52]
EmperorIvan Asen III1279–1280Eldest son of Mitso Asen. Fled to Constantinople with the treasury.[53]
EmperorIvaylo1277–1280Leader of a major peasant uprising. Fled to the Golden Horde but was murdered by the Mongol Khan Nogai.[39]
Terter dynasty (1280–1292)
EmperorGeorge Terter I1280–1292Bolyar of Cherven. Fled to the Byzantine Empire in 1292, died in Bulgaria in 1308–1309.[54]
Non-dynastic (1292–1300)
EmperorSmilets1292–1298Bolyar of Kopsis. Murdered or died of natural causes in 1298.[55]
EmperorChaka1299–1300Son of the Mongol Nogai Khan. Deposed and strangled in prison in 1300.[56]
Terter dynasty (1300–1322)
EmperorTheodore Svetoslav1300–1321Son of George Terter I. Spent his youth as a hostage in the Golden Horde. His rule marked a revival of Bulgaria. Died a natural death in late 1321, aged 50–55.[57]
EmperorGeorge Terter II1321–1322Son of Theodore Svetoslav. Died a natural death in late 1322.[58]
Shishman dynasty (1323–1396)
EmperorMichael III Shishman1323–1330Bolyar of Vidin. Mortally wounded in the battle of Velbazhd on 28 July 1330 against the Serbs.[59]
EmperorIvan Stephen1330–1331Son of Michael III Shishman. Deposed in March 1331 and fled to Serbia.[60] Might have died in 1373.
In Christ the Lord Faithful Emperor and Autocrat of all Bulgarians[61] and Greeks[62]
Ivan Alexander1331–1371Bolyar of Lovech. Descended from the Asen, Terter and Shishman dynasties. Second Golden Age of Bulgarian culture. Following his death of natural causes on 17 February 1371, Bulgaria was divided among his sons.[59]
In Christ the Lord Faithful Emperor and Autocrat of all Bulgarians and Greeks[63]
Ivan Shishman1371–1395Fourth son of Ivan Alexander.
Emperor of the Bulgarians[64]
Ivan Sratsimir1356–1396Third son of Ivan Alexander. Ruled in Vidin.
Tsar (Emperor) of BulgariaConstantine II1397–1422Son of Ivan Sratsimir (Ivan Sracimir) of Bulgaria by Anna, daughter of prince Nicolae Alexandru of Wallachia. He was crowned co-emperor by his father in or before 1395.
conquest of Bulgaria by the Ottoman Empire.

Principality of Bulgaria and Kingdom of Bulgaria (1878–1946)

Image Title Name Reign Notes/Death
House of Battenberg
PrinceAlexander I29 April 1879 – 7 September 1886Abdicated due to Russian pressure. Died on 23 October 1893 in Graz.
House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Prince/TsarFerdinand I7 July 1887 – 3 October 1918Became Tsar after the official proclamation of independence on 22 September 1908. Abdicated on 3 October 1918 after Bulgaria's defeat in World War I. Died on 10 September 1948 in Coburg.
TsarBoris III3 October 1918 – 28 August 1943Died on 28 August 1943.
TsarSimeon II28 August 1943 – 15 September 1946Became tsar of Bulgaria at age 6, following the death of his father, Boris III. Monarchy abolished by the Communists. He served as the 48th Prime Minister of Bulgaria between 24 July 2001 and 17 August 2005. Still living as of 2019.

Living former Monarchs

There is one living former Bulgarian Tsar: Simeon Sakskoburggotski.

A documentary named "The Boy Who Was a King", about his remarkable life, was displayed at the 2011 edition of the IDFA.

See also


^ a: In the Nominalia of the Bulgarian khans the title of Asparukh is the Slavic Knyaz (Prince). The title Khan is not used in the manuscript.[65]
^ b: There are sources which suggest that Krum descended from those Bulgars who settled in Pannonia and lived under the rule the Avars. Some historians assume that Krum was from the Dulo dynasty and that with his ascension the old ruling dynasty was restored.[66][67] According to Zlatarski, Krum was the founder of a new dynasty.[68]
^ c: In the Ballshi Inscription, the title of Boris I is Archon of Bulgaria. The Byzantine title archon is usually translated with ruler. Contemporary Bulgarian sources used the title Knyaz, while during the Second Bulgarian Empire he was referred to as Tsar.[69]
^ d: When Boris I was baptised he received the Christian name Michael, after his godfather, the Byzantine emperor Michael III. He is often called by the historians Boris-Michael.[70] For this reason there is no explicit Michael I, while there are both Boris II and Michael II.
^ e: During the negotiations with Pope Innocent III, Kaloyan insisted that the Pope should recognize him as Imperator, the title equal to Tsar and based his claims on the imperial recognition of the monarchs of the First Bulgarian Empire. He was only crowned as Rex (King) but in his later correspondence with Innocent III, Kaloyan sent him his gratitude for his recognition as Imperator and used that title.[71]


  1. "1946: Third Bulgarian Kingdom ends with a referendum". BNR Radio Bulgaria. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  2. Andreev, p. 19
  3. Andreev, p. 23
  4. Whittow, p. 273
  5. Andreev, p. 27
  6. Andreev, p. 29
  7. Andreev, p. 30
  8. Andreev, p. 32
  9. Andreev, p. 33
  10. Andreev, p. 35
  11. Andreev, p. 36
  12. Andreev, p. 38
  13. Andreev, p. 39
  14. Andreev, p. 40
  15. Vasil Zlatarski. History of the First Bulgarian Empire, vol. I
  16. Andreev, p. 42
  17. Andreev, p. 44
  18. Vasil Zlatarski. History of the First Bulgarian Empire, vol. I
  19. Andreev, pp. 53–54
  20. "Tarnovo Inscription of Khan Omurtag" (in Russian). Archived from the original on 4 October 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2011.
  21. Andreev, p. 62
  22. Andreev, pp. 61–62
  23. Andreev, pp. 67–68
  24. Andreev, p. 70
  25. Whittow, p. 284
  26. Andreev, pp. 85–86
  27. Andreev, p. 89
  28. Stephenson, p. 23
  29. Stephenson, p. 22
  30. Andreev, pp. 103–104
  31. Whittow, p. 292
  32. Andreev, p. 112
  33. Andreev, p. 118
  34. Andreev, p. 121-122
  35. Whittow, p. 297
  36. Andreev, p. 127
  37. Andreev, pp. 129–130
  38. Andreev, p. 133
  39. Andreev, p. 136
  40. Andreev, p. 142-143
  41. Andreev, pp. 146–147
  42. Andreev, pp. 157–158
  43. Andreev, p. 173
  44. Andreev, p. 184
  45. Laskaris, p. 5
  46. Andreev, p. 193
  47. Andreev, p. 197
  48. Andreev, p. 205
  49. Andreev, p. 208
  50. Andreev, p. 211
  51. Ivanov, pp. 578–579
  52. Andreev, p. 229
  53. Andreev, p. 233
  54. Andreev, p. 239
  55. Andreev, p. 240
  56. Andreev, p. 244
  57. Andreev, p. 251
  58. Andreev, p. 254
  59. Andreev, p. 263
  60. Andreev, p. 267
  61. Ivanov, p. 584
  62. Ivanov, pp. 590–591
  63. Ivanov, pp. 602–608
  64. Miletich, L. "Daco-Romanians and their Slavic Literacy. Part II" (in Bulgarian). p. 47. Retrieved 14 March 2011.
  65. "Nominalia of the Bulgarian Khans" (in Bulgarian). Archived from the original on 11 June 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2011.
  66. Andreev, p. 45
  67. Runciman, p. 51
  68. Zlatarski, pp. 321–322
  69. Bakalov, pp. 144, 146
  70. Andreev, pp. 71, 75
  71. Andreev, pp. 163–165


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