Sultan of Brunei golden jubilee: Gilded chariot procession marks King of Bling's 50 years on throne

Dressed in gold brocade and festooned with medals, the sultan and his wife and children entered the capital on a gilded chariot pulled by 50 members of staff.

The Sultan of Brunei celebrated his 50 years on the throne of the tiny oil-rich nation in typically understated style. Dressed in gold brocade and festooned with medals, the sultan entered the capital – with his wife Queen Saleha and their children – on a gilded chariot pulled by 50 members of staff.

5 October 2017: The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, waves from a chariot during a procession to mark his golden jubilee in Bandar Seri BegawanRoslan Rahman/AFP

The five-kilometre procession through the streets of Bandar Seri Begawan was part of a month-long celebration of his golden jubilee, which will include the opening of Brunei's first cable-stayed bridge and the unveiling of a major new urban park. A lavish state banquet will be held at the gold-domed palace on Friday (6 October), attended by regional leaders, Middle Eastern royalty and Britain's Prince Edward and Sophie Countess of Wessex.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah – or His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, to give him his full name and title – is now the world's second-longest reigning living monarch, after Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. He ascended to the throne following the abdication of his father on 4 October 1967.

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He is the world's wealthiest monarch and was once the world's richest man, with a personal wealth estimated at £15 billion ($20bn) in 2008. He lives in an 1,788-room palace and owns one of the world's most valuable collections of high-performance supercars. IBTimes UK looks at his opulent lifestyle in pictures.

1 August 1993. Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei watches a parade marking his 47th birthday with his youngest son, Prince Abdul Marteen, and his second wife, Hajjah Mariam – a former stewardess for Royal Brunei Airlines. He divorced her in 2003, stripping her of all her royal titles. In August 2005 he married a former Malaysian TV presenter, Azrinaz Mazhar Hakim, 33 years younger than him. They divorced five years laterReuters
15 July 1996: The Sultan and Queen of Brunei sit on the throne during an investiture ceremony for his 50th birthday celebrations in Bandar Seri BegawanFrancis Silvan/AFP
15 July 1996: Prince Charles talks to the Sultan of Brunei during the Sultan's 50th birthday celebrations. The lavish festivities included a concert by Michael Jackson, who was reportedly paid $17 million, in a stadium built for the occasionReuters
18 September 1998: The Queen and Prince Philip pose with the Sultan of Brunei, his son the Crown Prince and the Sultan's two wives before a banquet in the honour of the queen's three-day state visitAFP
5 September 2004: The Sultan of Brunei attends the powdering ceremony of his son ahead of his weddingChristopher Furlong/Getty Images
9 September 2004: Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah Ibni Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah and his bride Princess Dayangku Sarah binti Pengiran Salleh Ab Rahaman are pictured during their lavish royal weddingChristopher Furlong/Getty Images
8 September 2004: Princess Dayangku Sarah binti Pengiran Salleh Ab Rahaman takes part in a traditional ceremony ahead of her wedding to Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah Ibni Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin WaddaulahChristopher Furlong/Getty Images
10 September 2004: Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah Ibni Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah and his new wife Princess Dayangku Sarah binti Pengiran Salleh Ab Rahaman attend the royal banquet during their lavish wedding at at Nurul Iman Palace in Bandar Seri BegawanChristopher Furlong/Getty Images
10 September 2004: The Queen of Brunei – Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha binti Pengiran Pemancha Pengiran Anak Haji Mohamed Alam –attends the royal banquet following the wedding of her son Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah Ibni Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin WaddaulahChristopher Furlong/Getty Images
9 September 2004: Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah Bolkiah and his bride, Princess Sarah, brave a monsoon downpour during their wedding procession in Bandar Seri BegawanChristopher Furlong/Getty Images
15 July 2006: Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, flanked by his first wife Queen Saleha and second wife Azrinaz Mazhar Hakim, delivers a speech during his 60th birthday celebrationsReuters
23 May 2008: The Sultan inspects weapons during his visit to the Parachute Regiment Training Centre of the Indian Army in BangaloreAFP
31 October 2008: The Sultan of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah talks to Prince Charles as Camilla, talks to the Sultan's second wife, Azrinaz Mazhar Hakim. His first wife Queen Saleha sits next to Charles during a royal banquet at the Nurul Iman Palace in Bandar Seri BegawanReuters
23 February 2009: Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah salutes the guard of honour during the country's 25th National Day celebrations in Bandar Seri Begawan. He was made an Honorary Admiral of the Royal Navy by the Queen in 2001Reuters
6 May 2011: A Bruneian man kisses the hand of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah as he arrives for The 18th ASEAN Summit in JakartaReuters
15 July 2011: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah salutes the royal guard of honour during his 65th birthday celebrations in Bandar Seri Begawan Reuters
15 July 2012: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah walks to inspect the royal guard of honour during his 66th birthday celebrations in Bandar Seri BegawanReuters
23 September 2012: Princess Hafizah Sururul Bolkiah and her new husband, civil servant Pengiran Haji Muhammad Ruzaini, pose with members of Brunei's royal family during their wedding ceremony at Nurul Iman Palace in Bandar Seri BegawanAhim Rani/Reuters
22 October 2013: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announces the phased introduction of tough Islamic punishments including death by stoning for crimes such as adulteryAFP
12 February 2014: The Sultan looks into the heads-up display of a Republic of Singapore Air Force Lockheed F16-D Fighting Falcon at the Singapore AirshowReuters
23 February 2014: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah salutes as the national anthem is played during celebrations for Brunei's 30th National Day, in Bandar Seri BegawanAhim Rani/Reuters
12 April 2015: Brunei's newly wed royal couple, Prince Haji 'Abdul Malik Ibni Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah and Dayangku Raabi'atul 'Adawiyyah Pengiran Haji Bolkiah, take part in the "bersanding" or enthronement ceremony at the Nurul Iman PalaceAhim Rani/Reuters
12 April 2015: Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah helps his son Prince Abdul Malik to bless his brideOlivia Harris/Reuters
12 April 2015: Prince Abdul Malik and Dayangku Raabi'atul 'Adawiyyah Pengiran Haji Bolkiah leave the royal wedding banquet at the Nurul Iman PalaceOlivia Harris/Reuters
30 April 2014: Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah delivers a speech to mark the implementation of Sharia Law, a controversial new penal code featuring tough Islamic criminal punishmentsAFP
9 June 2015: Queen Elizabeth II and the Sultan of Brunei arrive at the Gurkha 200 pageant in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London to mark the Gurkha regiment's 200 years of service to the British CrownAlastair Grant
9 June 2015: Prince Philip brandishes a Gurkha kukri knife as Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah looks on at the Gurkha 200 Pageant held to mark 200 years of Gurkha service to the British crown, in LondonRichard Pohle/Getty Images
15 August 2015: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah salutes during his 69th birthday celebrations in Bandar Seri Begawan. He was born on 15 July 1946, but celebrations were postponed as it was during the month of RamadanAhim Rani/Reuters
15 August 2015: Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah sits next to Queen Saleha during his delayed 69th birthday celebrations at Nurul Iman palace in Bandar Seri BegawanAhim Rani/Reuters
15 August 2015: Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah – first in line to the throne of Brunei – salutes during his father's 69th birthday celebrations in Bandar Seri BegawanAhim Rani/Reuters
5 October 2017: The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, waves from a chariot during a procession to mark his golden jubilee in Bandar Seri BegawanRoslan Rahman/AFP

Despite tight social controls, the sultan is hugely popular. His rule has seen Brunei gain full independence from Britain and living standards soar to among the highest in Asia. The country does not hold elections but any discontent is assuaged with generous government polices, including zero taxes, subsidised housing and free healthcare and education.

Brunei – a former British protectorate of about 400,000 people on the north coast of the island of Borneo in southeast Asia – relies heavily on oil and gas exports for its wealth. The sultan has a firm grip on power, but Brunei has also become a microcosm of the trouble faced by oil-dependent states.

As global energy prices tumbled over the past three years, government revenue nosedived by 70 per cent. Brunei is the only Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) country to have seen a recession for three straight years. The price collapse prompted Brunei to embrace Chinese investment, with Beijing pumping billions into key infrastructure projects. In return, the sultanate has remained largely silent on Beijing's vast territorial stake in the South China Sea, which overlaps Brunei's own claims in the disputed waters.

The sultan presided over the adoption of tough Islamic law in 2014, which raised concerns among tens of thousands of non-Muslims, including Western expatriate workers. The sale of alcohol is banned in Brunei and evangelism by other religions is strictly forbidden.

Details of the lavish lifestyle of the sultan's brother, Prince Jefri, including owning hundreds of luxury cars and a yacht, became public during a family feud, grabbing global headlines and shocking many in the country.

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