Born in 1935, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud is the 25th son of King Abdulaziz al-Saud – the founder of modern Saudi Arabia – and Hessa bint Ahmed al-Sudairi. He and his six brothers make up the powerful group within the Al-Saud family known as the ‘Sudairi Seven’.

King Salman received his early education at the Prince’s School in Riyadh, established by his father for the education of his sons. There, he studied modern science and religion. King Salman is reported to have memorised the Quran by the time he was 10, and is reported to be deeply religious.

In 1954, aged 19, he was made Emir and Mayor of Riyadh by his father. In 1955, King Salman was given rank of minister by his half brother, King Saud.

In 1963, he became governor of Riyadh province, a role he held until 2011. During that time, the town of Riyadh grew from a population of about 200,000 to 7 million.

King Salman gained a reputation for good governance and a lack of corruption in his time as governor of Riyadh. In 2011, he announced a crackdown on beggars in the capital, deporting foreigners and placing Saudi beggars in a rehabilitation programme. The UK’s Independent newspaper reports that he helped raise money for the Afghan Mujahedeen during their war with Soviet forces, and also helped raise money for the Bosnian Muslims’ war with Serbian forces.

King Salman was also responsible for ensuring any family disputes among the many royal princes and princesses living in Riyadh were handled smoothly, giving him a reputation for diplomacy within the family.

In a 2007 cable published by Wikileaks, he was reported as saying “democracy should not be imposed”. It adds: “He said [Saudi Arabia] is composed of tribes and regions, and, if democracy were imposed, each tribe and religion would have its political party.”

King Salman has three wives and 13 children. Several sons hold prominent positions, including Prince Sultan, president of the Saudi Tourism Authority; Deputy Oil Minister Prince Abdulaziz; and Prince Faisal, governor of Medina. Prince Mohammed was made defence minister on his father’s ascension to the throne.

The king and his sons also own Arab media company Saudi Research and Marketing Group. Arab News recently reported on King Salman’s reputation for “austerity, hard work and discipline”.

In 2011, he was appointed minister of defence, and has been chairing cabinet meetings for several months. As ever with ageing leaders in the region, rumours persist about the monarch’s health.