Royal Family name: What was the Royal Family’s surname before Windsor?

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The House of Windsor has ruled over Britain for over a century, but the family wasn’t always referred to by its current name. While members of the Royal Family don’t usually use their surname, descendants of Elizabeth II use the surname Mountbatten-Windsor, the amalgamation of the monarch’s house name and Prince Philip’s surname.

What was the Royal Family’s surname before Windsor?

Prior to becoming the Windsors in 1917, the Royal Family was known as Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

The name came from Prince Albert, who was married to Queen Victoria.

Prior to becoming the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’s, Queen Victoria was originally from the House of Hanover.

At the time it was controversial that the Queen’s children took his name instead of the monarch’s.

The first king to bear the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha name was King Edward VII, who ruled until 1910 and made way for his son, George V.

The name didn’t last long however. At a meeting of the Privy Council on July 17, 1917, George V declared that “all descendants in the male line of Queen Victoria, who are subjects of these realms, other than female descendants who marry or who have married, shall bear the name of Windsor”.

Why did the family name change?

As far as royal houses go, the Windsor’s are a young house, having been known as such for just over 100 years.

The name change to Windsor came about because there was considerable anti-German sentiment growing throughout World War I.

According to Royal UK: “The family name was changed as a result of anti-German feeling during the First World War, and the name Windsor was adopted after the Castle of the same name.”

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However, Queen Elizabeth II actually made some changes to the family’s last name following her coronation.

The official website of the Royal Family explains: “The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh decided that they would like their own direct descendants to be distinguished from the rest of the Royal Family (without changing the name of the Royal House), as Windsor is the surname used by all the male and unmarried female descendants of George V.

“It was therefore declared in the Privy Council that The Queen’s descendants, other than those with the style of Royal Highness and the title of Prince/Princess, or female descendants who marry, would carry the name of Mountbatten-Windsor.

“This reflected Prince Philip’s surname. In 1947, when Prince Philip of Greece became naturalised, he assumed the name of Philip Mountbatten as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy.

“The effect of the declaration was that all The Queen’s children, on occasions when they needed a surname, would have the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.

“For the most part, members of the Royal Family who are entitled to the style and dignity of HRH Prince or Princess do not need a surname, but if at any time any of them do need a surname (such as upon marriage), that surname is Mountbatten-Windsor.

“The surname Mountbatten-Windsor first appeared on an official document on 14 November 1973, in the marriage register at Westminster Abbey for the marriage of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips.”

The House of Windsor is likely to continue unless Prince Charles decides to make changes to the family name when he ascends to the throne, something that seems unlikely.

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