House of Windsor
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|House of Windsor|
|Parent house||Wettin → Saxe-Coburg and Gotha|
|Current head||Elizabeth II|
The House of Windsor is the royal house of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V by royal proclamation on 17 July 1917, when he changed the name of his family from the German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (a branch of the House of Wettin) to the English Windsor, due to the anti-German sentiment in the British Empire during World War I.1 The most prominent member of the House of Windsor is its head, Queen Elizabeth II, who is the reigning monarch of 16 Commonwealth realms. The House of Windsor, as the British Royal Family, has the legal and constitutional prerogatives and practices associated with that status.
Edward VII and, in turn, his son, George V, were members of the German ducal House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha by virtue of their descent from Albert, Prince Consort, husband of Queen Victoria. High anti-German sentiment amongst the people of the British Empire during World War I reached a peak in March 1917, when the Gotha G.IV, a heavy aircraft capable of crossing the English Channel, began bombing London directly and became a household name. In the same year, on 15 March, King George's first cousin, Nicholas II, the Emperor of Russia, abdicated, which raised the spectre of the eventual abolition of all the monarchies in Europe. The King and his family were finally convinced to abandon all titles held under the German Crown and to change German titles and house names to anglicised versions. Hence, on 17 July 1917, a royal proclamation issued by George V declared:
Now, therefore, We, out of Our Royal Will and Authority, do hereby declare and announce that as from the date of this Our Royal Proclamation Our House and Family shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, and that all the descendants in the male line of Our said Grandmother Queen Victoria who are subjects of these Realms, other than female descendants who may marry or may have married, shall bear the said Name of Windsor....2
The name had a long association with monarchy in Britain, through the town of Windsor, Berkshire, and Windsor Castle; the link is alluded to in the Round Tower of Windsor Castle being the basis of the badge of the House of Windsor. From 1917 to 1919, George V also stripped 15 of his German relations—most of whom belonged to the House of Hanover—of their British titles and styles of prince and princess.
Upon hearing that his cousin had changed the name of the British royal house to Windsor, German Emperor Wilhelm II remarked jokingly that he planned to see Shakespeare's play "The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha",3 a play on the actual title of Shakespeare's work The Merry Wives of Windsor.
In 1947, Princess Elizabeth (as Queen Elizabeth II was then titled), heir presumptive to King George VI, married Philip Mountbatten. He was a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, a branch of the House of Oldenburg, and had been a prince of Greece and Denmark. However, not wishing to repeat the difficulties of three decades previous, Philip, a few months before his marriage, renounced his princely titles and adopted the surname Mountbatten, which was that of his uncle and mentor, the Viscount Mountbatten of Burma, and itself was adopted by the Viscount's father (Philip's maternal grandfather), Prince Louis of Battenberg, in 1917. It is the literal translation of the German Battenberg, which refers to Battenberg, a small town in Hesse.
Soon after Elizabeth became queen of the Commonwealth realms in 1952, the Earl Mountbatten (as Philip's uncle was then known) advocated that she change the name of her royal house to House of Mountbatten; it was the standard practice for the wife in a marriage to adopt her husband's surname. When Elizabeth's grandmother, Queen Mary, heard of this suggestion, she informed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and he later advised the Queen to issue a royal proclamation declaring that the royal house was to remain known as the House of Windsor. This she did on 9 April 1952, officially declaring it her "Will and Pleasure that I and My children shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, and that my descendants who marry and their descendants, shall bear the name of Windsor."4 Philip privately complained, "I am nothing but a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children."5
On 8 February 1960, after the death of Queen Mary and the resignation of Churchill, the Queen confirmed that she and her children would continue to be known as the House and Family of Windsor, as would any agnatic descendants who enjoy the style of Royal Highness and the title of Prince or Princess.4 Still, Elizabeth also decreed that her agnatic descendants who do not have that style and title would bear the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.4
Any future monarch can change the dynastic name through a similar royal proclamation, as royal proclamations do not have statutory authority.6
The 1917 proclamation stated that the name of the Royal House and all British descendants of Victoria and Albert in the male line were to bear the name of Windsor, except for women who married into other families.
By early 1919 the living male-line British descendants of Victoria subject to British rule were King George V, his five sons, his daughter Princess Mary, his unmarried sister Princess Victoria, his uncle Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, his cousin Prince Arthur of Connaught, his cousin once removed Prince Alastair of Connaught, and his unmarried cousin Princess Patricia of Connaught. Prince Alastair and Princess Victoria died unmarried and childless. Princess Mary married into the Lascelles family, and Princess Patricia married Alexander Ramsay. Neither of the Prince Arthurs had any further children, meaning all subsequent members of the House of Windsor descend from the sons of George V.
Two of George V's sons, Edward VIII (later Duke of Windsor) and Prince John, had no children, so the entire present day members of the House of Windsor are descendants of the other three sons, Prince Albert, Duke of York (later George VI), Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and Prince George, Duke of Kent. All descendants living and dead are shown in the table.
As of January 2011, two of these descendants are dead: Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, and Prince William of Gloucester. Seven are Roman Catholic or are married to a Roman Catholic (labelled "CA" in the table), and are thus excluded from the succession. The remaining 44 are in the line of succession. The bar against persons who marry Catholics or who previously married Catholics will be dropped when the changes in the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 are adopted. The bar against Catholics themselves will remain.
At the creation of the House of Windsor, its head reigned over a unitary British Empire. Following the end of the First World War, however, shifts took place that saw the emergence of the Dominions as sovereign states, the first step being the issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1926, followed by the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act the next year, and the Statute of Westminster in 1931. From then on, the House of Windsor became the royal house of multiple countries, a number that shifted over the decades, as some Dominions became republics and Crown colonies became realms, republics, or monarchies under a different sovereign. Since 1949, two monarchs of the House of Windsor, George VI and Elizabeth II, have also been Head of the Commonwealth of Nations, comprising most (but not all) parts of the former British Empire and some states that were never part of it.
In the chart below, the countries are differentiated between light green (realms of the House of Windsor as Dominions), medium green (present realms of the House of Windsor), and dark green (former realms of the House of Windsor).
|Antigua and Barbuda|
|Union of India|
|Irish Free State|
|Papua New Guinea|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis|
|St Vincent and the Grenadines|
|Trinidad and Tobago|
|Portrait||Name||From||Until||Relationship with predecessor|
|King George V||6 May 1910||20 January 1936||Son of Edward VII. Founder, House of Windsor.|
|King Edward VIII||20 January 1936||11 December 1936||Son of George V; Abdicated|
|King George VI||11 December 1936||6 February 1952||Son of George V & brother of abdicated Edward VIII|
|Queen Elizabeth II||6 February 1952||reigning||Daughter of George VI|
- British prince
- British princess
- Canadian Royal Family
- Australian Royal Family
- History of the British line of succession
- List of descendants of George V
- McGuigan, Jim (2001). "British identity and 'people's princess'". The Sociological Review 48 (1). Retrieved 7 June 2013.
- The London Gazette: . 17 July 1917.
- George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I, Random House, p. xxiii, ISBN 9780307593023
- Royal Styles and Titles – 1960 Letters Patent
- Brandreth, Gyles (2004). Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage. p.253–254. London: Century. ISBN 0-7126-6103-4
- The Royal Family name, Royal Household, retrieved 15 February 2011
- Longford, Elizabeth Harman (Countess of Longford). The Royal House of Windsor. Revised ed. Crown, 1984.
- Roberts, Andrew. The House of Windsor. University of California Press, 2000.
- Royal Family Name from royal.gov.uk
- House of Windsor from royal.gov.uk
- House of Windsor Tree from royal.gov.uk [Lord Culloden & Albert+Leopold Windsor are missing]
House of Windsor
Cadet branch of the House of Wettin
House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
|Ruling House of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms