Day In History: 95th “Birthday” of the House of Windsor
It is not only Queen Elizabeth who celebrates a Jubilee this year, but also the very House she belongs to – the Royal House of Windsor. On July 17, 1917 George V issued Royal Proclamation, changing the name of his family and house, meaning that today is the 95th anniversary of the historic event.
When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, she personally continued to belong to the House of Hanover that had ruled in Great Britain since 1714. The children of the couple, however, belonged to their father’s house; thus, when Edward VII succeeded his mother in 1901, he started a new Royal House – the House of Saxe-Coburg Gotha.
The name of the House posed no problems during Edward VII reign, or the first years of George V reign; however, with the start of World War I, everything changed. While the British Royal House remained reasonably popular, many of the Monarchies that had previously been thought of as “secure” were abolished, including the Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires.
What with strong anti-German sentiments in Britain and the torrent of revolutions that was sending shockwaves across the Europe, it was felt that having a royal family with so profoundly German-sounding name was not a very good idea. The change of the House Name was thus not a whim but a political necessity. “Gotha” in particular became a household name by unfortunate association; in March of 1917, the aircraft Gotha G.IV, capable of crossing the Channel, began bombing London.
George V was quick to respond. First, the Titles Deprivation Act 1917 was adopted, which suspended all British titles and styles held by British Peers or Princes who had “borne Arms against His Majesty”. Several German and Austrians were removed from the roll of Knights of the Order of Garter. Later, George V personally stripped fifteen German Royals (all his close relatives) of all their British titles, styles and other honours. And finally, on 17 July 1917, George V issued the historical Proclamation changing the name of the Royal House to Windsor. He also set Windsor as the name of the Royal Family, meaning that for the first time, British Royals acquired a surname (previously, they were known only under the names of the Houses they belonged to). The name was chosen because it was quintessentially English and had long association with Monarchy in Britain.
The name of the British Royal House will remain Windsor after Prince Charles’ accession to the Throne as well. While under normal course of events he would have taken his father’s House name as his own (either Mountbatten – Prince Philip’s adopted surname, or Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg – the branch of the House of Oldenburg Prince Philip belongs to), that will not happen. To stop history from repeating itself, Queen Elizabeth issued a Royal Proclamation of 1952, officially confirming “Windsor” as the name of the House for herself and all her male-line descendants who carry the style of a Royal Highness and a title of British Prince or Princess. Those descendants who do not have that style and title will bear the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.Filed under Historical Royals, The United Kingdom
Tagged George V of the United Kingdom, House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, House of Windsor, World War I.