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The House of Windsor is the current Royal House of the United Kingdommarker and each of the other Commonwealth realms. It is a branch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha ( ), which adopted the name Windsor by a royal proclamation of George V in 1917. The current head of the House of Windsor is Elizabeth II, the reigning monarch over the Commonwealth realms (however, the overall head of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, including the Windsor branch, is Andreas, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha). The heir to the British and Commonwealth thrones, Charles, Prince of Wales, is like his father a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg.

Descendants of Victoria

Queen Victoria was married to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha son of Duke Ernst I of the small German duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Her descendants were also members of the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a minor branch of the thousand-year-old House of Wettin. It was Victoria's desire that her son rule as a member of the House of Wettin, instead of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, because she felt the older name would conjure images of the shared Saxon heritage of Germanymarker and England. However, the name Wettin was never widely accepted. Victoria's son, Edward VII, and, in turn, his son, George V, reigned as members of this house.

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 Channelmarker began bombing Londonmarker directly. The aircraft became a household name, and coincidently was part of the name of the royal family. These bombings were coupled with the abdication of King George's first cousin, Nicholas II, the Tsar of Russiamarker on 15 March 1917, which raised the specter 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 anglicized 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...

The name had a long association with British royalty, through the town of Windsor, Berkshiremarker and Windsor Castlemarker, a link reflected in the Round Tower of Windsor Castle being the basis of the badge of the House of Windsor. At the same time, Prince Louis of Battenberg adopted the surname Mountbatten, a partial translation into English. Prince Louis is the maternal grandfather of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Only a single person, Alastair Windsor, 2nd Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, who was not a descendant of George V, ever bore the surname Windsor, and he died without issue. So today the only living royal Windsors are the agnatic descendants of George V.

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. The two cousins had been previously photographed riding horses together in 1910 at the funeral of George's father, Edward VII, and again at Potsdammarker palace circa 1913. (Photo of Kings 1913)

Descendants of Elizabeth II

When Princess Elizabeth (as she then was) married Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, the standard practice would be to adopt his family household name. Because he was a prince, Prince Philip did not have a surname but he was of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, a minor branch of the House of Oldenburg. Not wishing to repeat the difficulties of three decades previous, before his marriage Prince Philip renounced his titles and adopted the surname Mountbatten, which his maternal grandfather had created in 1917.

On 9 April 1952, Queen Elizabeth II officially declared 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.". On 8 February 1960, 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. Still, Elizabeth also decreed that her agnatic descendants who do not have that style and title would bear the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.

Any future monarch can change the dynastic name through a similar royal proclamation, but the Prince of Wales has not signaled any intention either way.

Members of the House of Windsor

George V had five sons, their descendants are shown in the table. Two of the descendants are dead (Princess Margaret and Prince William) and 7 are Catholic. The other 39 are the initial people in the line of succession. CA means excluded from succession due to being Roman Catholic or having married a Catholic


Designation and details

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, geo-political 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 various Dominions and Crown colonies gained independence, and various of those moved to become monarchies under a different sovereign or a republic. Since 1949, the head of the House of Windsor is also 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).

1920 1925 1930 1935 1940 1945 1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005
Antigua and Barbudamarker
The Bahamasmarker
The Gambiamarker
Indian Empire
Union of India
Irish Free State
New Zealandmarker
Papua New Guineamarker
Saint Kitts and Nevismarker
Saint Luciamarker
St Vincent and the Grenadinesmarker
Sierra Leonemarker
Solomon Islandsmarker
South Africa
Trinidad and Tobagomarker
United Kingdommarker
1920 1925 1930 1935 1940 1945 1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005

List of Commonwealth realms monarchs

Portrait Name From Until Relationship with predecessor
King Edward VII 22 January 1901 6 May 1910 son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
King George V 6 May 1910 20 January 1936 son of Edward VII.
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.

House of Windsor and the Line of Succession

When the House of Windsor was created, the House of Windsor included George V and his children. However, there was no law passed to limit the Line of Succession. At this time the line was approaching a thousand people who were legitimately descended from George I and not disqualified by religion. In addition to the six Windsor children, the next five on the list were British. So, even considering the dangers of wartime, it was highly unlikely that a series of disasters would occur that resulted in the crown passing outside of the kingdom. Therefore it would not have been risky to limit the line to these eleven people.

The British members were followed by the royal members in Norway and Romania, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. The Tsar was descended from George I via three different bloodlines. The Tsar's wife was a first cousin of George V. Kaiser Wilhelm II, was also a first cousin of George V, sharing a common grandmother, Queen Victoria, so he was on the list. The line of succession was roughly half Germans. The line included all of the Kings of Prussia except the first king. The line of succession apparently did not disturb the public as much as the Germanic household names, the Germanic titles, and the photos of their King riding with the Emperor of Germany taken only three years earlier. As H. G. Wells put it, the royalty was "an alien and uninspiring Court".

Further reading

  • 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.

See also

Notes and references

  1. Royal Styles and Titles – 1960 Letters Patenet

External links

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