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In the beginning: The House of Windsor

The House of Windsor is the royal house of the United Kingdom and was established 99 years ago with a proclamation from King George V on 17 July 1917:

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….

Of German paternal descent (through Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert) the royal household was the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha until anti-German sentiment reached fever pitch during the First World War. In March of 1917 the Gotha G.IV. (a heavy aircraft capable of crossing the English Channel) began bombing London and became a household name creating an unsavoury association with the royal family.

Facing the spectre of monarchical abolishment – a threat made more pressing when the King’s first cousin, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia was forced to abdicate – King George and his family decided to abandon all titles held under the German crown, officially becoming the House of Windsor. The King also changed German titles and house names to the anglicised versions and striped fifteen of his German relatives of their British titles and styles of Prince and Princess.

The name of ‘Windsor’ came from the castle and city’s long association with the monarchy in Britain and the link is immortalised in the Round Tower of Windsor Castle which forms the basis of the House of Windsor’s badge of honour.

When Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II took the throne in 1952 there was some question of whether the royal family would continue to be known as the House of Windsor as, traditionally, a wife takes her husband’s name. Philip had abandoned his princely titles as a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg a few months before his marriage, taking the name Philip Mountbatten which left people questioning whether or not the royal family would become the House of Mountbatten.

On the advice of British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, The Queen issued a royal proclamation on 9 April 1954 declaring that the royal house would remain the House of Windsor.

The proclamation read:

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.

Notoriously outspoken, it’s believed that this decision did not sit well with Prince Philip and in 1960 The Queen released a Declaration made in Council that said she, her children and any agnatic descendants would continue to be known as the House and Family of Windsor but descendants who don’t have the style of ‘Royal Highness’ and the title of Prince or Princess (such as the children of the Earl and Countess of Wessex) would have the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.

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