Today marks the century of a momentous decision, but one borne out of potential crisis and some would argue a very good call as European history panned out. Queen Victoria, had taken the decision in the nineteenth century to give the Royal House her husband’s title. Hence, she and subsequent monarch’s would-be members of the House of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, previously since the reign of George I, the dynastic title has been the House of Hanover, reflecting their German origins and titles as Elector of Hanover.
However, 1917 was proving a turbulent year in European politics. In March, Tsar Nicholas II, one of King George V’s relatives was forced to abdicate from the Russian throne. That combined with anti-German sentiments following three hard years of war against the Germans led by Kaiser Wilhelm II, another relative of King George. There had been attacks against Germans in England and perhaps the “final straw” for the King was the bombing of a school in East London from a bomber that was also named Gotha.
However, the challenge for Monarch and Government was what to change the dynastic name to? They could hardly go back to the previous name – Hanover, but what to do? Several names were suggested, even going back to Tudor or Stuart, then when all feared lost it was apparently the King’s private secretary, Lord Stamfordham, who as he thrashed various ideas about in his office in Windsor Castle realised the answer was almost staring him in the face.
All parties agreed to this, and on the 17th July the King issued a Royal proclamation: – “the Name of Windsor is to be borne by His Royal House and Family and relinquishing the use of all German Titles and Dignities”. In addition to the Royal family dropping their ties with German titles, during the following years, the King also removed the ties that the German royal families had with the English throne. This proved fortuitous, when in 1939, we were again at war with Germany and some of the German princes were close friends and supporters of Adolf Hitler.
The Queen chose to keep the dynastic name as the House of Windsor, though there was pressure to change it to her husband’s name – Mountbatten. This was an anglicised version of Battenberg. However, Prince Charles and Princess Anne do have the surname Mountbatten, as they were born prior to the Queen taking the throne. Following many discussions, the Queen announced in February 1960 that her subsequent children would bear the surname Mountbatten-Windsor, just prior to the birth of Prince Andrew, who was followed by Prince Edward.