Nine royal houses have ruled England since the Norman Conquest in 1066 and all of them have made their mark. But eight have seen their power pass elsewhere and this summer Royal Central is looking at what happened to those that have now faded into history. At the start of the 20th century, a new name was carved into British royal history but its end came far sooner than anyone predicted. In our final installment, we ask – what happened to the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha?
The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
The shortest reigning royal dynasty England has known, this royal house saw just two kings who both quietly changed the concept of royalty in a world where inherited power was coming under increasingly violent scrutiny.
Edward VII took the name of his father’s house, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, when he succeeded his mother as monarch in 1901. Written off as a playboy prince, in part due to Victoria’s determination to keep him away from real influence during her lifetime, Edward surprised many with his sound grasp of foreign policy and deep interest in home matters. He quickly became popular with the public and politicians alike while his private life kept the burgeoning press more than occupied.
His death, in May 1910, turned his shy and stubborn son into King George V. Born a second son, he had been placed in direct succession to the throne by the death of his older brother, Albert Victor, in 1892 and had since then proved to be a hard working second in line and an even more devoted heir to the throne. George’s accession was widely celebrated and he enjoyed a measure of stability unknown to some of his European relatives as revolt against royal rule began to spread through the continent.
The Last King
An able administrator, George’s real gift lay in PR and, alongside his wife Mary, he began to nurture and promote the concept of a royal family, first used to such success by his grandmother, Queen Victoria.
However, he soon faced real crisis as Britain went to war in 1914. George and Mary were determined to show their fellow citizens that they stood alongside them and the king was often seen in his military uniform while the queen, along with her daughter, initiated royal visits to wounded soldiers.
But the German origins and links of the royal family were beginning to cause serious dissent.
The Last Queen
Mary of Teck, born in London and raised in England, had been handpicked as queen consort by Victoria herself. Initially chosen as a bride for Albert Victor, eldest son of Edward VII, Mary had moved on to his younger brother, George, when her first fiancé died.
Her devotion to duty remained legendary and her hard work and ambition proved Victoria right. Mary was every inch the model consort.
However, the German origins of her own family and particularly that of her husband became too problematic to ignore as the First World War reached its apogee. In 1917, George took the decision to renounce all his German titles and those of all his relatives and to change the name of his ruling house to the very English sounding Windsor.
It was his most strategic and successful PR move. The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was consigned to history and the House of Windsor took power.