How the British Royal Family Made Us Forget its Very-German Name


On 17 July 1917 King George V, king of the United Kingdom from 1910 to 1936, issued a proclamation changing the name of his Royal House to Windsor and relinquishing the use of "All German Titles and Dignities.” 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the House of Windsor.

But before we delve into the why and how, we should know that...

...Britain itself is More Germanic than You Would Care to Imagine

Genetic studies have revealed that most of the white British population owes 30% of their DNA to the ancestors of modern-day Germans! The Anglo-Saxons, a people comprising of Germanic tribes who migrated to Great Britain after the breakdown of the Roman Empire, are largely responsible for substantially altering country's genetic makeup. Guess, Britishness is as German as the Royal Family.

And The Royal Family's Current Name is Still Part German

Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, was born into the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg, a Dano-German branch of the German Dynasty of the House of Oldenburg. Before marrying the Queen he adopted his maternal surname Mountbatten, an anglicisation of the German surname Battenberg. After their marriage, the Queen chose to retain her father's name. In 1960, however, the Queen declared that while the royal family would continue to be known as House of Windsor, descendants use the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.

However, 100 Years Ago the Royal Family Underwent a Radical Name Change to Adopt it's Very-English Surname, Windsor


The grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II, King George V inherited the dynastic name of his father, which was German: Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, a branch of the eminent House of Wettin. The First World War drew a lot of unwanted attention to the king's very German surname and his relation with the then German emperor Wilhelm II. The surname became painfully inconvenient when German 'Gotha' IV biplane bombers started carrying out daylight raids on Britain in June 1917. Convinced that this could potentially mark the end of his rule, in the spring of 1917 the king instructed his trusted private secretary Lord Stamfordham to scour the history books for an alternative to his Teutonic family name.
"Arrived Prince Hyde, left Lord Jekyll," wrote Prince Louis of Battenberg in a visitor's book after travelling to Scotland, highlighting the suddeness of the name change. 
The Badge of the House of Windsor

But, What's in a Name? 

Survival! A century on, George V's simple act of changing the name of his family seems to make even more sense. Despite the World Wars, the loss of empire and most of Europe's major crowned heads being swept away by revolutionary movements, the House of Windsor looks more secure than it did in 1917.

£67.5bn - In 2017, Brand Finance, a business valuation consultancy, estimated that the royal family is worth £67.5bn. From which, £42bn comes from its brand.

£30 million - The royal wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981 cost £30 million, $120 million in today's dollars. It is regarded as the most expensive wedding of all time!

1 out of 26 Monarchies - The British royal family is the most celebrated of the world's other 25 royal families. 

The Real Point

In 1917, the British royal family changed their German surname of 200 years to the very-British 'Windsor' and thus began one of the greatest rebranding stories of all times. Having a British surname at a time when the British more patriotic about being British differentiated the monarchy from its German contemporaries and associated it with everything Britannia. Especially when in 1939 Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany, initiated World War II and was responsible for the genocide of at least 5.5 million Jews. 

Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears the Crown

After the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, 20 years ago, the British Monarchy found themselves on the wrong side of the public opinion. An emotional nation demanded the Monarchy to give up its adherence to traditions and keep up with the times. The royal family did manage to modernize. True to its new brand image, the Queen has given her blessings to her grandson Prince Harry, fifth in line of succession to the British throne, who is set to marry a half-black, American Actress, Meghan Markle in the Spring of 2018.

For More Royal Lessons in Branding

The Crown, Netflix Series: This drama follows the events that shaped the face Queen Elizabeth II's reign
The Queen, Movie: Film depicting the British Royal Family response to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales

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