MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Do British Royalty Have Last Names?

The coronation of King Charles III is finally official, as of Saturday (5/06/2023). But one question that popped up in the minds of many watching the ceremony was: what is Charles’ last name?

When you’re British royalty, you’re rich…you’re famous…and you never have to use a last name. I mean, yeah…being famous means everyone already knows who you are. There’s only one King, y’know, so it’s not like Charles has to delineate which Charles he is. But while the rest of the world tends to go by two names, why doesn’t the royal family seem to use a last name?

Actually, the British royal family does technically have a last name: it’s Windsor. Though, that’s a fairly recent development. Prior to 1917, royals were usually referred to by their territory or the Royal House of which they were a member. For example, the full name of King Edward VII, Queen Victoria’s eldest son, was Albert Edward Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. But in 1917, King Edward’s son, George V, found himself facing a perplexing situation: his surname sounded a bit German, which, at the time, wasn’t such a great thing to have since it was in the midst of World War I. So, Edward decided to change his family name to reflect where they lived: Windsor Castle. Since that time, almost all descendants of Queen Victoria have borne the last name of Windsor.

But to make things a tad more interesting (i.e., confusing), in 1960 Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Philip, her husband, decided to put their own twist on the Windsor name. Y’know, to spice things up & distinguish their descendants from the rest of the royal family. From then on, Elizabeth’s children & their kids have been able to use Mountbatten-Windsor as their surname on official documents, like marriage & birth certificates.

Revolving around precedent rather than official decree, kings & queens are able to change their familial last names at will. Oh, and royals will also sometimes adopt other names when it’s convenient. A perfect example of that is when Princes Harry & William, adopting their father’s designation as the then-Prince of Wales, used Wales as their last name while they served in the British military.

So, what’s in a name you may ask? Well, I guess it depends on what day it is & what the occasion may be (and which royal you may be asking).

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved?  Send me an email:  [email protected].

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