The House of Windsor is the reigning royal house of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms. The dynasty is originally of German paternal descent and was a branch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, itself derived from the House of Wettin, which succeeded the House of Hanover to the British monarchy following the death of Queen Victoria, wife of Albert, Prince Consort.
The name was changed from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the English Windsor (from "Windsor Castle") in 1917 because of anti-German sentiment in the British Empire during World War I. There have been four British monarchs of the house of Windsor to date: three kings and the present queen, Elizabeth II. During the reign of the Windsors, major changes took place in British society. The British Empire participated in the First and Second World Wars, ending up on the winning side both times, but subsequently lost its status as a superpower during decolonisation. Much of Ireland broke with the United Kingdom and the remnants of the Empire became the Commonwealth of Nations.
The current head of the house is monarch of sixteen sovereign states. These are the United Kingdom (where they are based), Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. As well as these separate monarchies, there are also three Crown dependencies, fourteen British Overseas Territories and two associated states of New Zealand.
|House of Windsor|
|Parent house||Saxe-Coburg and Gotha|
|Country||United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms|
|Founded||17 July 1917|
|Current head||Elizabeth II|
Edward VII and, in turn, his son, George V, were members of the German ducal House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha by virtue of their descent from Albert, Prince Consort, husband of Queen Victoria, the last British monarch from the House of Hanover. High anti-German sentiment amongst the people of the British Empire during World War I reached a peak in March 1917, when the Gotha G.IV, a heavy aircraft capable of crossing the English Channel, began bombing London directly and became a household name. In the same year, on 15 March, King George's first cousin, Nicholas II, the Emperor of Russia, was forced to abdicate, which raised the spectre of the eventual abolition of all the monarchies in Europe. The King and his family were finally convinced to abandon all titles held under the German Crown and to change German titles and house names to anglicised versions. Hence, on 17 July 1917, a royal proclamation issued by George V declared:
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....
The name had a long association with monarchy in Britain, through the town of Windsor, Berkshire, and Windsor Castle; the link is alluded to in the Round Tower of Windsor Castle being the basis of the badge of the House of Windsor. Upon hearing that his cousin had changed the name of the British royal house to Windsor and in reference to Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, German Emperor Wilhelm II remarked jokingly that he planned to see "The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha".
|Portrait||Name||From||Until||Relationship with predecessor|
|George V[N 1]||17 July 1917||20 January 1936||Son of Edward VII|
|Edward VIII||20 January 1936||11 December 1936||Son of George V|
|George VI||11 December 1936||6 February 1952||Brother of Edward VIII|
|Elizabeth II||6 February 1952||reigning||Daughter of George VI|
The 1917 proclamation stated that the name of the Royal House and all British descendants of Victoria and Albert in the male line were to bear the name of Windsor, except for women who married into other families.
By early 1919 the living male-line British descendants of Victoria subject to British rule were King George V, his five sons, his daughter Princess Mary, his unmarried sister Princess Victoria, his uncle Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, his cousin Prince Arthur of Connaught, his cousin once removed Prince Alastair of Connaught, and his unmarried cousin Princess Patricia of Connaught. Prince Alastair and Princess Victoria died unmarried and childless. Princess Mary married into the Lascelles family, and Princess Patricia married Alexander Ramsay. Neither of the Arthurs had any further children, meaning all subsequent members of the House of Windsor descend from the sons of George V.
Two of George V's sons, Edward VIII (later Duke of Windsor) and Prince John, had no children, so the entire present day members of the House of Windsor are descendants of the other three sons, Prince Albert, Duke of York (later George VI), Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and Prince George, Duke of Kent.
In 1947, Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II), heiress presumptive to King George VI, married Philip Mountbatten (born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark), a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, a branch of the House of Oldenburg. A few months before his marriage, Philip abandoned his princely titles and adopted the surname Mountbatten, which was that of his uncle and mentor, the Earl Mountbatten of Burma, and had itself been adopted by Lord Mountbatten's father (Philip's maternal grandfather), Prince Louis of Battenberg, in 1917. It is the literal translation of the German battenberg, which refers to Battenberg, a small town in Hesse.
Soon after Elizabeth became Queen in 1952, Lord Mountbatten observed that because it was the standard practice for the wife in a marriage to adopt her husband's surname, the royal house had become the House of Mountbatten. When Elizabeth's grandmother, Queen Mary, heard of this comment, she informed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and he later advised the Queen to issue a royal proclamation declaring that the royal house was to remain known as the House of Windsor. This she did on 9 April 1952, officially declaring it her "Will and Pleasure that I and My children shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, and that My descendants, other than female descendants who marry and their descendants, shall bear the name of Windsor." Philip privately complained, "I am nothing but a bloody amoeba. I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children."
On 8 February 1960, some years after both the death of Queen Mary and the resignation of Churchill, the Queen confirmed that she and her children would continue to be known as the House and Family of Windsor, as would any agnatic descendants who enjoy the style of Royal Highness and the title of Prince or Princess. Still, Elizabeth also decreed that her agnatic descendants who do not have that style and title would bear the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.
This came after some months of correspondence between the Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and the constitutional expert Edward Iwi. Iwi had raised the prospect that the Royal child due to be born in February 1960 would bear "the Badge of Bastardy" if it were given its mother's maiden name (Windsor) rather than its father's name (Mountbatten). Macmillan had attempted to rebuff Iwi, until the Queen advised the acting Prime Minister Rab Butler in January 1960 that for some time she had had her heart set on a change that would recognise the name Mountbatten. She clearly wished to make this change before the birth of her child. The issue did not affect Prince Charles or Princess Anne, as they had been born with the name Mountbatten, before the Queen's accession to the throne. Prince Andrew was born 11 days later, on 19 February 1960.
Any future monarch can change the dynastic name through a similar royal proclamation, as royal proclamations do not have statutory authority.
At the creation of the House of Windsor, its head reigned over the British Empire. Following the end of the First World War, however, shifts took place that saw the emergence of the Dominions of the British Commonwealth as independent sovereign states. The shift was recognised in the Balfour Declaration of 1926, the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927, and the Statute of Westminster 1931. The Windsors became recognised as the royal family of multiple independent countries, a number that shifted over the decades, as some Dominions became republics and Crown colonies became realms, republics, or monarchies under a different sovereign. Since 1949, two monarchs of the House of Windsor, George VI and Elizabeth II, have also been Head of the Commonwealth of Nations, comprising most (but not all) parts of the former British Empire and some states that were never part of it.
In the chart below, the countries are differentiated between light green (Dominions), medium green (present realms), and dark green (former realms).
|Antigua and Barbuda|
|Irish Free State/Ireland[N 3]|
|Papua New Guinea|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis|
|St Vincent and the Grenadines|
|Trinidad and Tobago|
House of Windsor
House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
(Renamed House of Windsor by Royal Proclamation of 17 July 1917)
| Ruling House of the United Kingdom
Major Alexander Patrick Gregers Richard Windsor, Earl of Ulster (born 24 October 1974) is a former British Army officer. He is the only son of Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester.
As heir apparent to the dukedom of Gloucester, he is accorded the courtesy title Earl of Ulster, but is commonly known as Alex Ulster.Dynasty
A dynasty (UK: , US: ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family, usually in the context of a feudal or monarchical system, but sometimes also appearing in elective republics. Alternative terms for "dynasty" may include "house", "family" and "clan", among others. The longest-surviving dynasty in the world is the Imperial House of Japan, otherwise known as the Yamato dynasty, whose reign is traditionally dated to 660 BC.
The dynastic family or lineage may be known as a "noble house", which may be styled as "royal", "princely", "ducal", "comital" etc., depending upon the chief or present title borne by its members.
Historians periodize the histories of numerous nations and civilizations, such as Ancient Egypt (3100–30 BC) and Imperial China (221 BC–AD 1912), using a framework of successive dynasties. As such, the term "dynasty" may be used to delimit the era during which a family reigned, and also to describe events, trends and artifacts of that period (for example, "a Ming-dynasty vase"). The word "dynasty" itself is often dropped from such adjectival references (i.e., "a Ming vase").
Until the 19th century, it was taken for granted that a legitimate function of a monarch was to aggrandize his dynasty: that is, to expand the wealth and power of his family members.Prior to the 20th century, dynasties throughout the world have traditionally been reckoned patrilineally, such as under the Frankish Salic law. In nations where it was permitted, succession through a daughter usually established a new dynasty in her husband's ruling house. This has changed in some places in Europe, where succession law and convention have maintained dynasties de jure through a female. For instance, the House of Windsor will be maintained through the children of Queen Elizabeth II, as it did with the monarchy of the Netherlands, whose dynasty remained the House of Orange-Nassau through three successive queens regnant. The earliest such example among major European monarchies was in the Russian Empire in the 18th century, where the name of the House of Romanov was maintained through Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna. In Limpopo Province of South Africa, Balobedu determined descent matrilineally, while rulers have at other times adopted the name of their mother's dynasty when coming into her inheritance. Less frequently, a monarchy has alternated or been rotated, in a multi-dynastic (or polydynastic) system – that is, the most senior living members of parallel dynasties, at any point in time, constitute the line of succession.
Not all feudal states or monarchies were/are ruled by dynasties; modern examples are the Vatican City State, the Principality of Andorra, and the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta. Throughout history, there were monarchs that did not belong to any dynasty; non-dynastic rulers include King Arioald of the Lombards and Emperor Phocas of the Byzantine Empire. Dynasties ruling subnational monarchies do not possess sovereign rights; two modern examples are the monarchies of Malaysia and the royal families of the United Arab Emirates.
The word "dynasty" is sometimes used informally for people who are not rulers but are, for example, members of a family with influence and power in other areas, such as a series of successive owners of a major company. It is also extended to unrelated people, such as major poets of the same school or various rosters of a single sports team.Edward Windsor, Lord Downpatrick
Edward Edmund Maximilian George Windsor, Lord Downpatrick (born 2 December 1988), known professionally as Eddy Downpatrick, is an English fashion designer and former financial analyst. He is the co-founder and creative director of the British fashion label FIDIR. Downpatrick is a relative of the British royal family. As second-in-line to the Dukedom of Kent, he uses one of his grandfather's subsidiary titles, Baron Downpatrick, by courtesy.Family tree of the British royal family
This is the British monarchs' family tree, from James VI & I (whose accession united the thrones of England and Scotland) to the present monarch, Elizabeth II.George V
George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert; 3 June 1865 – 20 January 1936) was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 until his death in 1936.
Born during the reign of his grandmother Queen Victoria, George was third in the line of succession behind his father, Prince Albert Edward, and his own elder brother, Prince Albert Victor. From 1877 to 1891, George served in the Royal Navy, until the unexpected death of his elder brother in early 1892 put him directly in line for the throne. On the death of his grandmother in 1901, George's father ascended the throne as Edward VII, and George was created Prince of Wales. He became king-emperor on his father's death in 1910.
George V's reign saw the rise of socialism, communism, fascism, Irish republicanism, and the Indian independence movement, all of which radically changed the political landscape. The Parliament Act 1911 established the supremacy of the elected British House of Commons over the unelected House of Lords. As a result of the First World War (1914–1918), the empires of his first cousins Nicholas II of Russia and Wilhelm II of Germany fell, while the British Empire expanded to its greatest effective extent. In 1917, George became the first monarch of the House of Windsor, which he renamed from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha as a result of anti-German public sentiment. In 1924 he appointed the first Labour ministry and in 1931 the Statute of Westminster recognised the dominions of the Empire as separate, independent states within the Commonwealth of Nations. He had smoking-related health problems throughout much of his later reign and at his death was succeeded by his eldest son, Edward VIII.George VI
George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George; 14 December 1895 – 6 February 1952) was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death on 6 February 1952. He was the last Emperor of India and the first Head of the Commonwealth.
Known publicly as Albert until his accession, and "Bertie" among his family and close friends, George VI was born in the reign of his great-grandmother Queen Victoria, and was named after his great-grandfather Albert, Prince Consort. As the second son of King George V, he was not expected to inherit the throne and spent his early life in the shadow of his elder brother, Edward. He attended naval college as a teenager, and served in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force during the First World War. In 1920, he was made Duke of York. He married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923 and they had two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. In the mid-1920s, he had speech therapy for a stammer, which he never fully overcame.
George's elder brother ascended the throne as Edward VIII upon the death of their father in 1936. However, later that year Edward revealed his desire to marry divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. British prime minister Stanley Baldwin advised Edward that for political and religious reasons he could not marry a divorced woman and remain king. Edward abdicated to marry Simpson, and George ascended the throne as the third monarch of the House of Windsor.
During George's reign, the break-up of the British Empire and its transition into the Commonwealth of Nations accelerated. The parliament of the Irish Free State removed direct mention of the monarch from the country's constitution on the day of his accession. The following year, a new Irish constitution changed the name of the state to Ireland and established the office of President. From 1939, the Empire and Commonwealth – except Ireland – was at war with Nazi Germany. War with Italy and Japan followed in 1940 and 1941, respectively. Though Britain and its allies were ultimately victorious in 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union rose as pre-eminent world powers and the British Empire declined. After the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, George remained king of both countries, but relinquished the title of Emperor of India in June 1948. Ireland formally declared itself a republic and left the Commonwealth in 1949, and India became a republic within the Commonwealth the following year. George adopted the new title of Head of the Commonwealth. He was beset by smoking-related health problems in the later years of his reign. He was succeeded by his elder daughter, Elizabeth II.James, Viscount Severn
James, Viscount Severn (James Alexander Philip Theo Mountbatten-Windsor; born 17 December 2007), is the younger child and only son of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and the youngest grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. He is eleventh in line of succession to the British throne.Lady Davina Windsor
Lady Davina Elizabeth Alice Benedikte Windsor (born 19 November 1977), known as Lady Davina Lewis between 2004 and 2018, is the elder daughter of Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and his wife Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester. She is 30th in the line of succession to the British throne as of June 2018.Lady Helen Taylor
Lady Helen Marina Lucy Taylor (née Windsor; born 28 April 1964) is a daughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and his wife, Katharine, Duchess of Kent, and a great-granddaughter of King George V of the United Kingdom. She is currently 42nd in line of succession to the British Throne.Lady Louise Windsor
Lady Louise Windsor (Louise Alice Elizabeth Mary Mountbatten-Windsor; born 8 November 2003) is the elder child and only daughter of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex. She is the youngest granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. She is twelfth in the line of succession to the British throne.Mountbatten-Windsor
Mountbatten-Windsor is the personal surname used by some of the male-line descendants of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Under a declaration made in Privy Council in 1960, the name Mountbatten-Windsor applies to male-line descendants of the Queen without royal styles and titles. Individuals with royal styles do not usually use a surname, but some descendants of the Queen with royal styles have used Mountbatten-Windsor when a surname was required.Mountbatten family
The Mountbatten family is a European dynasty originating as a cadet branch of the German princely Battenberg family. The name was adopted during World War I by family members residing in the United Kingdom due to rising anti-German sentiment amongst the British public. The name is a direct Anglicisation of the German Battenberg (literally Batten Mountain), a small town in Hesse. The title of count of Battenberg, later prince of Battenberg, was granted to a morganatic branch of the House of Hesse-Darmstadt, itself a cadet branch of the House of Hesse, in the mid 19th century.
The family now includes the Marquesses of Milford Haven (and formerly the Marquesses of Carisbrooke), as well as the Earls Mountbatten of Burma. Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, the consort of Queen Elizabeth II, adopted the surname of Mountbatten from his mother's family in 1947, although he is a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg by patrilineal descent. Lady Louise Mountbatten became Queen Consort of Sweden, after having married Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden.Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, (Edward George Nicholas Paul Patrick; born 9 October 1935) is a member of the British royal family.
He is a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II through their fathers, Prince George, Duke of Kent, and King George VI. He has held the title of Duke of Kent for over 76 years, since the death of his father in a plane crash in 1942.
The Duke of Kent carries out engagements on behalf of the Queen. He is president of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, presenting the trophies to the Wimbledon champion and runner-up, and served as the United Kingdom's Special Representative for International Trade and Investment, retiring in 2001. He is president of The Scout Association, the Royal United Services Institute, and the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and since 1967 Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. He is also patron of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, an independent road safety charity which specialises in training and advice for post-licence drivers and riders.
Since his mother, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, was a cousin of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Edward is both a second cousin and first cousin once removed to Prince Charles and his siblings.Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, (Edward Antony Richard Louis; born 10 March 1964) is the youngest of four children and the third son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. At the time of his birth, he was third in line of succession to the British throne; he is now tenth. The Earl is a full-time working member of the British royal family and supports the Queen in her official duties – often alongside his wife the Countess of Wessex - as well as undertaking public engagements for a large number of his own charities. In particular he has assumed many duties from his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, who retired from public life in 2017. Prince Edward succeeded Prince Philip as president of the Commonwealth Games Federation (vice-patron since 2006) and opened the 1990 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand and the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Malaysia. He has also taken over the Duke's role in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme.Prince George of Cambridge
Prince George of Cambridge (George Alexander Louis; born 22 July 2013) is a member of the British royal family. He is the eldest child and elder son of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and third in the line of succession to the British throne behind his grandfather Prince Charles and his father. As he is expected to be king someday, his birth was widely celebrated across the Commonwealth realms. He has two younger siblings: Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis of Cambridge. George occasionally accompanies his parents on royal tours, and has affected business and popular culture.Prince Louis of Cambridge
Prince Louis of Cambridge (Louis Arthur Charles; born 23 April 2018) is a member of the British royal family. He is the third and youngest child and second son of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. He is fifth in the line of succession to the British throne.Princess Beatrice of York
Princess Beatrice of York (Beatrice Elizabeth Mary; born 8 August 1988) is a member of the British royal family. She is the elder daughter of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Sarah, Duchess of York. She is eighth in line to succeed her grandmother Queen Elizabeth II.Princess Charlotte of Cambridge
Princess Charlotte of Cambridge (Charlotte Elizabeth Diana; born 2 May 2015) is a member of the British royal family. She is the second child and only daughter of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. She is fourth in the line of succession to the British throne.Princess Eugenie of York
Princess Eugenie of York ( YOO-zhə-nee; Eugenie Victoria Helena; born 23 March 1990) is a member of the British royal family, and the younger daughter of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Sarah, Duchess of York. She is ninth in line of succession to the British throne, after her elder sister, Princess Beatrice of York.
Royal houses of Europe