100 years since Royal Family adopted Windsor name

A hundred years ago, the British Royal Family was facing a crisis.

It was the biggest crisis for a generation.

The First World War has been dragging on for three long and painful years.

And the German enemy was proving to be a formidable one.

But the German enemy was related to the British King.

The emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was the cousin of King George V.

A portrait of the German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II taken in 1913. Credit: PA

And to make matters worse, the British Royal Family had a very un-British surname.

The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created when Queen Victoria made Prince Albert her German husband in 1840.

But in July 1917, the name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, was not a good one to have.

There was fervent anti-German sentiment in Britain.

German shops were being raided and German business targeted.

An illustration of the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840. Credit: AP

And just a few weeks before, a German plane with the same name as the Royal family, a Gotha bomber, had dropped its deadly load on an East London primary school.

We wrote about that incident last month when 18 little boys and girls were killed as they were sitting in their classrooms. Most were just 5 years old.

For some time, the Royal Family had been thrashing around for ideas for a new name. They looked into history: Stuart? Tudor? Plantagenet? Fitzroy?None was deemed very appealing and all had been crossed off the list by either the government or the King himself.

George V’s Private Secretary, a chap by the name of Lord Stamfordham, was getting anxious.

The King wanted a “prompt” resolution, he wrote.

The aftermath of a bombing on an east London school by a German plane with the same name as the Royal family. Credit: W. Whiffin

The solution came to Lord Stamfordham one day when he was working at Windsor Castle.

What could be more British than the name ‘Windsor’?

And so, Lord Stamfordham wrote to the government suggesting that “Queen Victoria should be regarded as having founded the House of Windsor.”

On 17 July 1917, Buckingham Palace issued a Royal Proclamation.

It declared that “the Name of Windsor is to be borne by His Royal House and Family and relinquishing the use of all German Titles and Dignities”.

Windsor Castle gave its name to the Royal Family in 1917. Credit: PA

And so the House of Windsor was born.

It has produced four Monarchs: George V, Edward VIII, George VI and Elizabeth II.

And it survived the Queen’s marriage to Philip Mountbatten despite pressure in 1952 that the couple’s children should take their father’s name.

But one hundred years after the dramatic change of name, you have to hand it to Lord Stamforham: he chose for the Royal Family a very British name.

Queen Elizabeth II is the fourth monarch to take the name Windsor. Credit: PA