Why Did the Royal Family Change its Name to Windsor?

Jacob Grandstaff
4 min readOct 20, 2022

Queen Elizabeth II’s death renewed interest in the British royal family internationally. Outreigning Queen Victoria by seven years, she was the longest-reigning monarch in British history. She represented stability in the UK following the British Empire’s weakening after World War II.

Something I learned from my personal increased interest is that the British Royals aren’t originally Windsors. In fact, they aren’t even originally British.

So, why did this non-British British royal family take the name Windsor?

German Roots

The German Duke Ernst Anton of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld became the first duke of Saxe-Coburg — or Ernst I — in 1826. His sister — Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld — was the mother of Britain’s Queen Victoria. Ernst’s second son, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, married his cousin Victoria in 1840.

Victoria herself was of 100 percent German stock. Her father was Prince Edward — King George III’s fourth son — of the House of Hanover.

It was not uncommon for German royalty to marry into other royal families and rule over other countries.

In fact, the three principal monarchs of World War I: Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, King George V of Great Britain, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, were cousins and descended from King George II of Britain.

Ethnic German monarchs in 1914 included Albert I (Belgium), Wilhelm of Wied (Albania), Ferdinand I (Bulgaria), Karl I (Romania).

Just as children take their father’s last name, monarchs took the name of the house of their father — which meant taking the name of the land their father’s family ruled.

King Edward VII, Victoria’s eldest son, thus, became the first monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gothe — a much more in-your-face German-sounding name than the House of Hanover.

Edward VII ruled for the first decade of the 20th century until his death in 1910. His first son Prince Albert Victor had died before Victoria’s death. So, his second son, George V, took the throne as the second and last monarch named after Saxe-Coburg-Gothe.

Jacob Grandstaff

MA in History; Mostly culture, trends, and occasional rants. History blog: https://historyhowithappened.com/