, , , , , , , , , ,

On this date in History, February 8, 1960. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom issues an Order-in-Council, stating that she and her family would be known as the House of Windsor, and that her descendants will take the name Mountbatten-Windsor.


In 1947, Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II), heiress presumptive to King George VI, married Philip Mountbatten. He was born a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, a branch of the House of Oldenburg, and had been a prince of Greece and Denmark. However, Philip, a few months before his marriage, renounced his princely titles and adopted the surname Mountbatten, which was the surname of his maternal 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. The Battenberg family were morganatic scions of the Grand Ducal House of Hesse and By Rhine (formally Hesse-Darmstadt).

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. This statement is rather surprising given Lord Mountbatten’s knowledge of his family’s royal genealogy and history in general. Plainly, Lord Mountbatten was wrong. Although it is true that technically the Queen was a Mountbatten by marriage, it was not true that the name of the Royal House had changed.

Traditionally a female sovereign reigned under the Royal House to which she was born, and the name of the Royal House would not change until the next generation. An example would be Queen Victoria (1837-1901) who was the last monarch of the House of Hanover (the Royal House representing her Patrilineal descent) while her son, King Edward VII (1901-1910) who was a member of the German House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the same Royal House his father, Prince Albert, The Consort, belonged. It was the name of the Royal House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha that was changed to Windsor by King George V (1910-1936) in 1917.

When Elizabeth’s grandmother, Queen Mary, (wife of George V) heard of Lord Mountbatten’s 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 April 9, 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.” The Duke of Edinburgh Is said to have 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 February 8, 1960, seven years after 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 agnaticdescendants who enjoy the style of Royal Highness and the title of Prince or Princess. However, the Queen took a step further from the April 1952 decree and also decreed that her agnatic descendants who do not have that style and title would bear the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.

This Amendment to the earlier decree 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 of Wales or Princess Anne, as they had been born with the name Mountbatten, before the Queen’s accession to the throne. Prince Andrew, the current Duke of York, was born 11 days later, on February 19, 1960.

Any future monarch can change the dynastic name through a similar royal proclamation, as royal proclamations do not have statutory authority. However, despite the tradition that the name of the Royal House does change to reflect the Patrilineal descent of the new monarch, it seems unlikely the Prince of Wales will change the name of the Royal House and the House of Windsor will remain.