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On 8 February 1960, the Queen confirmed that she and her children would continue to be known as the House and Family of Windsor. Though the Royal House is named Windsor, it was decreed, via a 1960 Order-in-Council, that those male-line descendants of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip who were not Princes or Princesses of the United Kingdom should have the personal surname Mountbatten-Windsor. In practice all of their children, in honour of their father, have used Mountbatten-Windsor as their surname (although Prince William has "Wales" on his military uniform, reflecting the long-standing tradition that when a surname is required, as for military service, a royal will use his most prestigious title as if it were a surname). Since becoming Queen, she is Elizabeth II, all other names are not used officially. There was a minor flap about her being the first Elizabeth to rule over Scotland (thus making her Elizabeth I there, if that rule were to be believed), but the Royal Family decided that when Scotland and England had different numbers of rulers of the same name, they would follow the higher one whether it was Scottish or English. As it happens, that is the rule that had (accidentally) been followed since the Act of Union 1707. A consequence of this is that if there were to be another King James, he would be James VIII (since James II of England was James VII of Scotland).

The Windsors were also monarchs of Ireland (till 1949 or 1937, depending on how one interprets the Irish constitution), India (till 1950), and Pakistan (till 1956). As noted below, the family was originally known as the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha after the surname of Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert, until it was changed by George V during the First World War.

Her Majesty the Queen

The Current Members of the House of Windsor

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother - Better known as "The Queen Mum", she lived for over 100 years. Well known for her dry wit and being a particularly loveable figure. Spitting Image gave her a Birmingham accent--despite being ethnically Scottish--and she was invariably caricatured as being mad keen on horse-racing and gin. Which isn't actually that far wrong.[1] Then-Prince Albert had to propose to her three times before she said yes; she was afraid of the restrictions of royal life, but eventually decided he was worth it and agreed to marry him. It was her popularity that swung the decision in her husband's favour during the abdication crisis; Albert's younger brother Prince George was under serious consideration but it was ultimately decided that with Elizabeth beside him, Bertie could handle the job.
Earned longstanding devotion from the Blitz Generation for her and George VI's refusal to flee the country to Canada during WWII. Famously said "The girls won't leave without me, I won't leave without the King and the King will never leave". Also famously said, after Buckingham Palace was bombed during the Blitz, "Finally. Now I can look the East End in the face."[2] Had a cruise liner named after her[3]. She has been played by Sylvia Syms in The Queen (2006), Juliet Aubrey in Bertie & Elizabeth (2002) and Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech.

Diana, Princess of Wales - You've almost certainly heard of her, often as the technically incorrect "Princess Diana". From the ancient and venerable Spencer family (making her a distant relative of Sir Winston Churchill)[4], she was known as the most notable member of a new generation of high society in the early 1980s before marrying Charles. She is known as the People's Princess because of her charity work. First wife of Prince Charles, bore him two children (although there's a lot of speculation about Harry's parentage...), cheated on him with half the army list and the England rugby captain, divorced him and then hooked up with Dodi al Fayed. Was killed in a car crash in 1997, with a lot of attendant Conspiracy Theories.

Princess Margaret - The Queen's little sister. In 1953 she wanted to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend (not that one), her father's equerry, but he was divorced, so naturally this caused a massive drama. In the end, she married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones instead, but they divorced in 1978. Famously a good-time girl in her younger days - one of her closest friends was Peter Sellers - the rumour of her having an affair with Mick Jagger is 'unconfirmed'.[5]

George VI - (Reigned 1936-1952) Father of the current queen, husband of the late Queen Mum. Last King of Ireland and last Emperor of India. A well meaning but painfully shy and socially awkward man (rather like his grandson Charles) who led Britain through World War II. Had the misfortune to suffer a dreadful stammer which required considerable therapy, and coaching during public addresses, by Australian speech expert Lionel Logue. Only came to the throne due to the abdication of Edward VIII (which would partly explain the shyness, as he was never groomed and trained for kingship). Until then he had been known as Prince Albert. One of England's most beloved monarchs due to his steadfast leadership during the War, including his famous refusal to leave the country during the Blitz. Colin Firth plays him in the 2010 film The King's Speech, about him and his speech therapist. James Wilby played him in the 2002 feature Bertie & Elizabeth, which was part of the celebration of Her Majesty's 50th year as Queen.

Edward VIII - (1936) Elder brother of George VI and uncle of Elizabeth II. Much more forceful than his brother, caused a constitutional crisis by his desire to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson. Abdicated after less than a year on the throne and became Duke of Windsor. Pathologically hated by quite a number of people, largely due to his being, by all accounts, both selfish and an absolute jerk. Often accused of latent (or less than latent) fascist sympathies. Despite his regnal name, the family consistently called him David. He is played by Guy Pearce in The King's Speech.
It was this anomaly in the succession that inspired the 1930s setting for Ian McKellen's film adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard III. Other elements of the story appear in the film; Richard's regime is unmistakably fascist, while Edward IV's wife is given an American accent.

George V - (1910-1936) Father of Edward and George, grandfather of Elizabeth II. Solid, reliable, conservative monarch, by no means intellectually brilliant but a steady capable hand (rather like Elizabeth II in fact). Led Britain through World War One. Infamously denied his cousin (Nicholas II of Russia) asylum. Tragic personal life includes the premature death of a brother (Prince Albert Victor), and his youngest son (Prince John). Technically the first Windsor - he changed the family name from the bulky "Wettin von Saxe-Coburg and Gotha" during the war to appease anti-German sentiment (particularly after the name "Gotha" became infamous due to German bombers of the same attacking London), despite ironically being as German as his cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm II. When H.G. Wells referred to Britain's "alien and uninspiring court" before the name shift, George is said to have responded "I may be uninspiring, but I'll be damned if I'm an alien!"[6] Masterminded the royal family's media image.
Famous for having last words that may or may not be a Beam Me Up, Scotty: during his terminal illness, one of his advisors is supposed to have said that he would soon be well enough to visit Bognor Regis. George's response? "Bugger Bognor."
He allegedly looked freaking identical to his cousin Nicholas II, but historians are rather disagreeing on the matter.[7]

Queen Mary - Aka Mary of Teck (her full name is hugely bulky)[8], she was the Queen Mum to the Queen Mum. Married to George V. She was a kleptomaniac and a fanatic jewel collector. Has a cruise liner named after her[9].

Edward VII - (1901-1910) Great grandfather of Elizabeth II. Lent his name to The Edwardian Era. Cigar smoking (he apparently once lit up from a church candle during a service), womanising, lively monarch who surprised everyone by being a pretty good king. A famous Francophile, paved the way for the British alliance with France (and ultimately Russia), his funeral was noted by Barbara Tuchman in The Guns of August to be the greatest assemblage of royalty in history. He was longest-serving heir apparent in British history, until Charles beat Edward's record on April 20, 2011. Probably the only Windsor to actually enjoy being a monarch; the others seem to regard it largely as a duty.


Depictions in fiction

Literature

  • Edward VII (as the Prince of Wales) turns up as a character in the Flashman series, notably in Flashman and the Tiger (1999). Specifically, the tale depicts the Royal Baccarat Scandal of 1890. When Edward testified in court against card sharp Sir William Gordon-Cumming, 4th Baronet (1848-1930).

We go back any further, we're into the Hanover dynasty.

Notes

  1. Upon being told by a nervous host, "I've heard you like gin," she said, "Make it a double." Upon being presented with a Nebuchadnezzar--the equivalent of 20 bottles--of champagne, she said, "I suppose I'll just finish it off myself."
  2. The East End was the most devastated by aerial bombing during the war.
  3. the Cunard ocean liner RMS Queen Elizabeth, sister ship and running mate to the RMS Queen Mary (which, incidentally, was named after her mother-in-law)
  4. For our Assassin's Creed fans: she's also a distant relative of Caterina Sforza.
  5. If true, it would appear that Jagger has a thing for high-placed women named Margaret: he also had an 'unconfirmed' affair with Margaret Trudeau, wife of then-Canadian PM Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
  6. Supposedly, the Kaiser retaliated to this by commissioning a performance of The Merry Wives of Wettin von Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
  7. During the celebrations of George's wedding to Mary, at which Nicholas was in attendance, guests are reported to have congratulated Nicholas on his marriage and asked George how he was enjoying his stay in England.
  8. Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes
  9. the RMS Queen Mary, a Cunard liner and, as noted above, running mate to the RMS Queen Elizabeth, named after then-Queen Consort Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
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