Wednesday, 19 March 2008

WRONG: The royal family's surname is Windsor

The German George I was the first of the Hanoverian line in Britain. That line, however, may not be inherited by a woman, so on Victoria’s accession to the throne, it passed to her uncle, the Duke Of Cumberland, and the royal dynasty took the altogether fruitier name of the House Of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, after Victoria's husband, Prince Albert. In 1917, the family changed it to Windsor, after the castle, when wartime anti-German sentiment made it sensible for them to distance themselves from the land of the sausage.

In 1960, however, twelve years after the Queen married Prince Philip, she decreed that her descendants’ surname would be Mountbatten-Windsor, though the dynasty remains the House Of Windsor. Mountbatten is an invention of Philip’s own – it’s the Anglicised version of his mother’s family name. Though why he felt uncomfortable with Battenberg is anyone’s guess.

Most of Elizabeth’s descendants have titles that preclude surnames – such as “Charles, Prince of Wales” – but crucially, the name Mountbatten-Windsor applies on the few occasions that they legally require one. Princess Anne, for example, entered Mountbatten-Windsor in the marriage register at her wedding in 1973.

On the subject of royal trivia, the Queen doesn’t need a passport, as they are issued in her name. The same doesn’t apply for the rest of the royal family, though Prince Charles will be entitled to throw his away if he becomes king. It’ll probably not be top of his To Do list, though.

The Queen does have a driving license, on the other hand, but only because she applied for it before taking the throne. It expired when she turned 70, but as she was Queen by then she didn’t need to reapply.

The Queen’s official title is Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

Among other titles and ranks, she is also
• The Lord of Mann
• The Duke of Lancaster
• The Duke of Normandy
• Chieftain of the Braemar Gathering (of Highland games)
• Colonel-In-Chief of the Ghana Regiment of Infantry
• Freeman of the Royal Borough Of Windsor And Maidenhead
• Honorary Fellow Of The Royal College Of Surgeons
• Paramount Chief of Fiji
• The White Heron of the Maoris
Seigneur of the Swans

As well as being Queen of the United Kingdom she’s the queen of fifteen other realms, including:

• Belize
• Canada, even the French bits
• Grenada, one of the few islands Columbus actually did find
• Papua New Guinea
• Tuvalu, the least populated country in the world other than Vatican City

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