Are the Royal Family too posh to have a last name?

It's the perfect trivia question: are there royal surnames? And if so, what is the Queen's last name?
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Q: What is the royal family’s last name?

A: When you are from the most talked-about clan in the world – sorry, Kardashians, it’s not actually you – does anyone even care about your surname?

Most of the royals are best known by their titles – The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, etc – or by their first names – Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry …

But if you want to get technical about it, the reigning British Royal Family do have a last name: Since 1960 they go by the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.

The Queen's family in 1972
What is the royal family’s last name? Meet the Mountbatten-Windsors (in 1972) (Credit: Getty Images)

Why did the queen’s family take the surname Mountbatten-Windsor?

In 1960, Queen Elizabeth and her hubby Prince Philip decided to break away from the existing royal family, who were using the last name Windsor.

By adding Philip’s family name, Mountbatten, to her surname of Windsor, the queen was being a good wife and fitting in more with the traditions of the time, where children normally took the surname of the father. But by keeping her surname as well, she maintained her authority. So their children Charles, Andrew, Anne and Edward and their descendants took the names of both parents and became Mountbatten-Windsors.

Although technically the major player royals don’t really need a last name- the Queen doesn’t even need a passport or driver’s license – they can use the family name on important occasions. “The surname Mountbatten-Windsor first appeared on an official document on 14 November 1973, in the marriage register at Westminster Abbey for the marriage of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips,” reports

Was Prince Philip always a Mountbatten?

No. Philip, as a prince himself of Greece and Denmark, did not need a surname. But when he became a naturalised British citizen in 1947, he took the surname of his beloved uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, when he joined the Royal Navy.

Philip’s English family actually changed their surname from the more German sounding “Battenberg” in 1917, due to anti-German feelings in World War I.

Has the English royal family always had a surname?

No. Until the 1900s, members of royal family were so above the common people, they did not use surnames, just their titles.

While historically the King or Queen came to be known for the ‘House’ they belonged to – for example, George I from the House of Hanover – when signing official documents, the regent would just write their first name.

But a problem occurred when Queen Victoria (below) married Prince Albert and her descendants became part of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Her grandson, George V, ascended the throne in 1910 but – like the Battenbergs – during World War I it became a political issue to have the German sounding title of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, when the royal family were supposed to egging on the charge against the Huns. (George’s wife, Queen Mary, and daughter, Princess Mary, photographed above, were visibly part of the war effort.)

So it was decided the royal family should take a surname. And what could be more iconic – and English – than to pick “Windsor,” the name of that famous castle? Thus the Windsor family tree was begun.

“At a meeting of the Privy Council on 17 July 1917, George V declared that ‘all descendants in the male line of Queen Victoria, who are subjects of these realms, other than female descendants who marry or who have married, shall bear the name of Windsor,’ ” says

What famous houses are there in the British Royal Family tree?

While for most of its early medieval history, the English royals belonged to the House of Wessex, after the Norman conquest in 1066 there was French blood brought in to the mix. 

By 1216 it was the Plantagenets, then the Houses of Lancaster and York duked it out, before Henry VII started the reign of the Tudors in 1485.

The Scottish Stuarts took over after the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, interrupted by the Commonwealth and the Dutch influence of the House of Orange.

The House of Hanover started their rule in 1714, until the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, bringing us to the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who became the Windsors.

Do the modern Royals go by any other surname?

Yes, Time magazine says “Members of the Royal Family can also use a last name from their family’s official title.”

So, when Prince William and Prince Harry were studying and serving in the military, they took the last name Wales, from their father’s title: Charles, Prince of Wales.

Similarly, young Prince George is known as George Cambridge at school, after his dad’s title, the Duke of Cambridge.

One other naming method still hangs around: many still refer to the princess brides as Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, even though the pair could use the surname Mountbatten-Windsor!

Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton
Roses by any other names: Meghan (left) and Kate (Credit: Getty Images)

Windsor Castle, after which the British royal family is named

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