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The House of Windsor

Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour,
Long may she reign!
May she defend our laws,
And never give us pause
To sing with heart and voice:
"God save the Queen!"
God Save the Queen, third verse

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, the name of the ducal house to which Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, belonged; this family also holds the monarchy of Belgium and is descended from the late medieval Wettin Dukes of Saxony (the ones who, most famously, protected Martin Luther during the Reformation). George V later changed the name during World War One to appease anti-German sentiment (his Belgian cousins did the same).

The House of Windsor, then, from most recent death to earliest:

Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom

Born: 21 April 1926 note  Parents: King George VI and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon Reigned: Since 6 February 1952 Consort: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

The current monarch, and her family. Elizabeth is quite popular, to the point that some of the nations of the commonwealth have actually rejected movements towards republicanism, prefering to retain her as their Head of State (even if only a ceremonial one). She is the longest-living British monarch in history, and has a chance of toppling Queen Vicky's record as longest-reigning British monarch.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother

Lived: 4 August 1900 –- 30 March 2002 Parents: Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck Consort: George VI

Pre-marital name Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, having been born the daughter of the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne.note  Better known as "The Queen Mum", she lived for over 100 years and died with a bank overdraft of ten million pounds, an impressive feat in these modern times—and an amusing one, since the press and the bank seemed to treat it as a kind of national joke once revealed rather than an indication of trouble. 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; by a conservative estimate, she had ten drinks a day minimum.note  Also...  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. (As noted below, Prince Albert chose "George" as his regal name when he was crowned, and so became King George VI.)
She earned longstanding devotion from the Blitz Generation for her and George VI's refusal to flee the country during WWII; when asked to send her children to Canada for safekeeping, she famously replied, "The girls won't leave without me, I won't leave without the King and the King will never leave". After Buckingham Palace was bombed during the Blitz, she quipped, "Finally. Now I can look the East End in the face."note  She also a cruise liner named after hernote . After her death it was discovered that she owned an impressive library of ska music. 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

Lived: 1 July 1961 –- 31 August 1997 Parents: John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer and Frances Shand Kydd Consort: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales

Pre-marital name Lady Diana Spencer. You've almost certainly heard of her, often as the technically incorrect 'Princess Diana'.note  She was a member of the ancient and venerable Spencer family (making her a distant relative of Sir Winston Churchill)note , and a member of the Sloane Rangers, a 1980s group of young Tory upper-crust and professionals. She married Charles in 1981 and bore him two children, cheated on him with half the army list and the England rugby captain, divorced him, and then hooked up with Dodi al Fayed. Beloved by the public both in life and in death, but more recent looks into the British Royal Family have some people believing that she was never really suited for life as royaltynote . Diana was killed in a car crash in 1997; since then numerous conspiracy theories have arisen. The details of her death and the latest conspiracy theories are regularly featured in the Daily Express up to this day.

She was technically no longer an HRH or a member of the royal family when she died, having given up the styling and position when she divorced Prince Charles. But she remained Princess Diana in the minds of the public, which led to a furore because people didn't realize that Queen Elizabeth wasn't making any statements because Diana was essentially a private citizen and that the Spencers should have been handling the arrangements.

Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon

Lived: 21 August 1930 –- 9 February 2002 Parents: King George VI and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon Consort: Antony Armstrong Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon

The Queen's little sister and in many ways her complete opposite. In 1953 she wanted to marry her father's equerry, Group Captain Peter Townsend (not that one). The only problem was that he was divorced, and at this time such a marriage would have been a Very Big Deal Indeed. She eventually decided against marrying Townsend and, years later, married a society photographer named Antony Armstrong-Jones (who was made the Earl of Snowdon on his marriage to her); ironically, they themselves divorced in 1978 after years of bitter acrimony and mutual recriminations. 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'.note  Margaret died shortly before her mother in 2002. She once said that her greatest regret in life was not having been allowed to attend school; it has been remarked that her great tragedy was to be born with frightening intelligence and no outlet for it whatsoever. No wonder she drank.

George VI of the United Kingdom

Lived: 14 December 1895 –- 6 February 1952 Parents: King George V and Princess Mary of Teck Reigned: 11 December 1936 –- 6 February 1952 Consort: Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

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, Duke of York, and remained "Bertie" to the family. 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. Samuel West played him in the movie Hyde Park on Hudson.

Edward VIII of the United Kingdom

Lived: 23 June 1894 –- 28 May 1972 Parents: King George V and Princess Mary of Teck Reigned: 20 January 1936 –- 11 December 1936 Consort: Wallis Simpson

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 of the United Kingdom

Lived: 3 June 1865 –- 20 January 1936 Parents: King Edward VII and Princess Alexandra of Denmark Reigned: 6 May 1910 –- 20 January 1936 Consort: Princess Mary of Teck

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). Also a keen philatelist. He 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!"note  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.note  Was originally a Spare To The Throne, his elder brother Albert Victor died of influenza shortly before his wedding to...

Queen Mary

Lived: 26 May 1867 –- 24 March 1953 Parents: Francis, Duke of Teck and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge Consort: George V

Her full name being hugely bulky,note  her family was technically a junior branch of the royal family of Württemberg in southwestern Germany, but she was born and raised in Britain—which is why Victoria thought her a suitable wife for her grandson, as she was thoroughly English but also of royal blood. She was originally intended to marry Albert Victor, but when he died and she and George hit it off, the Royal Family decided Why Waste a Wedding? Thus she ended up the Queen Mum to the Queen Mum. She was a kleptomaniac and a fanatic jewel collector. Has a cruise liner named after hernote .

Queen Alexandra

Lived: 1 December 1844 –- 20 November 1925 Parents: King Christian IX of Denmark and ''Princess' Louise of Hesse-Kassel Consort: Edward VIII

Wife of Edward VII, she was a Danish princess before she married into the British royal family. Despite being closely related to German royalty, she was not a fan of Kaiser Wilhelm and firmly supported the British in World War I—indeed, relations between Prussia and Denmark often led to tension within the family, particularly as Kaiser Wilhelm was her nephew (his father Frederick III was married to Edward's elder sister Victoria). Other than that, she was most notable for her charitable work, for her status as a fashion icon, for her deafness, and for being the great-grandmother of the current queen. Oh, and for Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Corps, formed in 1902, which served with distinction in both World Wars and was eventually folded into the British military itself.

If you've ever seen a Victorian play where a female character affects a fake limp, you can thank Alexandra for that. A post-partum bout with rheumatic fever left her lame in one leg; within days the "Alexandra Limp" had become fashionable.

Edward VII of the United Kingdom

Lived: 9 November 1841 –- 6 May 1910 Parents: Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Queen Victoria Reigned: 22 January 1901 –- 6 May 1910 Consort: Princess Alexandra of Denmark

Great grandfather of Elizabeth II. Lent his name to The Edwardian Era. Prior to his coronation, known as Albert Edward, and called "Bertie" by the family even after he became King. In his fifty-nine years as Prince of Wales, he earned a reputation as a cigar smoking (he apparently once lit up from a church candle during a service), womanising, gambling, food-loving and generally lively playboy, and was widely expected to be utterly incapable of reigning properly, but surprised everyone by being a pretty good king.

A famous Francophile—he had loved France, the French, and French culture ever since coming with his mother and father on their only state visit abroad (to Paris in 1855), and regularly holidayed at the resort of Biarritz in the French Basque Countrynote —paved the way for the British alliance with France (and ultimately Russia). As Prince of Wales, he also started the traditions of the British monarch and royals making public "make-a-speech-cut-the-ribbon-and-kiss-the-babies"-type public appearances and going on numerous state visits to strengthen Britain's ties with foreign states;note  in other words, it's fair to say he invented the modern role of the British monarch and royal family (since those two things occupy more of a modern royal's public exposure than anything else).

As noted, Edward was long noted for his love of a good time. He had a number of mistresses and a number of scandals (some involving his mistresses and some not) as Prince of Wales; he has the dubious distinction of having had to appear as a witness in not one but two high-profile trials. In the end, though, all of that was, if not forgotten, then easily forgiven—more of a national joke than an embarrassment, especially given how the rest of the late Victorian upper classes carried on. It helped that his wife didn't really mind. He was also a great lover of food—especially French food—and ended up with a 50-plus-inch waist; again, fate spared him, and of the whole long line of fat British monarchs (i.e. every single one since George I), he carried it best. (Also, peculiarly for someone so thoroughly in love with fine French cuisine, he was the one who cemented the English tradition of eating roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and potatoes for the Sunday roast.) In the end, of his numerous vices, it was his smoking (twelve cigars daily, plus twenty cigarettes) that caught up to him, and he died of heart disease after nine years on the throne in 1910. His funeral was noted by Barbara Tuchman in The Guns of August to be the greatest assemblage of royalty in history. He was the longest-serving heir apparent in British history, until Charles beat Edward's record on 20 April 2011. Probably the only Windsor to actually enjoy being a monarch; the others seem to regard it largely as a duty.

He was also known to be a surprisingly liberal man for his time (though, considering his personal life, this is perhaps less surprising than it might be), famously taking a severe dislike to the way Indians were treated in the British Raj, saying that to the Foreign Minister of the time, Lord Granville, "because a man has a black face and a different religion than our own, there is no reason why he should be treated as a brute." At the same time, he happily included Catholics, Jews and the nouveau riche in his circle of friends, at a time when all three groups were very much persona non grata and was genuinely concerned by the plight of the poor (though, it should be noted, this was more a case of feeling feudal obligation than desiring reform). He tended to also be privately vaguely sympathetic to the Liberal Party; he counted William Gladstone as a personal friend and mentor (to the annoyance of his mother, who greatly preferred Disraeli) and generally had better relationships with his Liberal PMs (Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith) than with his Tory ones (Lord Salisbury and Balfour).


Depictions in fiction

Film

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).

Live-Action TV
  • ITV aired a twelve-part biographic miniseries on Edward VII in 1975, titled fittingly Edward the Seventh. Incidentally, the title role was played by Timothy West, whose son Samuel would later play George VI in Hyde Park on Hudson.
  • Edward VIII appears while Prince of Wales in the 1923-set Series 4 Christmas Special of Downton Abbey, in which his dalliance with Freda Dudley Ward gets the Crawleys caught up in a mess. The Crawleys fix it, and so the Prince (at Mrs Dudley Ward's insistence) attends and opens Lady Rose's ball (which he is only too happy to do, as although he is unaware of how the Crawleys have saved his reputation, he rather liked Rose's father's reception for him in India and rather likes the look of Rose herself).
    • George V (and Queen Mary) also shows up briefly, when Rose is presented. He even talks to Rose, mentioning her father's service.
  • Call the Midwife: Chummy, coming from an upper-class background (her father was a colonial civil servant in India and later knighted), has met a few of the royals, and manages to get Princess Margaret to formally open the Poplar Community Centre in Series 3 (1959). We only see Princess Margaret from the back, though, and she has no lines (although she clearly talks to Chummy, we don't hear what they say).
  • Spitting Image: Arguably the funniest depiction of the British Royal Family in the 1980s and 1990s, though it has been rumored that they all hated it. Not surprising, really!

We go back any further, we're into the Hanover dynasty.
Queen VictoriaRoyalty and Nobility TropesHM The Queen
The Edwardian EraHollywood HistoryRusso-Japanese War
Queen VictoriaUsefulNotes/BritainBritish Royal Family
The House Of TudorAdministrivia/Useful Notes Pages in MainHow to Play a Console RPG

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