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Useful Notes / The House of Windsor

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

On 8 February 1960, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 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 Princes William and Harry have "Wales" on their military uniforms, 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.note  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 (until 1949 or 1937, depending on how one interprets the Irish constitution), India (until 1950), and Pakistan (until 1956). As noted below, the family was originally known as the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Sachsen-Coburg und 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).note  George V later changed the name during World War One to appease anti-German sentiment (his Belgian cousins did the same). With the death of Elizabeth II in 2022, the British branch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha no longer reigns, being replaced by the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (Prince Philip's royal house, Charles III being his son), but the House of Windsor endures all the same.


The current line of succession for the House—beginning with the current sovereign, King Charles III—can be seen at The British Royal Family.

The House of Windsor

Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Lived: 21 April 1926 note  — 8 September 2022
Reign: 6 February 1952 — 8 September 2022
Full Name: Elizabeth Alexandra Mary
Parents: King George VI and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Consort: Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark
Title: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Nicknames: Lilibet note ; Cabbage note ; Shirley Temple note 

Elizabeth was enormously popular, to the point that some of the nations of the commonwealth actually rejected movements towards republicanism, preferring to retain her as their Head of State (even if only a ceremonial one). She was the longest-living British monarch in history, and as of September 9, 2015 the longest-reigning British monarch, beating the record formerly held by Queen Victoria. She was also the longest-reigning and longest-lived female head of state in world history, second only to the Sun King in length of reign for the monarch of a European Great Power, and — as she was never under a regency — the longest-reigning European monarch in her own right.

As the most famous monarch in the world, she has her own page — Elizabeth II — containing much more information.

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
Lived: 4 August 1900 — 30 March 2002
Full Name: Elizabeth Angela Marguerite
Parents: Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck
Consort: King George VI
Title: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
Nickname: The Queen Mum; Cakenote ; Mrs Templenote ; The most dangerous woman in Europenote 

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

  • She 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 lovable 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...  and the British royals have always been into horses, and the Windsors particularly so.note 
  • 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. (As noted below, Prince Albert chose "George" as his regnal 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 World War II; 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 had a cruise liner named after her,note  as well as a famous expressway in Canada (which you take to get to Niagara Fallsnote ).
  • During her half-century-long widowhood she was never romantically linked with anyone. She survived one of her two daughters, Princess Margaret, by seven weeks, and though she was infirm, confined to a wheelchair, and had recently suffered an injury, she insisted on participating in the funeral, though she was carefully concealed from the sight of the general public.
  • 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 and Elizabeth (2002), Helena Bonham Carternote  in The King's Speech, Olivia Colman in Hyde Park on Hudson, and Victoria Hamilton (seasons 1-2) and Marion Bailey (seasons 3-4) in The Crown (in which, confusingly, Colman appears as Elizabeth II and Bonham-Carter appears as Princess Margaret).

The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
Lived: 21 August 1930 — 9 February 2002
Full Name: Margaret Rose
Parents: King George VI and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Consort: Antony Armstrong Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon
Title: Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon note 
Nickname: Margot

Elizabeth's little sister and in many ways her complete opposite. Known for her beauty and hauteur in equal measure, she epitomises The Beautiful Elite and was THE original Rebellious Princess.

  • Long before the rebellious Prince Harry came on to the scene, Princess Margaret established herself as the royal family’s ‘wild child’. Known in the press for her vivacious personality and antics, Margaret was an enthusiastic ‘party princess’ – drinking, smoking and cultivating friendships with a variety of celebrities, actors and musicians. She was drawn to bohemians, just as they were drawn to her. She liked the louche hours they kept, their smoking and drinking, their refusal to do the right thing. They, in turn, enjoyed the cachet of having a real-life princess on display. It didn’t really matter that she could be difficult. After all, being difficult was her party piece. If she happened to round off an evening with a display of her famous hauteur, then it gave them something to write about.
  • To elaborate on the above, she disliked over-familiarity, and whilst her friendship circle was broad and liberal, everyone bar her family still had to show deference and address her as "Ma'am" — even life-long friends like Lady Anne Glenconner.note  The princess’s party trick seems to have been to lull people into a false sense of security and camaraderie and then demolish them with regal, rank-pulling put-downs that were masterpieces of the art.
  • She was one of the first royals to truly be considered a sex-symbol, and in the early 1950s Pablo Picasso of all people first began to have erotic dreams about her. Occasionally, he would throw her elder sister into the mix. “If they knew what I had done in my dreams with your royal ladies, they would take me to the Tower of London and chop off my head!” Picasso confided to his friend Roland Penrose.
  • In 1953 she wanted to marry her father's equerry, Group Captain Peter Townsend (not that one, although frankly he would have been right up her alley; keep reading to see why). 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.
  • Years later, in 1960, she married the Welsh society photographer Antony "Tony" Armstrong-Jones, who was made the Earl of Snowdon on his marriage to her. Lord Snowdon had perhaps a classic artistic temperament and a bohemin disregard for convention; while this seems to have been the attraction for Margaret, it also caused tension. Ironically, though perhaps unsurprisingly, they themselves divorced in 1978 after years of bitter acrimony and mutual recriminations. Their son, David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowdon, is a noted designer of extremely expensive bespoke neoclassical-style furniture through his atelier Linley (from his courtesy title Viscount Linley, which he bore until his father's death in 2017).
  • One of her closest friends was Peter Sellers and the rumour of her having an affair with Mick Jagger is 'unconfirmed'.note 
  • Towards the end of her life she had a few health problems, including suffering a real life Agony of the Feet accident whilst holidaying on Mustique involving a hot bath that’s both Nightmare Fuel and Nausea Fuel. She never really got over it, and Margaret died from complications following multiple strokes, shortly before her mother in 2002, after a life spent drinking, chain-smoking and staying up all hours partying. In a rarity among the Royal Family, she was cremated, with her remains kept in the same tomb as that of her parents. 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.
  • In recent years, she has been award-winningly played by Vanessa Kirby in the first two series of Netflix's much celebrated The Crown, and despite Ms Kirby being a good nine inches taller than the petite real-life Margaret, her complicated, layered performance has been met with universal praise. Helena Bonham Carter's turn at the role in Series 3 has yet to win an award, but it has met with great praise.

Diana, Princess of Wales
Lived: 1 July 1961 — 31 August 1997
Full Name: Diana Frances
Parents: John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer and Frances Shand Kydd
Consort: Charles, Prince of Wales
Title: Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales (1981 — 1996)
Nicknames: The People's Princess; Shy Di

Pre-marital name Lady Diana Spencer. Often dubbed "the most famous woman in the world", you've almost certainly heard of her, often as the technically incorrect 'Princess Diana'.note  As such, she has her own page — Diana, Princess of Wales — containing much more information.

George VI of the United Kingdom
Lived: 14 December 1895 — 6 February 1952
Reigned: 11 December 1936 — 6 February 1952
Full Name: Albert Frederick Arthur George
Parents: King George V and Mary of Teck
Consort: Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Title: His Majesty King George VI
Nickname: Bertie

Grandfather of the current King, father of the late Queen Elizabeth II, 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, but more so) 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.
  • Besides his stammer, he pronounced the letter "r" as "w": most fictional depictions of him will include this.
  • 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; he had expected to have a career as a military officer—in his case, in the Navy—as was the tradition for second sons). Until then he had been known as Prince Albert, Duke of York, and remained "Bertie" to the family. He never wanted to be king and was appalled at the prospect, but once it actually happened and he got through his Coronation in fine style, there was a wave of public support for him and the queen which boosted his confidence enormously. In the earliest years of his reign, he was plagued with rumours about his supposed frailty and bad health (the rumours possibly arising from the early death of his youngest brother, Prince John) but his first royal visit to the United States in 1939 quashed these.
  • 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.
  • In spite of his crippling shyness, had a famously short temper as well as a sharp sense of humour (which he may have bequeathed to his eldest daughter). On meeting General Alexander, George VI asked him what he thought about Montgomery. Alexander replied that he always had the impression that Montgomery was after his job. "You should worry," George replied, "whenever I meet him I always think he's after mine." note 
  • He was an enthusiastic gardener, and became a huge nerd about rhododendrons in particular.
  • An extremely heavy smoker, like his father and grandfather before him. The combined stress of becoming king aged 41 without having spent his life preparing to be one, followed by the unprecedented problem of having to deal with his egotistical and demanding elder brother, followed by the small matter of World War Two, meant that he used to stay up too late and smoke even more; his former secretary Alec Hardinge commented that "he died for England". The actual cause of his death was a combination of lung cancer and arteriosclerosis.
  • 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 and 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. Jared Harris played him in the The Crown (2016). He appears in two 2017 biopics of Winston Churchill: Ben Mendelsohn plays him in Joe Wright's Darkest Hour (2017) and James Purefoy in Churchill. In the 1974 TV movie The Gathering Storm, he's played by Denis Lill.

Edward VIII of the United Kingdom
Lived: 23 June 1894 — 28 May 1972
Reigned: 20 January 1936 — 11 December 1936
Full Name: Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David
Parents: King George V and Mary of Teck
Consort: Wallis Simpson
Title: His Majesty King Edward VIII, latterly His Royal Highness The Duke of Windsor
Nickname: David

Elder brother of George VI and uncle of Elizabeth II. Known as "David" among his immediate family until his accession.

  • Much more forceful than his brother, he was initially an incredibly popular member of the royal family, due to his blonde, film-star good looks and skills as a ‘salesman’ for brand-Britain across the Empire. During these years his popularity rivaled, if it did not exceed, that of his grandfather King Edward VII when the latter was prince of Wales. In fact, the hysteria surrounding Edward even rivalled that of Diana, Princess of Wales at the height of his popularity.
  • However, although he remained broadly popular throughout most of his reign, in court and political circles he was regarded as lazy, reckless and ignorant: he didn't bother to read his state papers and he behaved as though Parliament didn't matter.note  In addition, he was carrying on a love affair with divorced commoner Wallis Simpson, who he insisted on marrying, which as head of the Church of England he wasn't allowed to do. This led to a constitutional crisis, with prime minister Stanley Baldwin consulting the leaders of the Dominion governments and informing Edward that if he insisted on being crowned king and marrying Mrs Simpson against the advice of the government, then the government would have to resign. The British press had loyally kept the news about his affair with Mrs Simpson out of the papers, but when the story finally broke in the UK, public opinion began to turn. He reluctantly abdicated after less than a year on the throne, the only British monarch since the Norman Conquest to ever voluntarily do so. His younger brother gave him the title of HRH Duke of Windsor.note  Because Parliament wouldn't allow him to marry Mrs Simpson whilst he sat on the throne, he's the last British monarch to never take a consort during his reign, and the first since George I, who was divorced before he became King.
  • Greatly disliked by quite a number of people, including his father in his later years, mainly because he was appalled by Edward's laziness, irresponsibility and numerous affairs, to the point that he eventually said: "I pray to God my eldest son will never marry and have children, and that nothing will come between Bertie and Lilibet and the throne". He got his wish, in a way.
  • Generally considered to have been both selfish and egotistical, his childlike petulance was not helped by the somewhat infantilising manner with which Wallis Simpson treated him, referring to him as “the little man” and “Peter Pan”.
  • But he was also a complex, neurotic figure, distanced from his overly disciplinarian parents, especially the King, George V, who was extremely stern and almost unable to show affection towards his children. Edward had an addiction to exercise and a form of anorexia, often eating nothing but an orange all day. He was obsessed with the thinness of his legs, smoked and drank to excess, and loved all things then considered modern — jazz, nightclubs, the telephone, planes, cocktails, Americans. He was extravagant and reckless, and spoke in an affected accent, mixing cockney and an American twang with the more modulated tones of the English upper classes.
  • Despite his large number of affairs he has no known illegitimate children (nor legitimate ones with Wallis, though she was almost 40 when they finally married) - indeed, he is popularly believed to have been infertile, perhaps as the result of a bout of mumps in his youth which essentially "locked" his physiological development in an early adolescent state (which explains a great many things, actually). He was also rumoured to completely lack body hair, which supports this theory, although of course this may have been a personal grooming decision.
  • Often accused of not-exactly-latent fascist sympathies. After the unearthing of the so-called Marburg Files in 1945, the contents allegedly present the Duke as nothing short of a Nazi sympathizer, whose treachery and ambition extended so far as to encourage the Germans to bomb the United Kingdom into suing for peace.
  • In 1940, he was made Governor of the Bahamas essentially against his will - the Open Secret being that the Caribbean kept him as far from the war in Europe as possible.
  • His regnal name was in fact his first name, but his family consistently called him David, his last middle name. In a quirk, he was in fact named after his father’s late older brother Albert Victor Christian Edward — who was always known to his family as “Eddy”.
  • He was a very stylish gentleman who always dressed impeccably and spent vast sums on his wardrobe. He could be quite daring in his fashion choices and occasionally favored very bold fabrics.
  • He is played by Guy Pearce in The King's Speech. It was the anomaly in the succession caused by his abdication 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. In The Crown, he's portrayed by Alex Jennings in series 1 and 2 and Derek Jacobi in series 3.

Wallis, Duchess of Windsor
Lived: 19 June 1896 — 24 April 1986
Full Name: Bessie Wallis Warfield
Parents: Teackle Wallis Warfield and Alice Montague
Consort: (1) Earl Winfield Spencer Jr. (1916 — 1927); (2) Ernest Aldrich Simpson (1928 — 1937); (3) Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (1937— died 1972)
Title: Her Grace The Duchess of Windsor

One of the most scandalous women in British history, Mrs Simpson hit the headlines in the The '30s when it became public knowledge that she was King Edward VIII’s mistress – and that he intended to marry her. Simpson will forever be known as the woman who rocked the Royals and plunged the monarchy into crisis.

  • While unmarried himself at the time of his ascension to the throne in 1936, Edward planned to take Wallis as his wife – although she was still very much committed to her second husband, Ernest Simpson. Even more so, as an American divorcee, she was subsequently seen an utterly unacceptable match for the British monarch and head of the Church of England.
  • The love between Wallis and Edward drove her to divorce her husband and the royal to renounce his claim to the throne before he had even been crowned. His abdication — long since dubbed the "Abdication Crisis" — led to his brother, the Queen’s father King George VI, taking the throne. Most famously, Edward announced his resignation by explaining: “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.”
  • After the abdication in 1936, Time Magazine honoured Wallis Simpson's major coup of getting Edward to abdicate his throne by naming her "Woman of the Year," the first time the magazine had ever given its "Man of the Year" award to a woman. Their reasoning? That year, she became the most-talked-about, written-about, headlined and interest-compelling person in the world; in these respects no woman in history had thus far ever equaled her.
  • Wallis and Edward ran afoul of the rest of the royals (and much of the British government) during World War II. They made a high-profile trip to Nazi Germany during 1937 to see how the German people lived under Hitler's regime; they even stayed with the Führer as his personal guests. When tensions flared during the early days of World War II, the couple was still said to entertain fascist friends in their French home — which has also forever tarnished their reputation.
  • Despite her marriage to a royal, she was famously furious at being denied the official royal title of 'Her Royal Highness', and was referred to by the lower form of address, 'Her Grace', except by her own staff.
  • She owned a pack of pugs with some creative names: Disraeli, Davey Crockett, Black Diamond, Imp, Trooper, and Ginseng. Wallis didn't just love live pugs though; she also had 11 pug-shaped pillows arranged at the foot of her bed.

Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent
Lived: 13 December 1906 — 27 August 1968
Parents: Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark and Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia
Consort: Prince George, Duke of Kent
Title: Her Royal Highness Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent

Born Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, she was a member of the Greek Royal Family and a first cousin to Prince Philip. Although it was common practise in years past, Marina is noteworthy here as representing the very last time that a foreign princess married into the British Royal Family.

  • In 1913 Marina’s grandfather, King George I of Greece, was assassinated. After several years of upheaval, the monarchy was overthrown in 1924, and her father Prince Nicholas and his family settled in Paris.
  • In 1934 she married Prince George, Duke of Kent, becoming the Duchess of Kent and Queen Elizabeth’s aunt. The couple bore three children — Prince Edward, the current Duke of Kent, Princess Alexandra and Prince Michael — who are the Queen’s first cousins.
  • In 1942, George was killed in a plane crash, so Marina threw herself into her royal duties, helping the war-effort as a nurse under the guise of the pseudonym ‘Sister Kay’.
  • Before Princesses Margaret and Diana, and Duchesses Catherine and Meghan came along, Marina was the royal fashion icon, with a tall frame and slightly vampish looks that perfectly suited the bohemian fashions of the 30s. This was acknowledged by the The Kinks in their song "She's Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina" for their 1969 album Arthur. The song details a woman’s efforts to be as glamorous as the princess, despite the drudgery of her own life.
  • In July 1968, it was discovered that she was suffering from an inoperable brain tumor. Sadly, her condition diminished very quickly. On August 27, 1968, Princess Marina passed away peacefully in her sleep at her home at Kensington Palace, surrounded by her children, and her sister Olga.

George V of the United Kingdom
Lived: 3 June 1865 — 20 January 1936
Reigned: 6 May 1910 — 20 January 1936
Full Name: George Frederick Ernest Albert
Parents: King Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark
Consort: Mary of Teck
Title: His Majesty King George V

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.

  • Last British monarch with facial hair.
  • He led Britain through World War One. He infamously denied his cousin (Nicholas II of Russia) asylum; he did so on the advice of his ministers, a concept the autocratic Nicholas could never wrap his head around.note 
  • A tragic personal life includes the premature death of his only brother to survive infancy, with whom he was very close (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 alien!". Supposedly, the Kaiser retaliated to this by commissioning a performance of The Merry Wives of Wettin von Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
  • Masterminded the royal family's media image by being the first royal to live-broadcast to the nation, via the wireless. So shocked were the populace to hear the King’s voice that many stood to attention wherever they were. He had the perfect voice for radio; deep, with a pleasing timbre, as though it had been marinated in ancient whisky (which it probably had). His are the oldest surviving voice recordings of a reigning British monarch; none seem to survive of his father, and a popular clip claiming to be of his grandmother is nearly indecipherable and probably not provable either way.
  • 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."
  • Like his son the future George VI, as the second son he was destined for a career in the Royal Navy, and he served for 15 years until the death of his elder brother. He also notably had a dragon tattoo (at the time, tattoos were generally associated with sailors).
  • He looked freaking identical to his cousin Nicholas II (Not helped by the fact that Tsar Nick also has a dragon tattoo). 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.
  • Although he and his wife genuinely loved one another, they were both so emotionally inhibited that they could only express it through letters. But it is noted the King wrote Queen Mary every day when they were apart, and (unlike his father) he never took a mistress.
  • Was famously stern and distant towards his children, including the future kings Edward VIII and George VI, reputedly because his own father Edward VII had been stern to him (others say the two acted closer to brothers than father and son, especially towards the end of Victoria's reign). He did, however, become much more affectionate towards his second son after Bertie/George was kept out of much of WW1 by chronic illness, and had to spend a good deal of his time with his father. This is probably what led to George V's famous remark that he hoped Bertie would become king.
  • 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
Full Name: Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes
Parents: Francis, Duke of Teck and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge
Consort: King George V
Title: Her Majesty Queen Mary
Nickname: May

Her full name being hugely bulky even by royal standards — Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes — she was informally called May, after her birth month. Prior to her marriage she was known as Princess Mary of Teck, the name by which historians generally refer to her to this day.

  • 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.note  She would become the first British Queen Consort born in the British Isles since Catherine Parr in the 16th century.note 
  • 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.
  • Was described by one politician as "magnificent, [...] worldly, in fact nearly sublime, but cold and hard", making it appropriate that she had an ocean liner named after her — RMS Queen Mary, a Cunard liner and, as noted above, running mate to RMS Queen Elizabeth, named after then-Queen Consort Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.
    • How she came to be the namesake of RMS Queen Mary and her successor the Queen Mary 2 is a funny (if apocryphal) story. Cunard had a convention that all her ships had names that ended in "-ia" (Lusitania, Mauretania, etc)note . When they laid down Hull Number 534 in 1930, legend goes that she was to be named Victoria and the company approached George V for permission to name their latest liner after Britain's greatest Queen, only for him to respond, "My wife will be delighted." Clearly too embarrassed to correct the King, Cunard went ahead and launched RMS Queen Mary. Amusingly, every modern Cunard liner now follows the lead of the Queen Mary in its namingnote .
  • As noted above, she and her husband were genuinely in love, but could only express it via letter.

Edward VII of the United Kingdom
Lived: 9 November 1841 — 6 May 1910
Reigned: 22 January 1901 — 6 May 1910
Full Name: Albert Edward
Parents: Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Queen Victoria
Consort: Alexandra of Denmark
Title: His Majesty King Edward VII
Nicknames: Bertie, Edward the Caressernote 

Great grandfather of Elizabeth II. Eldest son and second child of Queen Victoria and Albert, Prince Consort (the eldest being Victoria, Princess Royal (later Victoria, German Empress). Spent 59 years as heir to the throne, the longest ever until Prince Charles. Lent his name to The Edwardian Era. Before his coronation, known as Albert Edward, but familiarly as "Prince Albert" (especially after his father died in 1861), 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)note , 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, many of them high profile. His most famous mistresses were the actress Lilly Langtry,note  the aristocratic Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick,note  and the society hostess Alice Keppel.note )
  • Edward also faced 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 and very scandalous trials, the first being the divorce trial of an MP (where the issue was the MP's wife's cheating on him with the Prince while her husband was at sittings of Parliament) and the second case involved gambling (and had the added indignity of his being forced to testify, rather than willingly taking the stand as he had the previous time).
  • He was also, outside of his mistresses, a truly notorious womanizer. He had liaisons with numerous society women (including Winston Churchill's mother Lady Randolph Churchill and actresses Sarah Bernhardt and Lillie Langtry). In the 1880s and 1890s, he also had special rooms in some of the top brothels of Paris, including one with a specially-designed siège d'amour ("love chair") built so that even with his great weight he could take two prostitutes at once.
  • 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; for all the cheating, he appears that he was actually a pretty caring and decent husband otherwise (by her lights, anyway). 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 from George I until him), he carried it best. He was also (thus far) the last fat British monarch; his marriage to the slender Alexandra of Denmark seems to have had the lasting effect of ensuring reasonably svelte monarchs for the next five generations. 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.
  • Continued the proud Hanover tradition of the monarch feuding with the eldest son - his mother was not especially fond of him, even going so far as to blame him for her beloved Albert's death, and refused to allow him any active role in affairs of the state. That being said, Victoria was too kindhearted to ever be as nasty to him as the other Hanover monarchs had been to their eldest sons. For his part, seeing as he was not a Hanover himself, he did not return the ill-will; he loved his mother deeply, and for all his frustration at her he never feuded publicly with her like the previous heirs. He also got along very well indeed with his own son George V, who always remembered his father fondly, albeit more as a friend and mentor than as an actual father figure.
  • Ultimately, it was his smoking (twelve cigars daily, plus twenty cigarettes)note  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). He famously took 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." When, during an Anglo-German summit meeting, Kaiser Wilhelm II characterized the Japanese as the "Yellow Peril" and accused the British of "race treason" by supporting Japan against Russia, Edward rejected the tirade and called the Japanese "an intelligent, brave and chivalrous nation, quite as civilised as the Europeans, from whom they only differed by the pigmentation of their skin." 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. He was also genuinely concerned by the plight of the poor; while this was instinctively more a sense of quasi-feudal obligation of a monarch to his subjects rather than any kind of reformist tendency, he seems to have been on board for the reforms the Liberal Party started gravitating towards during his reign. He tended to also be privately vaguely sympathetic to the Liberals; he counted William Gladstone as a personal friend and mentor (to the annoyance of his mother, who greatly preferred Gladstone's archrival Disraeli and rather detested Gladstone on a personal levelnote ) and generally had better relationships with his Liberal PMs (Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith) than with his Tory ones (Lord Salisbury and Balfour).
  • He is the most recent British sovereign to be the ancestor of a foreign monarch, as one of his daughters (Maud) married her cousin Prince Carl of Denmark, who was elected King of Norway (as Haakon VII) in 1905. The current King of Norway, Harald V, is the great-grandson of Edward VII, making him the second cousin of Elizabeth II, and the highest-placed foreign monarch on the British line of succession.
  • Has a breed of potatoes named after him; a floury breed, they're still considered some of the best in Britain for chips and mash (alongside Maris Piper).

Queen Alexandra
Lived: 1 December 1844 — 20 November 1925
Full Name: Alexandra Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia
Parents: King Christian IX of Denmark and Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel
Consort: King Edward VII
Title: Her Majesty Queen Alexandra
Nickname: Alix

Wife of Edward VII, she was a Danish princess before she married into the British royal family.

  • Her family was of very modest means. Her father, the future Christian IX of Denmark, was only distantly related to the main line of Danish monarchs, and was pursuing a career in the Royal Danish Army when it became clear that the male line of monarchs was about to die out, precipitating a Succession Crisis. Christian was the closest agnatic relative of the King, but there were several potential claimants in the female line who were more closely related and could inherit if Denmark decided not to continue following Salic law (an option under discussion at the time). It was thus not until Alexandra was about 12 that her father was confirmed as heir to the Danish throne. Even then, he was not given a royal income (as he and his wife refused to meet with the King's mistress), and continued to live off his modest Army salary. Alexandra and her sister Dagmar (who later married the Tsar Alexander III) therefore grew up sewing her own clothes. In fact, she fully thought she'd have to sew her own wedding dress, to the horror of her future in-laws.
  • Despite being 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) and Alexandra did not forget that Denmark had lost Schleswig-Holstein in the German-Danish War of 1864. 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.
  • Physically she was in great shape and looked a lot younger than she was for most of her life, it is said that the lissome queen once almost split her sides laughing when she saw her portly husband and his fat mistress Alice Keppel taking a walk in the garden through the window.
  • Known for Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, 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 bout with rheumatic fever left her lame in one leg; within days the "Alexandra Glide" had become fashionable.
  • She started a fashion for choker necklaces, which she wore to hide a scar on her throat from a childhood surgery.
  • She was an enthusiastic photographer who had several exhibits of her work, and in 1908 created Queen Alexandra’s Christmas Gift Book: Photographs from my camera (the proceeds went to charity).
  • Alexandra Palace, a London entertainment venue, was named after her. Among other historic events, it was fitted with a broadcast tower (still in use) that transmitted the first BBC television signals in 1936.

Depictions in fiction


  • The King's Speech, of course.
  • Bertie and Elizabeth: Equally obvious.
  • Churchill features George VI in a crucial scene where he talks down the title character from an ill-conceived scheme to attend the D-Day landings in person, with the King at his side.
  • Into the Storm (2009) features George VI throughout, depicting his evolving relationship with Winston Churchill, from initial suspicion (on the King's side) to eventual friendship and mutual respect.
  • A Royal Night Out features the two royal princesses having the time of their life during the V-Day celebrations, along with them George VI and the Queen Mum as two very concerned parents.
  • Darkest Hour very obviously portraits George VI and his family during the crucial days of the Blitz, although the film portraits Churchill's perspective.
  • Spencer, about the falling out of the marriage between Diana, Princess of Wales, and Prince Charles.
  • The King's Man: Orlando, Duke of Oxford is a distant cousin and good friend of George V, who meets with him several times throughout the movie. He initially seeks to prevent the outbreak of WWI, though he's only vaguely aware of Orlando's efforts towards that goal. After Orlando's son Conrad is killed in action, he tries unsuccessfully to talk Orlando out of his depression (he does snap out of it later). He eventually becomes one of the founding members of the Kingsmen.


  • 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).
  • Young James Bond in By Royal Command meets several of the house's members in the 30s, and ends up saving their lives later.
  • The crime writer Peter Lovesey wrote three light-hearted novels featuring "Bertie", Prince of Wales, as an amateur detective.
  • A weird example from the future: In the Hyperion Cantos, the abandonment of Earth forces the exodus of the British from the Isles, whereupon they decide to establish a colony on another planet that is as much like Britain as possible—down to the constitutional monarchy with the Windsors as monarchs. (They also name the planet Asquith, so clearly these are either some Edwardian nostalgics or have a wicked sense of humour—or both.)

Live-Action TV

  • The Netflix series The Crown depicts Elizabeth II's life and reign, starting (barring flashbacks) with her marriage to Prince Philip. Various members of the House appear; in particular, the Queen Mum and Princess Margaret are regular characters from the beginning, Edward VIII is a recurring character, and both George VI and Queen Mary are regular characters in the first season (Queen Mary is a regular through to her death in the fifth episode; George VI actually lingers posthumously through copious flashbacks after he dies in the second episode). Incidentally, Jared Harris' turn as George VI has earned him much acclaim for playing the good-hearted, loving, conscientious, constantly aching monarch so perfectly.
  • 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!
  • UK Channel 4 sitcom The Windsors portrayed the family as a soap opera like Dallas or Dynasty, with Camilla and Pippa as villainesses, Wills and Kate as nominal heroes and the rest of the family as either deluded or incompetent. It mixes real events with soap opera tropes such as amnesia, long-lost twins and dream sequences.
  • Stephen Poliakoff's The Lost Prince is about the life and death of little Prince John, the "sweet boy" Bertie mourns for in The King's Speech, speaking about his epilepsy and the fact that he was 'different'. (He may have been learning-disabled, autistic or both; no one is sure.)


  • King Charles III, a speculative "future history" first performed in 2014, follows the royal family's turbulent internal relationships and tenuous political position in the months between Queen Elizabeth II's death and Charles' coronation.

Web Comics

  • Hark! A Vagrant has this cartoon in which Edward VII is reviewing his mother's memoirs:
    Edward VII: Mummy that is not appropriate.
    Queen Victoria: You're one to talk.

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

Alternative Title(s): King Bertie