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Useful Notes / The House of Windsor

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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 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).


The House of Windsor, from the current sovereign to historic members

Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Born: 21 April 1926 note 
Reign: Since 6 February 1952 —
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 

The current monarch, and her family. Elizabeth is very popular, to the point that some of the nations of the commonwealth have actually rejected movements towards republicanism, preferring to retain her as their Head of State (even if only a ceremonial one). She is 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 is also the longest-reigning and longest-lived female head of state in world history, and second only to the Sun King in length of reign for the monarch of a European Great Power

As the most famous monarch in the world, she has her own page — HM The Queen — 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 

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. 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 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 ).
  • 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

The Queen'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, her Berserk Button was undoubtedly 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. 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 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.
  • 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. 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 

  • 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 group of young upper-class and professionals.
  • She married Charles in 1981, in what was the last royal arranged marriage, and it made both of them thoroughly unhappy - Charles was already in love with his mistress, Camilla Parker-Bowles, with whom he cheated on Diana nearly as soon as they were married. Diana was only 20 when she married her 33 year old husband, and while this isn't even close to the greatest royal age gap, it contributed significantly to the unhappiness of the marriage.
  • In the end, she bore Charles two children (Princes William and Harry), but the marriage was doomed. Not only was the union marred by mutual infidelity, but she suffered from chronic depression and bulimia.
  • She was beloved by the global 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 royalty. The royal family traditionally favours a subdued life devoted to duty no matter their personal opinions. Diana had her own causes she wished to promote, but was also famously jet-set and openly despised having to participate in events and rituals that didn't interest her. Ironically, this means that her erstwhile rival and eventual successor, the sensible, down-to-earth, and duty-minded Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, makes a far better royal in the dutiful sense of the word than Diana ever did.
  • Diana was killed in a car crash in 1997, which saw the largest outpouring of national grief ever witnessed, and since then numerous Conspiracy Theories have arisen. The details of her death and the latest conspiracy theories are, as of 2019, still featured in the Daily Express on a nigh daily basis, and more occasionally in other tabloids The Sun and The Daily Mail. 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.
  • Her sobriquet of "The People's Princess" note  became her legacy, as despite her status, she still admitted to struggling with the same things (mental health, marital problems) many members of society struggle with. Many felt that through her conversations and meetings with “normal” people, she not only listened but made them feel like she truly cared about what they had to say. This, among many other reasons, brought the royal family closer to the public and made them feel more relatable.
  • In the 2013 biopic, Diana she was played by Naomi Watts. In the fourth season of The Crown, she was played by Emma Corrin; in the upcoming fifth season, she's set to be played by Elizabeth Debicki. In the upcoming film Spencer, she will be played by Kristen Stewart.

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

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; 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.
  • 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 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 and James Purefoy in Churchill.

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 not long into his reign, opinion dramatically changed and he became almost universally despised as a flighty, selfish womaniser when his affair with divorced commoner Wallis Simpson and subsequent abdication caused a constitutional crisis. He abdicated after less than a year on the throne and became the Duke of Windsor. He is the only British monarch since the Norman Conquest to ever voluntarily do so. Because Parliament would not allow him to marry Mrs Simpson whilst he sat on the throne, he is 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.
  • Pathologically hated by quite a number of people, including his father in his later years, mainly because he was appalled by Edward's 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 stern, overly disciplinarian parents, especially the King, George V, who had a stern temper and would rage mercilessly at 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, one of his middle names.
  • 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.

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 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!". 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).
  • 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 also notably had a dragon tattoo.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
Nickname: Edward the Caressernote 

Great grandfather of Elizabeth II. Lent his name to The Edwardian Era. Before 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)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).
  • 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

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. Alexandria 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 post-partum bout with rheumatic fever left her lame in one leg; within days the "Alexandra Limp" 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).

Depictions in fiction


  • The King's Speech, of course.
  • Bertie and Elizabeth: Equally obvious.
  • 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 Winston Churchill's perspective.


  • 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.)

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


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