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Members of the Royal Family, including Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh, can be known both by their names and that of their Royal house, which aren’t always the same. Often, they choose not to use a surname at all. But, people often ask whether members of the Royal Family even have a last name, and if so, what it is.
The situation of names for the Royal Family is somewhat of a complex affair.
Before 1917, members of the British Royal Family had no surname, but went by the name of the house or dynasty to which they belonged.
As monarchs of history were primarily known by their first name, it is a tradition in the UK which has continued until today.
The names of dynasties tended to change when the line of succession was taken over by a rival faction within the family.
Historic examples of this include Henry VI and the House of Lancaster, Edward IV and the House of York and Henry VIII and the House of Tudor.
Names would also change when succession passed to a different family branch through females, for example James I and the House of Stuart.
And just as children can take their surnames from their father, sitting Kings and Queens normally take the name of their House from their paternal side as well.
In 1917, however, there was radical reform to the system when George V specifically adopted the name Windsor, not only as the name of the House, but as his last name too.
The family name had to be changed as a result of growing anti-German sentiment throughout World War I.
The name Windsor was chosen after the castle of the same name, which is a favourite of the Queen.
At a meeting of the Privy Council on July 17, 1917, George V declared “all descendants in the male line of Queen Victoria, who are subjects of these realms, other than female descendants who marry or who have married, shall bear the name of Windsor”.
The Royal Family name of Windsor was confirmed by the Queen after her accession to the throne in 1952.
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In 1960, however, Prince Philip and the Queen decide they wanted their own descendants to be distinguished from the rest of the family.
It was therefore declared in the Privy Council that direct descendants of the Queen and Prince Philip would carry the name Mountbatten-Windsor.
This reflected Prince Philip’s surname, who when he was naturalised in 1947 become Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten in the Royal Navy.
The declaration meant that anytime a descendant of the monarch needed a surname, they would opt for Mountbatten-Windsor.
However, the proclamation on the Royal Family name by the reigning monarch is not statutory, meaning unlike an Act of Parliament it does not pass into the law of the land.
It does not set a legal precedent which must be followed by reigning sovereigns who come after.
This means the Prince of Wales could technically choose to alter the proclamation when he takes the throne himself, making a huge U-Turn on the Duke’s name decision.
However, if he chooses not to, his grandchildren will use the surname Mountbatten-Windsor in all future engagements.
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