96 years ago yesterday (17th July 1917), King George V set about changing the Royal Family at the height of World War 1. The Royal Family, at the time, bore the Germanic sounding name ‘Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’. In a war against Germany, this did not win the British people’s support fully.
This is the document that changed everything: the 1917 Letters Patent
And so the 1917 Letters Patent was born when George V decided to make the Royal Family absolutely and definitely British.
The first thing he did was to change Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor. Several choices were mulled over but Windsor was settled on as the one which epitomised Britishness.
George V also set about defining who in the Royal Family should bear the title of Prince or Princess, rules which just like the name House of Windsor, are still in effect today.
He defined that all children of the Sovereign, male-line grandchildren (children born to sons of the Sovereign) and the son of the son of the Prince of Wales would bear the style of ‘His/Her Royal Highness’ and the title of Prince or Princess. This worked two-fold as not only did it define exactly who had the title of Prince or Princess in the Royal Family, but it was the start of restrictions on George V’s German relatives who also bore the title of a British Prince. This eventually led to the Titles Deprivation Act 1917, which fully took away British titles from those on Germany’s side in the war.
The house name of Windsor has remained for the 96 years since its inception. Any future Monarch can change the house name, though none have elected to so far.
In 1960, however, Elizabeth II declared that descendants of her and Prince Philip can bear the surname (if they had no title) of Mountbatten-Windsor. As such, Prince Edward’s children are known as the Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor and James Mountbatten-Windsor, Lord Severn – though many refer to them as Louise Windsor and James Windsor, still.