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What Is The Royal Family’s Last Name?

Does the Royal Family have a surname? The short answer is yes, they do, but they only adopted one in 1917. Before this, Royal Family members only used their first names or the names of their dynasties. 

Learn more about the Royal Family’s last name and how it came to be.

What’s The Royal Family’s Surname?

The Royal Family’s surname is Windsor, introduced in 1917 when George V decided to change his dynasty’s name. Previously, George V belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. However, the name was of German origin, prompting George V to change it due to anti-German sentiments at the time.

During a Privy Council meeting, George V announced, “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.” Windsor was derived from Windsor Castle, just one of the Royal Family’s many properties. 

When the Queen acceded to the throne in 1952, she made minor amendments to ensure that she and Prince Philip’s descendants were differentiated from the rest of the Royal Family. Thus, the Privy Council announced that all descendants would carry the name Mountbatten-Windsor, except in the following circumstances:

  • With the title of Royal Highness
  • With the title of Prince/Princess
  • Female descendants who marry

What Name Did The Royal Family Use Before 1917?

The Royal Family only used house or dynasty names before 1917, as kings and princes were historically referred to by the names of the countries they ruled. For instance, George III, who reigned from 1760 to 1820, was known as King George III of England. His son, George IV, who ruled from 1820 to 1830, was called King George IV of England. 

In addition, names often changed when rival factions took over lines of succession, such as in the cases of Henry IV and the Lancastrians and Henry VII and the Tudors.

Mountbatten vs Windsor

To distinguish between the Queen’s and Prince Philip’s descendants from the rest of the Royal Family, they began using the hyphenated name Mountbatten-Windsor. The first time the surname appeared in an official document was on November 14, 1973, when Princess Anne married Captain Mark Philips.

All younger descendants, like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s children, use Mountbatten-Windsor.

queen elizabeth and prince phillip

Why Doesn’t The Royal Family Use Their Surname?

Royal Family members considered HRH Princes or Princesses don’t need to use any surname. As such, many opt not to use the surname or instead use a territorial designation. 

For instance, when the Royal Princes served in the military, they went by William and Harry Wales. Similarly,  William and Kate’s children went by George and Charlotte Cambridge, as they were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge then.

The Bottom Line

While the Royal Family technically has a surname, Mountbatten-Windsor, many members prefer not to use it because of regularly changing names and titles. Royal Family members have used territorial designations, whereas female descendants have changed their surnames entirely when marrying non-royal people.