18 Comments

CHANGING THE KING’S NAME


king_george_v_1911_color-cropGeorge V

When alliances change, there is a period of adjusting values and, in some cases, even names. Divorce is a good example. A certain cousin discarded her married name, and went so far as to change her children’s names as well.

Things become more complicated when you are king. Britain and Germany had long been friends, while Britain and France were perennial enemies. You don’t want the rest o the world think you are still friends with the new enemy, so the best thing to do is to change your name and those of the rest of your family. Many of the British royal family, including the king’s family, were of German ancestry and had German relatives still on the continent. With World War 1, France became the ally and Germany switched places and became the hated and godless enemy. Suddenly it became important for British royalty to dump their German names and get more British-sounding ones.

On July 17, 1917, a mass scramble to change names took place with King George V leading by example, dropping Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (which was actually a title rather than a name.) Nobody knew what his surname was in any case. He adopted the British sounding name of Windsor, and much against their will, the rest of the family were also quickly de-Germanized.

“Prince Alexander of Battenberg became the Marquess of Carisbrooke; Prince Alexander of Teck became the Earl of Athlone; Adolphus, Duke of Teck, became the Marquess of Cambridge. The unfortunate princesses of Schleswig-Holstein were ‘demoted,’ in the king’s words, to ‘Helena Victoria and Marie Louise of Nothing.’ And the poor unemployed Prince Louis of Battenberg would be Louis Mountbatten, Marquess of Milford Haven. ”

Mrs. Lauderback (2)Mrs. Lauderback sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen

The former Prince Louis hated his rather inelegant title and the reason for it. ‘I am English’ he told King George, ‘and if you wish me to become Sir Louis Battenberg, I will do so.’ He absolutely dismissed the idea of becoming Mr. Louis Battenberg as impossible. He had hopes of a knighthood, which was not forthcoming, so henceforth, Prince Louis, formerly sporting the original name of ‘Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Prince of Battenberg’, would be a marquess, and Battenberg a cake.

There is no word as to how the rest of the family took to their new names.

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18 comments on “CHANGING THE KING’S NAME

  1. I used to be a royal history buff, but let that interest lapse recently. It is fascinating, and I spent decades being immersed in historical novels featuring the English Royals. They still attract a great of attention, although Hollywood celebrities have taken over the spotlight!

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  2. Just ten minutes ago, and before I read your very interesting post, I wrote on my own blog our response about a stoush between neighbours in our compound. I hereby copy the response with some changes.
    “The person we feel is responsible to the threat that we should go and sell up, also has a thing about the British Royal Family. When the English Prince Phillip was given a Knighthood by Australia, she fully applauded the move by our previous government. It was such a silly move that the government subsequently lost the election.
    We joined in the chorus of most, in condemning and rubbishing the giving of Knighthoods and Dame hoods. Australia is not given to a belief in English Titles. It would be thought of as ‘coming the raw prawn’. However, the nasty neighbour is English and when she holds Court would bore us to death about her regaling the English monarchy to its minutest detail. She hinted she actually was the illegitimate fruit of one of the many Prince Phillip’s amorous conquests, supposedly consummated in a swanky address along the Seine in Paris.
    We finally had enough and refused to genuflect and told her off. She is silly.”

    You perfectly summoned up how Royalty is beholden by the same primitive prejudices as those that they often look down upon. Even so, I admire how Royalty just seems to keep going. In Australia a plebiscite on becoming a Republic was defeated. So, what does that tell us?

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    • Good for you and your neighbors for standing up to that boring woman. I am left to wonder how she remembers the “conjugal night” along the Seine. I can’t imagine the hoopla that would be raised if an American politician thought to be involved in British politics. It took us a long time and lots of bloodshed to be shed of that. People remain enigmas.

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  3. Fascinating. I studied English history — but medieval. Didn’t know those facts, but it all make sense politically.

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  4. I’d never heard of Battenberg cake (no, I’ll not be making it — I looked at the recipes) but I love Battenberg lace.

    As for name changing, my last name, ‘Leinen,’ was ‘Leinenkugel’ at one point — until some of the family, newly arrived in this country, decided to ditch the German. The Leinenkugels still are around, and produce one of the best shandys in the country at their Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin brewery.

    In Liberia, people forever were changing their names: from tribal to civilized, to Christian, to Muslim, and back to traditional Liberian. It always was smart to check the bulletin board at the hospital, where you’d find things like “Sumoiwuo Tuah willl henceforth be known as Steven Lincoln.” You just never knew.

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    • Kugel is a delicious noodle dish.

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    • That is so funny. It was nice for them to have a choice, but difficult to keep track I guess. We have so many neighbors from other countries who have “American” names, and I always wonder how they chose those particular ones. Even last names seem to be Americanized in some cases. So many foreign names are unpronounceable for us. We just have to get used to it. Our grandparents would shake their heads in frustration.

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  5. An entertaining post and a delightful sculpture!

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  6. At the time of George V’s accession, the future of the monarchy was very much in question. There had been assassination attempts against Victoria, who had virtually disappeared from public view after Albert’s death, and she was followed by a playboy king. The Labour movement was in revolutionary mood.

    George V determined to bring the monarchy back to the people, and he took a number of courageous steps in order to do do so. The change of name was only a start, deriving as it does from the monarch’s home outside London. This was a clever and popular move. Other steps to restore popularity were the the public display of pomp and ceremony and the denial of asylum to the Tsar and his family at the time of his overthrow. It was his own painful decision since the Tsar was his cousin and the Government would have acceded to his wishes.

    During WW2, George VI further affirmed the affections of the people by refusing to move out of London during the blitz. Buckingham Palace suffered a direct hit. He and his queen visited the bombed-out homes and businesses and gave comfort to the Eastenders who suffered so terribly at the time.

    Our present Queen has, of course, further cemented the bond by her hard work and public exposure while confining herself strictly to her constitutional role. It can fairly be said, and paradoxically, that she better represents the people than the elected politicians, but she depends upon their goodwill. Had Scotland withdrawn from the UK, such was her popularity that the monarchy would have been retained.

    The monarchy is an effective restriction on the arrogance of politicians and an important symbol of a nation’s continuity. The Queen has taken great pains to involve herself with and travel extensively to the Commonwealth. Those who do not regard the monarchy as an asset and prefer a republic are free to reject it or restore it as they choose by the democratic process they have inherited.

    As to the German connection, the heritage is a mishmash, although the blood was replenished by the House of Hanover, a legitimate successor.

    The Anglo Saxon invaders were, of course, German, and it was they who founded England and in the 900s raised it, some say, to the cultural centre of Europe.

    Hitler ordered that Oxford and Winchester, the early capital of England, should not be bombed. He wanted his centre if government in Oxford and to be crowned King of Britain in Winchester. How different all our lives might have been had his invasion succeeded!

    I take this opportunity to congratulate you, Kayti, on the many years of your successful marriage.

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    • Thanks so much Richard. Your reply is so much more concise than any of my research. England has such a fascinating history, and I’m so glad my granddaughter kate, is living there and love everything about it.

      Thank you for your congratulations on our long marriage.

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  7. Really interesting Kayti, I am hopeless at British history, thanks for the lesson!

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