Family name changed during the war: the British royal family is so German

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They are the figurehead of the United Kingdom: the British royal family. At the same time, she has German roots that go way back. The original family name also comes from Germany. But how German are today’s royals?

Almost nothing is considered British like the late Queen Elizabeth II and her royal family. What is less known, however, is that they all have German roots. Even the royal family name was originally “von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha”. It wasn’t until 1917 that it was changed to “Windsor” as the United Kingdom fought against the German Empire in World War I.

The ancestors of today’s Windsors came mainly from the German noble houses of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Hesse, Hanover and Prussia. However, that does not mean that the late Queen and her family were and are exclusively German. Aristocrats from very different backgrounds also married in the family.


(Photo: ntv)

A look at the British royal family tree reveals that King George I, born in Hanover, was a German in London in 1714 and with him the House of Hanover took the British throne. George I would have spoken poorly in English and preferred to correspond in French. His son and heir apparent, George II, was slightly less German, as his mother was also half French.

Fondness for german women

However, George II and his successor had a fondness for German women. The later kings George IV (1820-830) and his brother Wilhelm IV (1830-1837) could therefore be called reasonably German. Her niece, later Queen Victoria, who gave her name to the Victorian era in the 19th century, again had nearly 100 percent German ancestry because her mother was also German.

Victoria also spoke fluent German and in turn married a German: Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. With him, the name of the British royal family also changed: “from Hanover” became “from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha”. Incidentally, the couple made the previously purely German tradition of the Christmas tree popular in the UK. Albert also bought the Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland, where his great-great-granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, later spent her last days and died.

But how German was Queen Elizabeth II? Her grandfather George V had mainly German ancestry, but his wife Maria von Teck, who was also German, also had Hungarian ancestry. Their son and later King George VI. was still largely German, but married a real British woman: Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon, later affectionately known as Queen Mum. As a result, their daughter Elizabeth – who later became queen – can no longer be described with a clear conscience as a German.

British trend continues

However, Elizabeth eventually married Philip of Greece and Denmark in 1947. This one had mainly German ancestors, but also some Danish and Russian. After the marriage, Philip, who spoke fluent German, rejected his German nobility title “von Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg” and changed it to “Mountbatten”. The eldest son from this union, the current King Charles III, has about half German ancestors in his pedigree.

Charles’ two sons, William and Harry, come from his marriage to Diana Spencer – who became world famous as Princess Diana. Diana, however, was of British descent. Thus, the ancestors of the current heir to throne number one, William, are mostly from the British Isles.

And the trend continues, as William married Englishwoman Catherine Middleton and fathered three children with her. The eldest is number two in the current line of succession: George. German is only the minority of his ancestors.

Yet there are still family ties between the British royal family and Germany: Karin Vogel, a descendant of Sophie von der Pfalz, who was proclaimed heiress to the British throne at the beginning of the 18th century, comes from Lüneburg Heath. Although her noble ancestor never became queen, Vogel is in the list of successors to the royal family – albeit at the bottom. Before her, thousands of other relatives would have to fail before she could take the place on the throne.

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