Your RDA of Irony

What’s In a Name: On This Day in 1917

After three ghastly years of war with cousin Willy, the royal family of Britain felt pressured to change its name. Saxe-Coburg-Gotha sounded unpatriotic. Indeed, the British royal family was quite German. Although born in London, Queen Mary was Teck-nically German. The mother of King George was (mercifully) Danish, but his paternal ancestry was almost completely Deutsch. (There had been a Scottish/Danish great- great- etc. grandmother almost three hundred years earlier.) The family decided to rename itself the impeccably anglophile guise of Windsor.

I have done a calculation of the British ancestry of the Royal family. You may need a microscope.

George V was 3/32768 English. By comparison, he was much more Scottish: 3/4096. The rest of his ancestors were German or Danish. However, George VI actually married a nice British girl. But then his daughter had to marry ein Battenberg (even if the family tactfully translated it to Mountbatten).

It is ironic but British law does not require the monarch to be British. The sole requirement is that he or she be Protestant.  At the penalty of disinheritance, a member of the Royal Family is prohibited from marrying a Catholic.

However, the prohibition does not apply to other religions. So, in theory, Prince Charles could have married Nigella Lawson (Levinson actually) or Rachel Weisz.

  1. Eugene Finerman says:

    p.s. Upon hearing of his cousins’ new moniker, Cousin Willy quipped “Well, now I will have to see ‘The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.”’ (And that exhausts the anthology “The Wit and Wisdom of Wilhelm II”)


    • Hal Gordon says:

      As I recall, immediately before the name change, some British patriots were advocating republicanism as a means of boosting the war effort. H.G. Wells declared publicly that it was unthinkable for Britain continue the fight under what he called an “alien and uninspiring Court.” To which a furious George V replied: “I may be uninspiring, but I’ll be damned if I’m an alien!”

  2. Rick Naystatt says:

    Hi Eugene,

    thanks once again for an interesting and entertaining post. My Scottish wife has an ingrained fear and loathing of all things German, born no doubt from growing up listening to her mother’s stories of the bombings along the river Clyde during WWII and battling early-rising German tourists for loungers on the beaches of European holiday spots. She even has trouble letting my daughter park her VW in our driveway. She has an equal disdain for the royal family, but I always attributed that to her being raised north of Hadrian’s Wall.

    She’s a very perceptive woman – it’s all starting to make sense to me now… I wonder how deeply the subject of royal bloodlines is covered in British schools.

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