changing the king's name -- 4/11/16

Today's selection -- from Indian Summer by Alex Von Tunzelmann. Britain had long been close to Germany, and its perennial enemy had long been France. Many of the British royalty, including the king's family, were of German ancestry and still had prominent German relatives. But with World War I, France became the ally and Germany became the godless, hated enemy. With that, British royalty acted to change their German names with more British-sounding ones:

Prince George, Duke of York (George V) and Princess
Mary of Teck, daughter of the German Duke of Teck

"On 17 July 1917, a mass rebranding of royalty was ordered by George V. The king led by example this time, dropping Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (which was, in any case, a title -- nobody knew what his surname was, though they suspected without enthusiasm that it might be Wettin or Wipper), and adopting the British-sounding 'Windsor.' Much against their will, the rest of the in-laws were 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 unem­ployed Prince Louis of Battenberg would be Louis Mountbatten, Marquess of Milford Haven.

"The former Prince Louis detested both his inelegant title and the reasoning behind it. 'I am absolutely English,' he told George V. 'I have been educated in England and have been in England all my life. If you wish me to become now Sir Louis Battenberg I will do so.' It was a noble offer, dimmed only slightly by Prince Louis's presumption of a knighthood -- he dismissed the idea of being Mr. Louis Battenberg as 'impossible' -- and the Teutonic cast of his sen­tences. The compromise was rejected. Henceforth, Prince Louis would be a marquess, and Battenberg a cake."


Alex Von Tunzelmann


Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire


Picador, Henry Holt and Company


Copyright 2007 by Alex von Tunzelmann


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