Queen Victoria was the last member of the House of Hanover to reign in the United Kingdom. Her son, Edward VII, was the first to reign as a member of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. This changed on July 17, 1917, when George V issued a proclamation: " from the date of this Our Royal Proclamation Our House and Family shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, and that all the descendants in the male line of Our said Grandmother Queen Victoria who are subjects of these Realms, other than female descendants who may marry or may have married, shall bear the said Name of Windsor." This was further amplified in November with the issuance of a Letters Patent:
"George the Fifth by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, King, Defender of the Faith To all to whom these presents shall come Greeting: Whereas Her late Majesty Queen Victoria did by Her Letters Patent dated the thirtieth day of January in the twenty seventh year of Her Reign declare her Royal Pleasure as to the style and title of the Princes and Princesses of the Royal Family in the manner in the said Letters Patent particularly mentioned And whereas we deem it expedient that the said Letters Patent should be extended and amended and that the styles and titles to be borne by the Princes and Princesses of the Royal Family should be henceforth established defined and limited in manner hereinafter declared Now Know Ye that We of our especial grace certain knowledge and mere motion do hereby declare our Royal Will and Pleasure that the children of any Sovereign of these Realms and the children of the sons of any such Sovereign and the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales shall have and at all times hold and enjoy the style title or attribute of Royal Highness with their titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their respective Christian names or with their other titles of honour And We do further declare our Royal Will and Pleasure that save as aforesaid the style title or attribute of Royal Highness Highness or Serene Highness and the titular dignity of Prince or Princess shall not henceforth be assumed or borne by any descendant of any Sovereign of these Realms excepting always any such descendant who at the date of these Letters Patent holds or bears any right to any such style degree attribute or titular dignity in pursuance of any Letters Patent granted by Ourselves or any of Our Royal Predecessors and still remaining unrevoked it being Our Royal Will and Pleasure that the grandchildren of the sons of any such Sovereign in the direct male line (save only the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales) shall have and enjoy in all occasions the style and title enjoyed by the children of Dukes of these Our Realms Our Will and Pleasure further is that Our Earl Marshal of England or his deputy for the time being do cause these our Letters Patent or the enrolment thereof to be recorded in Our College of Arms to the end that Our officers of Arms and all others may take due notice thereof. In Witness whereof We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent Witness Ourself at Westminster the thirtieth day of November in the eighth year of Our reign. "
This was followed by a second Letters Patent in December: 1917
Whitehall, 11th December, 1917.
The KING has been pleased by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, bearing date the 30th ultimo, to define the styles and titles to be borne henceforth by members of the Royal Family. It is declared by the Letters Patent that the children of any Sovereign of the United Kingdom and the children of the sons of any such Sovereign and the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales shall have and at all times hold and enjoy the style, title or attribute of Royal Highness with their titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their respective Christian names or with their other titles of honour; that save as aforesaid the titles of Royal Highness, Highness or Serene Highness, and the titular dignity of Prince and Princess shall cease except those titles already granted and remaining unrevoked; and that the grandchildren of the sons of any such Sovereign in the direct male line (save only the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales) shall have the style and title enjoyed by the children of Dukes.
The new Letters Patent redefined the British Royal Family in terms of titles and the establishment of a surname. The first member of the family to be effected by the change was three-year-old HH Prince Alistair Arthur of Connaught, the only son of TRH Prince and Princess of Arthur of Connaught. Princess Arthur was also Duchess of Fife in her own right. With the stroke of a pen, Alistair ceased to be a prince. He was the heir apparent to his mother's dukedom, and it was decided that Alistair would be styled as Earl of Macduff, the secondary title for the Fife dukedom.
The children of the Sovereign and the grandchildren of the Sovereign are princes and princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, although a prince or princess may be styled differently.
Most princes are also created Royal Dukes.
George V's second son, Albert, was created Duke of York. His two daughters were styled as HRH Princess Elizabeth of York and HRH Princess Margaret of York. This style ended when the Duke of York succeeded as king. The official style for the two princesses became HRH The Princess Elizabeth and HRH The Princess Margaret.. The article "the" is used solely for the sovereign's children who do not have other titles, such as a dukedom.
When Princess Elizabeth married Lt. Philip Mountbatten in 1947, her father issued a new Letters Patent to create Philip a royal highness and bestowed him with the title Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich.
A year later, as Princess Elizabeth expected her first child, King George VI issued a new Letters Patent that extended the HRH and the title of prince or princess to Elizabeth's children. If this had not been done, Prince Charles would have been styled as the Earl of Merioneth and Anne would have been The Lady Anne Mountbatten, taking their rank and titles from their father, the Duke of Edinburgh, until Elizabeth became queen.
The Letters Patent allowed for Charles and Anne to be styled as HRH Prince Charles of Edinburgh and HRH Princess Anne of Edinburgh.
Take a look at Elizabeth's wedding license. You will see that she had a surname - Windsor. She was listed as Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor. The Windsor surname was not used on the licenses for Princess Margaret or Princess Alexandra.
HRH Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, succeeded to the throne on February 6, 1952. On April 9, 1952, she issued a declaration: "My Lords,I hereby declare My Will and Pleasure that I and My children shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, and that My descendants, other than female descendants who marry and their descendants, shall bear the Name of Windsor". This lasted until February 8, 1960, when Elizabeth II declared: "My Lords Whereas on the 9th day of April 1952, I did declare in Council My Will and Pleasure that I and My children shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, and that My descendants, other than female descendants who marry and their descendants, shall bear the name of Windsor:And whereas I have given further consideration to the position of those of My descendants who will enjoy neither the style, title or attribute of Royal Highness, nor the titular dignity of Prince and for whom therefore a surname will be necessary:And whereas I have concluded that the Declaration made by Me on the 9th day of April 1952, should be varied in its application to such persons:Now therefore I declare My Will and Pleasure that, while I and My Children shall continue to be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, My descendants other than descendants enjoying the style, title or attribute of Royal Highness and the titular dignity of Prince or Princess and female descendants who marry and their descendants shall bear the name of Mountbatten-Windsor."
It was largely assumed that the surname Mountbatten-Windsor would not be used until two generations had passed for the non-royal male line descendants.
In fact, the Mountbatten-Windsor surname was first used in November 1973 on the marriage registration for Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise Mountbatten-Windsor. This surname also appears on the marriage licenses for Andrew and Edward.
The surname was not used for the Prince of Wales' license.
The surname Windsor has been in use since the 1960s. It would have applied to the Earl of St. Andrews, the heir apparent to the Duke of Kent. The earldom is one of the two courtesy titles for the dukedom. George's family name is Windsor, but he uses George St. Andrews, which is the style for non-peers with courtesy titles. A peer of the realm signs only his title. Wellington. (This does not apply to the royal dukes because their royal rank takes precedence.) His son, Edward, has the courtesy title Baron Downpatrick, so he can sign Edward Downpatrick. The wife of a peer or the wife of a courtesy peer signs her first name with the title: Sylvana St. Andrews.
It was not until 1964 with the birth of the Duke of Kent's daughter Helen that the name Windsor was used officially as a surname. At this time, there are four women who have the maiden name of Windsor: Lady Helen and her first cousin, Lady Gabriella, and their second cousins, Lady Davina and Lady Rose, the daughters of the duke of Gloucester. The Windsor surname will continue through the male line descendants of the Earls of St.Andrew and Ulster (the heir to the duke of Gloucester) and Lords Nicholas and Frederick Windsor. Lord Nicholas' sons are the first male line descendants of George V to have the surname Windsor without a courtesy title.
On June 19, 1999, Queen Elizabeth II released a statement regarding titles of the children born to Prince Edward and his future wife, Sophie Rhys-Jones. Their children would not have the style of Royal Highness, but bear the courtesy titles as children of an earl. Edward, who had been created Earl of Wessex on the morning of his wedding, and Sophie, had agreed to this decision. Although the 1917 Letters Patent gives the HRH and the title Prince or Princess to the grandchildren of the Sovereign in the male line, Edward and Sophie's children would not have royal titles. There are several theories about this decision. Edward and Sophie want to keep their children out of the public eye, and the children will not carry out royal duties when they become adults, so why burden them with royal titles. The announcement also came after several years of constant barrage in the media about so many royals supported by tax payers, and the Queen did not want to add more fuel to the fire by having Edward's children styled as royals.
The Sovereign has the prerogative to limit or create titles, and how it is done - press release or letters patent -- is immaterial.
When the Countess of Wessex gave birth to her first child, Louise, in November 2003, it was announced that the infant would have the surname Mountbatten-Windsor, but would be styled as The Lady Louise Windsor. Sophie gave birth to a son, James, who bears the courtesy title, Viscount Severn. His male line descendants will have the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.
The surname Mountbatten-Windsor will also be used on the marriage licenses for Beatrice and Eugenie, as well as for Prince Harry. It might also be used if William marries in his grandmother's lifetime. Indeed, William's children, apart from his eldest son, will not have royal titles until Prince Charles succeeds to the throne.
and now about that Duke of Edinburgh. The Earl of Wessex will not inherit his father's dukedom. Period. Full stop. The 1947 Letters Patent that created the dukedom allowed for male line succession. Thus, the current line of succession for the dukedom is as follows: The Prince of Wales, Prince William, Prince Harry, The Duke of York, The Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn. If the Duke of Edinburgh dies before Elizabeth, the Prince of Wales inherits the dukedom, and would remain as duke (even though he would not use the title), until he became king, when dukedom (and the courtesy titles) revert to the Crown.
The present dukedom has to revert to the Crown before a new dukedom can be created. This will only happen after Charles succeeds to the throne, and both his parents are deceased. Only then can he create a new dukedom for his youngest brother. The Peerage Disclaimer Act allows for a person to disclaim a peerage, but he cannot disclaim for his heirs. Thus, Charles and William could choose to disclaim the Edinburgh dukedom, but the title would remain in abeyance because William could have male heirs.