Queen Victoria’s House of Hanover

We all know that the beloved monarch of England, Queen Elizabeth II, hails from the House of Windsor. However, very few of us know that the House of Windsor  has only been in existence for a very short period of time. By “short” we mean give or take a century or so old. Prior to the House of Windsor coming into existence in 1917, the House of Hanover existed. You might be wondering, what factors or circumstances forced or necessitated the British royal family to abandon their Hanover name. Wonder no more because we have a very detailed explanation for how the House of Hanover was replaced by the House of Windsor.

The House of Hanover

House of Hanover

House of Hanover

We begin by briefly exploring the House of Hanover as well as the various monarchs to rule from that house. The House of Hanover was largely a German-affiliated house that was very influential right from the latter part of the 17th century down to the early 20th century. Its members stretched across the length and breadth of Europe. It was a very common practice for European royals to use marriage and inter-marriages to amass considerable swaths of power and influence. The Hanovers were no exception to this practice. It proved very beneficial for the Hanover House. The dividends came in the form of six British monarchs that included 5 kings and Queen Victoria herself.

Hanoverian Line of British Monarchs

  1. George I (reigned from 1714 to 1727)
  2. George II (reigned from 1727 to 1760)
  3. George III (reigned from 1760 to 1820)
  4. George IV (reigned from 1820 to 1830)
  5. William IV (reigned from 1830 to 1837)
  6. Victoria (reigned from 1837 to 1901)

George I was the first Hanoverian monarch to occupy the British throne. It has been said that (he as well as George II) was way more fluent in German than English. Prior to his coronation as King in 1714, George I was a Brunswick-Lüneberg Duke known as der Herzog von Braunschweig-Lüneberg.

George I’s ascension to the throne was marred by difficulty and several resistance from Jacobites in the Kingdom. This was because George I was in fact 52nd in line to the British throne. What aided him was his Protestant background. Be it as it may, George I became king and heralded several changes to the British society.

After George I’s death, all five of his successors followed suit in similar fashion. The 4 kings and 1 queen to occupy the throne in one way or another came from the House of Brunswick in Hanover. The first three Georges of the Hanoverian Era were also Electors of Hanover.

And in 1814, the British monarch became king of Hanover. However, this personal union of kingdoms ended when William IV died. This happened because there was a change in the succession laws of Hanover that favored male lines over female lines. This meant that the Hanoverian throne passed from the newly crowned British monarch, Queen Victoria, to her uncle (the Duke of Cumberland). After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, her next in kin, King Edward, would hail from a different house.

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Legacy of the Hanover Era 

Although the Hanoverian line had it’s fair share of difficulty (especially at the beginning stages), the house  will be remembered for several transformations in the British Empire. The house holds the reputation of having the longest reigning British king in the form of George III, and the second longest reigning British Queen, Queen Victoria.

The Hanover era in particular brought a relative bit of political stability in the Empire. Along with this came constitutional monarchy and several social and political reforms. Most notable of these reforms was the Great Reform Act of 1832.

Also, who could discount the colossal achievements chalked by Queen Victoria? But like all good things, the House of Hanover came to an end after the Queen Victoria’s death. Her son, Prince Edward (famously known as ‘Bertie’) became King Edward VII.  Edward’s coronation marked the end of the Hanoverian’s line. This was because Edward’s father, Prince Albert, belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

The moment Queen Victoria married a German prince, Prince Albert; the heirs and heiresses of the British throne got a new house. Out went the House of Hanover, and in came the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The Queen’s husband, Prince Albert, was born on August 26, 1819, to Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.

What this meant was that all his off springs (9 of them) now belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. His eldest son and heir to the British crown, Prince Edward now belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

The story did not end there. After Prince Edward’s (King Edward VII) reign ended in 1910, his son (George V) got faced with a difficult decision in the form of World War I. A decision that altered the name of the royal family.

The House of Windsor

The year was 1917, and Britain was wrapping up its war activities in the First World War. The country had been in a bitter battle with Germany for the past 3 years. And public opinion about anything German was at its lowest in history.

Clearly having a monarch that bore the name of a German house was the last thing the royal family could risk. King George V, the grandson of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, took a bold decision by changing the name of his house. This move was intended to prove his undying loyalty to the British people. George V made an official declaration that all the royal family’s house was no longer going to be Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

Ultimately, the monarch chose Windsor as the new royal family’s name. Ever since this declaration of July 17, 1917, the royal family’s name went from being too German to a name that reflected the British people.

A final twist to this story came in 1960. The grandchild of King George V, Queen Elizabeth II announced in 1960 another change of name. The new name selected was Mountbatten-Windsor ( Mountbatten is the Anglicized name of Prince Philip’s family name- Battenberg).  This time around, the name change will only apply to the children (excluding those in line for the throne) of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. What it means is that the royal family’s name will still remain Windsor.

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