This month marks the 100th anniversary of the House of Windsor. Our Assistant Curator Georgina tells us more about why the British royal family changed its name.

On the 17th of July 1917 King George V made a proclamation in the London Gazette that the Royal Family were changing their name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor.

‘Declaring that the name of Windsor is to be borne by his royal house and family and relinquishing the use of all German titles and dignities.’

King George V

King George V came to the throne in 1910 and was the founder of the House of Windsor. The family’s original name was Saxe-Coburg and Gotha acquired when Queen Victoria married Albert, Prince Consort in 1840.

Three stamps from the reign of King George V.

KGV Downey Head ½d, British Empire 1½d 1924 & KGV Mackennel Head 1½d

King George V stamps went through two variations during his reign. The first image used was a three quarter profile head by W.D. Downey. This image was later changed to a much-preferred profile portrait by Bertram Mackennel. King George V was also the first monarch to have a commemorative stamp. In 1924 the British Empire stamp was printed in red and brown, depicting a prideful lion along with a framed image of KGV produced by Harold Nelson.

Name Change

King George V was on the throne during the outbreak of World War One. Obviously, there was a significant anti-German sentiment that made the Royal Family’s German background difficult in the eyes of the public. As the head of the nation, it was expected of the King to be the strong figurehead for the British people so the family name needed to change. King George V made a proclamation on the 17th of July 1917. The name Windsor was decided upon due to the strong connection to the royal residence, Windsor Castle.

Cartoon of King George V from Punch in 1917

“A good riddance”, Punch, 1917

Above you can see the cartoon “A Good Riddance” by Leonard Raven-Hill created for Punch. The image depicts King George V sweeping away any connection with Germany, which by changing the family name he was, in fact, trying to do. Punch or The London Charivari was a weekly satirical magazine produced in the 1800s that formed British identity.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. It is the longest occupied palace in Europe and has gone through numerous adaptations by subsequent monarchs. It is still used by Queen Elizabeth II and when she is in residence the royal standard is flown from the Round Tower which you can see on the stamp below. Many royal weddings have taken place in Windsor’s St George’s Chapel and ten British monarchs are also buried in the chapel.

Three stamps depicting external images of Windsor Castle from the 2017 stamp issue.

Windsor Castle Stamps, 15th February 2017

Windsor Castle has featured on high-value definitive stamps since 1955, however, it wasn’t until this year that Windsor Castle had its own issue. In February Royal Mail celebrated 25 years since the fire that ravaged the castle in 1992. The above stamps depict exterior shots of the monumental structure.

Two stamps depicting Windsor Castle from 1955 and 1988.

Queen Elizabeth II Windsor Castle High Value from 1955 and 1988.

100 years ago this month the identity of the Royal Family has changed with a new name that cemented their British identity. Windsor has continually had an important place in British stamp design and will undoubtedly continue to do so.

– Georgina Tomlinson, Assistant Curator (Philately)