Saturday, August 31, 2013

In Memoriam: Diana, Princess of Wales (July 1, 1961 - August 31, 1997)

     At the time of her death, I was seven years old, and did not entirely comprehend why she was so important to many people in Britain, America, and across the world. In the 16 years since, I have come to better appreciate her legacy and what she meant to many people. She was loved as a princess and helped to change the British Royal Family for the better by the choices she made with Prince Charles in raising their boys. She humanized the Windsors in a way that has had a positive effect, and her own troubles allowed her to show empathy for those less fortunate than she was. In many ways, she was a beacon of hope for people going through similar (and probably worse) situations. For all of the ups and downs of her life, she was an outstanding mother, and the future of the monarchy is more secure because of her influence and legacy, which is now continued by Prince William, Prince Harry, and other members of the royal family. She will never be forgotten. May she continue to rest in peace.

Photo Credit: Crisco 1492 via Wikimedia Commons cc

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Royal Surnames and House Names: Part I

     In a my posting about why the Duchess of Cambridge is not "Princess Catherine", I stated that Prince Philip’s surname is Mountbatten, which he adopted from his maternal relatives in the United Kingdom. This raises the issue of the royal family’s surname. The royal house is called Windsor but Prince Philip’s surname is Mountbatten. What’s going here? Why isn’t there a surname for William, Kate, and George on the birth certificate? Has royalty ever used surnames?

     Well, to explain this requires some background information on surnames in general. Up until the 12th and 13th centuries, surnames were generally rare and given (first) names were used. But people also became known by their profession (Miller, Smith, etc.), location or place (Stirling, Farmworth, O’Brien, etc.), nickname based on appearance, temperament, and personality (Gutman, Daft, etc.), or in relation to somebody else (McDonald, Fitzgerald, Johnson, etc.). Eventually, these became the surnames used to differentiate people with the same given name from one another, so that John the Miller, Thomas of Stirling, and Henry, John’s son became John Miller, Thomas Stirling, and Henry Johnson.

Kenneth MacAlpin, the man whose family would usher in a more united Scotland.

     With regard to the history of the monarchy, royal house names (which may or may not be used as a personal family surname) followed in much the same way, with locations, place names, nicknames, achievements, and relations being used to name royal families.  The first royal house in my British monarch’s timeline, the Scottish House of Alpin was named from Kenneth I’s father, Alpin. Kenneth is known today as Kenneth MacAlpin, which means “Kenneth, son of Alpin.” 

William II was known as William Rufus.
Rufus means "red", and William
had a red-faced appearance.
     In England, its first royal family was the House of Wessex,  named from the Kingdom of Wessex, whose kings came to dominate the other English kingdoms and established a unified English state. Similarly, the Normans were known from their ancestral land, Normandy. Yet these were not surnames, and individual members of the early royal houses were known by personal epithets, nicknames, and territorial designations (Edmund Ironsides, Edward the Confessor, William the Conqueror, William Rufus, Stephen of Blois, John Lackland, etc). But the members of 

Richard Plantagenet, the founder
of the House of York
the House of Plantagenet became the first royal family in England to be known by a surname in their own time. It was a nickname given to Geoffrey, Count of Anjou – the father of Henry II of England – because his emblem was a planta genista (or Scotch broom shrub). He is retroactively referred to as Geoffrey Plantagenet, but it was not until the 15th Century when the name was used by Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, as a personal surname. During his time, the Plantagenet dynasty was divided between two rival braches – Richard’s House of York and Henry VI’s House of Lancaster, but members from both factions continued to use the Plantagenet name as a means of emphasizing  their status and claims to the throne.

     Meanwhile in Scotland, the Stewart family ascended to the throne in 1371. The Stewart name was derived from the family’s hereditary office of High Steward of Scotland. A steward was a 
Robert II, seen here with his
second wife Euphemia, was the first
Stewart monarch of Scotland.
position like that of a modern-day governor or deputy, who was appointed by the monarch to represent them in certain situations and act in their stead, if necessary. The first man to hold the title was Walter Fitz-Alan, whose surname meant “son of Alan.”  He was succeeded by his son, Alan Fitz-Walter (“son of Walter”), who was in turn succeeded by his own son, Walter, who decided to adopt the name of his title as his personal surname, which became Steward and eventually, Stewart (
StiĆ¹bhairt in Gaelic). It was Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland who married Marjorie Bruce, daughter of Robert I of Scotland, and had a son through her named Robert. Robert Stewart, Earl of Strathearn
a title now held by Prince William eventually became the heir to the Scottish throne after his uncle, David II, and succeeded him as Robert II, the first monarch of the House of Stewart (which probably became the first royal house in Britain to derive its name from a personal family surname).

     Back in England, the Wars of the Roses ended with the defeat of the Yorkist king, Richard III by the Lancastrian claimant, Henry 
Henry Tudor, who became Henry VII
of England, founded the House of Tudor.
Tudor. The Tudor surname was of Welsh origin (and a variant of "Theodore"), and Henry was a matrilineal descendant of Rhys ap Tewdwr, an 11th Century Welsh king.
It was Owen Tudor (Owain ap Tewdwr), Henry’s grandfather, who had a relationship with Henry V’s widow, Catherine of Valois, which produced Edmund Tudor, who was therefore a half-brother of Henry VI. Edmund married Lady Margaret Beaufort, a great-great-granddaughter and Lancastrian descendant of Edward III. This union produced Henry Tudor, who escaped into exile in France after what seemed to be the final defeat of the Lancastrians by their Yorkist cousins, who know controlled the throne of England. But in 1485, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, mounted an invasion which would eventually oust Richard and result in him being proclaimed Henry VII of England and establishing the House of Tudor, which would rule in England until 1603. 

James VI & I brought the Stuart's to new heights by
uniting the crowns of Britain...

     In that year, Queen Elizabeth I, Henry’s granddaughter by his son and successor Henry VIII, died without an heir to the English and Irish thrones. She was succeeded by James VI of Scotland, a great-great-grandson of Henry VII through his eldest daughter, Margaret Tudor who had married James IV of Scotland. Now, James VI of Scotland became James I of England and Ireland, thereby bringing the British Isles under the personal rule of a single monarch for the first time. The Stewarts of Scotland had by this time changed the spelling of their name to the French form – Stuart, to symbolize the Auld Alliance with France. James’ first son was Henry Fredrick Stuart, who was Prince of Wales, Duke of Rothesay, and heir to James’ thrones. But he predeceased his father, so his younger brother Charles Stuart 
...but his son Charles I lost it all (including his head).
became their father’s heir, and he was proclaimed as Charles I in 1625. Charles of course, is infamous for being the only British monarch to be tried and executed by his subjects. In his death warrant, signed by the leading English parliamentarians (including Oliver Cromwell), he was referred as Charles Steuart, King of England, having stood and been convicted of high treason. The Stuarts lost their thrones, first in England, then in Ireland and Scotland as the parliamentarians and their army took over the British Isles and abolished the monarchy in favor of a republic. For 11 years, they were in exile in continental Europe before being restored to their British kingdoms in 1660 under another Charles Stuart, Charles II. 

     The Stuart family held on to the thrones of Great Britain (England and Scotland merged in 1707) and Ireland until 1714, 
George I, the first British monarch of the House of Hanover,
which would reign in Britain for nearly 200 years.
when Queen Anne died without an heir. She was succeeded by her German cousin and great-grandson of James VI & I, Georg Ludwig, who became King George I of Great Britain and Ireland. Even though George was 52nd in line to the throne upon his accession, he was the first Protestant in the line of succession.
In Germany, George was Prince-Elector of Hanover, and his dynasty in Britain became known as the House of Hanover (or the Hanoverians). Yet Hanover was not their surname, and it’s doubtful that they ever had one. Contemporary historians have applied the name Guelph as the Hanoverian surname, because it is the name of their 
Queen Victoria, the last British Hanoverian monarch,
whose surname through Prince Albert was likely Wettin.
ancestral house, the House of Welf (with Guelph being the English translation of the German Welf). Queen Victoria was the last monarch of this house, and she married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, resulting in their children being members of Albert’s house, which was named for his territorial designation and ancestral homeland. But once again, this was not a personal surname, which the College of Heralds determined to be Wettin (or von Wettin), the name of the royal house from which the Saxe-Coburg’s descended. Victoria never used it, and neither did her son, Edward VII, who reigned as the first monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha when he acceeded to the throne in 1901.

     In short, personal surnames were used by some, but not all, royal families in Britain, and surnames were inconsistently, if ever, used. Everyone belonged to a royal house, but the name of the royal house was not necessarily the personal family surname (i.e., members of the Houses of York and Lancaster referring to themselves as Plantagenet), if indeed a surname existed at all. Certainly the Hanoverians who brought in a formal system of titling members of their house as prince or princess by birth from their native Germany eschewed surnames altogether since it was believed that persons with such a dignity did not need to have one anyway. It was also assumed that royalty married each other, and that once again, surnames were not required as birthright princely titles were handed down from generation to generation. In other words, members of a royal house were to be individually referred to by their titles, and collectively by the name of the royal house to which they belonged. But beginning with George V during the slaughter of the World War I, this would change.

I discuss this change and more in Part II, which concerns the reigning House of Windsor.

Photo Credit: Tastepaper123 Wikimedia Commons cc