Britain’s King George V changes royal surname - HISTORY
Year
1917

Britain’s King George V changes royal surname

On this day in 1917, during the third year of World War I, Britain’s King George V orders the British royal family to dispense with the use of German titles and surnames, changing the surname of his own family, the decidedly Germanic Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, to Windsor.

The second son of Prince Edward of Wales (later King Edward VII) and Alexandra of Denmark, and the grandson of Queen Victoria, George was born in 1865 and embarked on a naval career before becoming heir to the throne in 1892 when his older brother, Edward, died of pneumonia. The following year, George married the German princess Mary of Teck (his cousin, a granddaughter of King George III), who had previously been intended for Edward. The couple had six children, including the future Edward VIII and George VI (who took the throne in 1936 after his brother abdicated to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson). As the new Duke of York, George was made to abandon his career in the navy; he became a member of the House of Lords and received a political education. When his father died in 1910, George ascended to the British throne as King George V.

With the outbreak of World War I in the summer of 1914, strong anti-German feeling within Britain caused sensitivity among the royal family about its German roots. Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, also a grandson of Queen Victoria, was the king’s cousin; the queen herself was German. As a result, on June 19, 1917, the king decreed that the royal surname was thereby changed from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor.

In order to demonstrate further solidarity with the British war effort, George made several visits to survey the troops at the Western Front. During one visit to France in 1915, he fell off a horse and broke his pelvis, an injury that plagued him for the rest of his life. Also in 1917, he made the controversial decision to deny asylum in Britain to another of his cousins, Czar Nicholas II of Russia, and his family, after the czar abdicated during the Russian Revolution. Czar Nicholas, his wife Alexandra and their children were subsequently arrested and later murdered by the Bolsheviks.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

CSS Alabama sinks off coast of France

Off the coast of Cherbourg, France, the Confederate raider CSS Alabama loses a ship-to-ship duel with the USS Kearsarge and sinks to the floor of the Atlantic, ending an illustrious career that saw some 68 Union merchant vessels destroyed or captured by the Confederate raider.At ...read more

Emperor of Mexico executed

Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, installed as emperor of Mexico by French Emperor Napoleon III in 1864, is executed on the orders of Benito Juarez, the president of the Mexican Republic.In 1861, the liberal Mexican Benito Juarez became president of a country in financial ...read more

Rosenbergs executed

On this day in 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of conspiring to pass U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviets, are executed at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. Both refused to admit any wrongdoing and proclaimed their innocence right up to the time of their ...read more

Ky becomes premier of South Vietnam

Air Vice-Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky assumes the premiership of the ninth government to be installed within the last 20 months in the country. The Armed Forces Council had chosen Ky as premier on June 11, and Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu was chosen for the relatively powerless position of ...read more

Curt Flood case decided

On June 19, 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court rules against Curt Flood in Flood v. Kuhn, denying Flood free agency as a baseball player. Flood was trying to break the reserve clause that had tied baseball players to one franchise since the establishment of professional baseball.Curt ...read more

Taft marries Helen Herron

Future President William Howard Taft marries Helen “Nellie” Herron in Cincinnati, Ohio, on this day in 1886.According to biographers at the National First Ladies Library, Nellie was strong-willed, bright and ambitious but hid deep-seated insecurities about her looks and worried ...read more

Father De Smet talks peace with Sitting Bull

Attempting to convince hostile Indians to make peace with the United States, the Jesuit missionary Pierre-Jean De Smet meets with the great Sioux Chief Sitting Bull in present-day Montana.A native of Belgium, De Smet came to the United States in 1821 at the age of 20. He became ...read more

Carole King has her first #1 hit as a performer

Carole King began her career in music as a young newlywed and college graduate, working a 9-to-5 shift alongside her then-husband, Gerry Goffin, in Don Kirshner’s songwriting factory, Aldon Music. It was there, working in a cubicle with a piano, staff paper and tape recorder that ...read more

First nickelodeon opens

On this day in 1905, some 450 people attend the opening day of the world’s first nickelodeon, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and developed by the showman Harry Davis. The storefront theater boasted 96 seats and charged each patron five cents. Nickelodeons (named for a ...read more

Montana flood causes train wreck

On this day in 1938, a flood in Montana kills 46 people and seriously injures more than 60 when it washes out train tracks. Custer Creek is a small winding river that runs through 25 miles of the Great Plains on its way to the Yellowstone River. Minor streams like Custer Creek ...read more

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Execution

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a married couple convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage in 1951, were put to death in the electric chair on June 19, 1953. Their dual execution marked the dramatic finale of the most controversial espionage case of the Cold War.Julius was arrested ...read more