Had Queen Elizabeth II been born just about a decade earlier, her last name might very well have been different. However, in 1917 due to tensions related to World War I, the family changed the name of the Royal House from the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the House of Windsor.
Queen Elizabeth's paternal grandfather's ancestry has been traced back to Germany. The ancestors, such as Frederick and Dedo I, belonged to the House of Wettin in the 900s. After they inherited the Wettin Castle, they took on the family name of Wettin. Wettin Castle was located near Wettin in Saxony, Germany.
Prior to 1917, the members of the British Royal Family did not have a surname (or last name), but they were members of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Queen Elizabeth's father, King George VI, was born in 1895 as a member of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
On July 17, 1917, Queen Elizabeth's grandfather, King George V, announced that he and his family would become the House of Windsor, and that Windsor would become the surname of his family. The reason for this movement was because England had major feelings of discontent against Germany due to World War I.
Queen Elizabeth was born on April 21, 1926. Her full name at birth was Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, and she was born of the royal House of Windsor. Therefore, Queen Elizabeth's last name was Windsor.
On November 20, 1947, Elizabeth married her cousin Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. He had been born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark; however, he renounced the titles and became a British subject when he married Queen Elizabeth.
On February 6, 1952, Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II after her father (King George VI) died, and she was officially crowned on June 2, 1953.
Elizabeth, did not adopt the tradition of the non-royals by taking her husband's last name. In fact, on April 9, 1952, after her accession to the throne, she announced "that I and my children shall be styled and known as the house and family of Windsor, and that my descendants who marry and their descendants, shall bear the name of Windsor." This confirmed the Royal Family name of Windsor.
In 1960, at the request of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, the Privy Council declared that the Queen's and Duke's direct descendants would remain part of the House of Windsor, but they would carry the surname of Mountbatten-Windsor.
Elizabeth and Philip welcomed their son Charles to the world in 1948, making him the successor to the throne by officially giving him the title of Prince of Wales.
The two royals also had a daughter, Anne, in 1950 and two more sons: Andrew in 1960 and Edward in 1964.
When Queen Elizabeth was crowned, Britain still had a vast empire of colonies and dependencies ranging across the globe, though by the 1950s and 1960s, many of these had achieved independence. The remaining states were named the Commonwealth of Nations (or simply the Commonwealth), which was led by Queen Elizabeth.
Elizabeth traveled extensively in her time as the head of the Commonwealth.
- In 1965, she visited Germany, making her the first British monarch to do so in over 50 years.
- In 1976, she traveled to the United States for America’s 200th year of independence. That same year, she traveled to Montreal, Canada, to open the Summer Olympics.
- In 2011, Queen Elizabeth II was the first British monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland since 1911.
By September 2015, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest ruling monarch in British history, surpassing her great-grandmother Queen Victoria. Elizabeth celebrated her platinum jubilee in 2022, marking 70 years on the throne. She was the first British monarch to ever achieve that milestone.
Queen Elizabeth II passed away on September 8, 2022 in her Balmoral estate. In her time, she oversaw the placement of 15 prime ministers. She was 96 years old.