Thursday, July 19

What's in a Name?

Image courtesy of
The Modern Historian
By Grant Davies

On this day (-2) in 1917, two cousins were locked in a family feud of epic proportions. So angry were they at each other that they had involved millions of their countrymen in the drama. And putting aside the millions of deaths that were occurring because of it, one of them got so mad at the other that he (gasp) changed the family name to disassociate himself from the other.

The two guys were George and Wilhelm. The former a King of England and the latter a Kaiser (the Germanic version of Caesar) of Prussia. Prussia has come to be known as Germany and the conflict has come to be known as WWI.

I spent a bunch of time reading about what caused the whole conflagration in elementary school, and quite a bit more since then, but the cause is anything but elementary to me. I have concluded that a bunch of inbred imbeciles in silly hats got pissed about some stupid thing or another and made a whole lot of their countrymen bomb, shoot, poison, and otherwise kill each other over it.

But enough about the small indignities, this story is about the terrible result. Namely, a whole group of British royalty were forced to change the names on their credit cards - from the ones they had since Queen Victoria married Prince Albert - to Windsor, which is the name of a town near London. Just for the record, their previous name had been "The House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha." I'm sure there is a good reason why they picked that town and name, but let's face it, it's boring so let's just move along. 

George (the fifth, if anyone's counting) was looking for a way to keep the yokels stirred up because interest in killing one another was waning as the corpses stacked up in the trenches. So he appealed to their hatred of all things German and showed his patriotism by chucking the family names of all his relatives and giving them goofy titles in compensation. Everyone fell for it and it's been the "House of Windsor" ever since. 

Later they named a men's necktie knot after it and it's the one I use to this very day. These are the kinds of things that happen when your family tree has mostly leaves and very few branches.

The inspiration for this post, and much of the information in it, came from the excellent history blog "The Modern Historian", written by Kevin Grieves.


  1. I have long found it amusing that England's ruling monarchy haven't been "English" in years...

  2. "hasn't" been..someone better check *my* English!


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