The Royal Family's Last Name
Names are what identify us and distinguish us from others. Most people take on the last name of their father. That is not the case with the royal family. Like almost everything else concerning them, there are rules to follow in order for them to determine what their last name should be if they choose to have one. If they have a last name, often they do not use it.
Royal Last Names
When Meghan Markle married Prince Harry at St. George’s Chapel on May 19, 2018, her last name could have become Mountbatten-Windsor. If you read something about Meghan Mountbatten-Windsor, you probably wouldn't know who that is.
The royal family is so well known that they are often referred to by their first name and title. When Meghan Markle married Prince Harry, both of them took on the title Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
When Prince William and Kate Middleton got married in 2011, they became the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Reasons Royals Don't Use Last Names
The royals are so well known that they don’t need a last name to be recognized. They are known by the royal house and a surname which are not always the same. Many times they do not have to use a surname.
This means that Prince Harry’s full name could technically be Henry Charles Albert David Mountbatten-Windsor and that Markle could become Rachel Meghan Mountbatten-Windsor.
Last names are typically only used by members of the royal family without a title. Since most members of the royal family have a title, no last name is necessary.
Usually, members of the royal family will use the last name from their family official title. For instance, when Prince Harry and Prince William were in school and in the military, they needed to use a last name. They used the last name of their father's official title which is Charles, Prince of Wales. Therefore, for official records, the princes were known as Williams Wales and Harry Wales.
When Prince George started school, his surname was derived from his father's title. Therefore, his name for school purposes is George Cambridge that is taken from his father's title which is the Duke of Cambridge. So, when you think about it, Prince William's children don't have the same last name as he does. While his surname is Wales, his children's last name is Cambridge.
When Prince Harry and Meghan's children go to school, they will not have the same last name as their cousins. Prince William's children's last name is Cambridge. His brother's children last name will be Sussex. The brothers' last name is Wales after Prince Charles' title. Prince Charles last name is Mountbatten-Windsor which is a combination of Prince Philip's last name and the dynasty he is from.
If you think all that is confusing, there are other ways royals decide on last names to use.
House of Windsor
Queen Elizabeth was born into the royal house of Windsor, making Windsor her last name instead of taking on her husband last name Mountbatten.
Before 1917, the royals used no last names at all. Then the Queen's grandfather, King George V, designated Windsor as the royal family's official last name. Before then, British royals went by the last name of the house they belonged to, such as the House of Tudor or Hanover. For example, Victoria was known as Queen Victoria of the House of Hanover.
If Elizabeth had not been a royal, she would have taken on her husband's last name when she married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten in 1947. Later, Queen Elizabeth II adjusted her grandfather’s naming decree slightly by using Mountbatten followed by a hyphen and the name of the house. Some documents show Mountbatten-Windsor as the Queen's last name.
The British royal family can use the following ways to choose their last name.
- They can use Windsor from the House of Windsor.
- The last name is often from father's title.
- Mountbatten is Prince Philip's last name.
- Mountbatten-Windsor is technically the royal family's last name. However, it is rarely the one members of the family uses.
- Often the family doesn't need a last name.
- Royals can use first names only.
- Royals can be identified by their titles.
First Names Only
Some die-hard fans of Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle get upset when the women are called by their well-known birth names. People who want to find information about the royal women online will have more success by using Google to locate them by their birth names instead of using their titles.
It is not offensive or disrespect by calling the royal women by their given names. In some places, they themselves use only their first names when they have to sign guest books.
Royal historian Carolyn Harris explained that Meghan doesn't need to use a last name. She can sign just Meghan as Harry signs just Harry. On a trip in July to Ireland, Meghan signed a guestbook simply by using only her first name. See the photo above to prove this is true.
When in doubt about how to refer to a member of the royal family, first names and titles are appropriate.