Monarchs have surnames

That is why the Royal Family does not use a surname

Reuters; Wikipedia; Getty / Chris JacksonThe British royal family lives in front of the public. However, there is one thing that very few people know about them: their last name.

The explanation is simple: you don't need one. They are so well known that they are easy to identify even without a surname.

If royal family members do have to use their last name - for example when they are in school or in the military - they have a few options.

Before 1917, the royal family did not use surnames at all

Wikimedia Commons

Members of the royal family only had their first name and the name of the house or dynasty they were a part of, according to the royal family's official website. Perhaps you've heard of these dynasties like the House of Tudor or the House of York yourself.

When King George V had been in power for seven years in 1917, he decided to change the name of the house from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The reason for this was a hostile atmosphere against Germans, which began in the First World War (the name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha has a German origin). "Windsor" comes from "Windsor Castle", one of the owners of the family.

He didn't just change the name of the dynasty, however. George V also stipulated that Windsor should be the last name of the royal family.

Today the royal family is known as the House of Windsor, but Windsor is still the last name.

When Queen Elizabeth II came to power, she caused a slight change

AP

In 1947, Princess Elizabeth (the granddaughter of George V) married her late husband Philip Mountbatten, a former Greek and Danish prince who had joined the British Royal Navy. Only a few years later, the young couple were pushed to the top of the monarchy: Elizabeth's father died, making her Queen Elizabeth II. Mountbatten became Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

In 1960, Elizabeth and Philip decided to differentiate their royal family tree from everyone else. They decreed that their descendants should bear the hyphenated surname Mountbatten-Windsor.

However, there is one exception: every royale with the title “His Royal Highness Prince” or “Her Royal Highness Princess” does not have to have a surname at all. You can use Mountbatten-Windsor if you need it (the Queen's daughter Princess Anne used this for her marriage certificate in 1973, for example), but it's not necessary.

The royals don't always use the Mountbatten-Windsor surname, though

Some family members of the royal clan used the territorial designation instead. When Prince William and Prince Harry served in the military, they were known as William Wales and Harry Wales - because their father is the Prince of Wales. The US news website Daily Beast reports that Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice have been known as Eugenie York and Beatrice York since their father, Prince Andrew, became the Duke of York.

There are a few other examples as well: Princess Anne's children simply took their father's last name - Philip's. The daughter of Prince Edward, the Earl of Essex, on the other hand, only uses Windsor, without Mountbatten.

The official website of the royal family says: "A proclamation of the royal name does not have to go through the rules of the country." Nobody is forced to use their official surname and newly appointed kings and queens are not obliged to Follow rules that their predecessors made regarding surnames.

This article was published by Business Insider in 2017. It has now been reviewed and updated.