What’s in a name? Well, for Prince George, quite a bit, actually!
The little royal started school on Thursday at the $23,000-a-year Thomas’s Battersea, a quick drive from his London home at Kensington Palace. And though he’s undoubtedly the school’s most famous student, the former headmaster says that he’ll be “just another pupil.” Which means his classmates won’t be addressing him by his title.
Just like in preschool, the 4-year-old will simply be known as “George” to his peers. There will be no “Your Royal Highness” in the classroom. But when it comes to the matter of his last name, things are a little trickier.
Technically, the royal family’s last name is Mountbatten-Windsor. They became the House of Windsor in 1917 — previously the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The switch was prompted by anti-German feelings in the United Kingdom following World War I, so they changed the name to the more-English Windsor. The family became the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha after Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, who was German, so the name did have German roots.
The addition of Prince Philip to the family brought about another name change, this one, the addition of Mountbatten, the last name he adopted after giving up his title of Prince of Greece and Denmark. The name belongs to his maternal grandparents — it’s the English translation of their German name, Battenberg. The change took sometime to make its way into the royal family — 1960, to be exact, 13 years after Philip married the then-Princess Elizabeth, and eight years after she became Queen. However, this didn’t change the name of the House of Windsor, but rather just the surnames that those in said house would use when they weren’t using the style of His or Her Royal Highness (or if they’re members of the family but don’t get said said style.)
The family actually explains the issue in full on their website:
“A proclamation on the Royal Family name by the reigning monarch is not statutory; unlike an Act of Parliament, it does not pass into the law of the land. Such a proclamation is not binding on succeeding reigning sovereigns, nor does it set a precedent which must be followed by reigning sovereigns who come after. Unless The Prince of Wales chooses to alter the present decisions when he becomes king, he will continue to be of the House of Windsor and his grandchildren will use the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.”
However, though that is technically the royal family’s last name, it’s rarely the one members of the family use in day-to-day life. For example, Prince William and Prince Harry went by William Wales and Harry Wales during their own school days, as well as their years in the armed forces. Why? Because their father, Prince Charles, is the Prince of Wales. It’s an homage to their father’s title, for occasions when “Prince” just feels a bit too formal.
So what will George do? Wales might make sense, as that’s what his dad did — especially because, most likely, George’s own father will be the Prince of Wales himself one day. But William now has a title of his own: Duke of Cambridge. So just as William took his own last name from his father’s title, so will George — and he’ll be George Cambridge in his school records and to his peers and teachers.
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George himself confirmed the selection: If you look closely at his school bag, you’ll see a name tag attached that reads George Cambridge. (It’s small, but it’s there!)
But we don’t think he’ll have a hard time getting anyone to remember his name!