House of Windsor 1910 and how it continues

The House of Windsor represents a turn, for better or worse into the 20th Century after the ‘pomp and circumstance’ of the Victorian period, an Empire at its peak, the brief pause of a short reign of the Edwardian Era into a world that will witness huge change and savage wars that will engulf Britain, not once but twice.

“time past and time future what might have been and what has been point to one end, which is always present.”
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets written largely during WW2 by one of the period’s greatest literary talents.

And yet when we look back and beyond those monumentally difficult first 45 years of the century there is so much more, much of which was good and to be enjoyed perhaps signaled as much by the crowning of a new queen with an auspicious name, our second Queen Elizabeth.

Again the line of succession changed direction on the whim of a king and what a burden was transferred at that point in 1936 to the Queen’s father (George VI, Bertie) and then all to soon to herself. Here we are focused on the time from when George V, again not born to be King would outlive his brother and inherit his father, Edward VII’s crown. You might also like to look at the 20th Century overall touching the Victorian, Edwardian and Windsor periods but here we will focus on the House of Windsor, once Saxe Cobergs and what a timely and well-judged change of name.

House Windsor’s Kings and Queens

A brief table of the Kings and Queens of the House of Windsor

DatesEvent/Reign ofPeriod
1901 - 1910Edward VIIEdwardian
1910 May 6thEdward VII died at Buckingham Palace
1910 - 1936George V 1st in House of WindsorWindsor
1914-1918WWI World War 1 1914-1918
1935King George V Silver Jubilee
1936King George V died 20th Jan 1936 at Sandringham.
1936 (not crowned)Edward VIIIWindsor
1936Edward Abdication to Duke of Windsor
1936-1952George VIWindsor
Coronation of George VI
1939-1945WW2 WWII World War 2 1939-1945Windsor
1947Princess Elizabeth married Philip Duke of Edinburgh
1952 - presentElizabeth II ascends to the throne on her father's death.Windsor
1953Coronation of Elizabeth II

The Prelude to a different King’s Speech ‘Meet my Son the Last King.’

In 1910 when Edward VII introduced his own ‘Prince of Wales’ to the Foreign Secretary of the day, he introduced him as the “Last King of England.” Edward VII was very troubled by the current fallout in Parliament as a battle raged when Lloyd George and Winston Churchill were seeking the adoption of the “People’s Budget.”

Edward VII George V Edward VIII 3 generations
Three Kings, only two would be crowned Edward VIII, in the centre with his son George V to his left and Edward VIII to his right. He had once said ‘My son will be King but not my Grandson.” Technically he was correct f for different reasons.

Ultimately they would be defeated by our parliamentary would be strengthened by it and a process would start to mature that started some 800 years previously with Magna Carta and the start of a parliament and ‘no tax without representation that dated back to the first steps by Simon de Montfort during the reign of Edward II.

It had provoked a constitutional crisis over the debacle created, when the Lords could exert a right of veto over legislation which had already been approved in the House of Commons. He need not have feared by 1911 the Parliament Act would be introduced and this would usher in a new House with a new name and just the right measure of continuity.

King George V Coronation 1910
George V becomes the first King o adopt the name Windsor dropping he name style Saxe Coburg

Unfortunately equality for the working man and even less the working woman was not so processing on the political agenda. However the Germanic associations of the Royal family’s name was. Saxe-Coburg would be diplomatically and quite sensibly quickly dropped by the new king.

Kaiser and King George V before WW1 in German Uniforms
King George V with the Kaiser before WW1 in German Uniforms in Germany, the ties were uncomfortably close

 

With Windsor Castle and the close associations with Kings of England going back centuries what could be more English? King George V had come to the throne in a gathering storm that would lead to the first of two world wars in just one century. The 20th Century would would twice threaten and challenge Britain to respond and recover from the horrors of these wars and arguably we have been fighting our way back economically ever since.

George V would hold the fort and work with his government to somehow come through the trails and tribulations of WW1 with the heavy price in British and Colonial lives as well as wealth and resources expended. It was supposed to be the ‘War to end all Wars” but we all know that sadly that was certainly not what would happen.

Period between the wars were difficult and challenging times

The House of Windsor would have to shoulder more than their share of holding the Monarchy and country steady during these dark and turbulent times but few would have imagined after WW1 there was worse ahead but there was. With the advancement of mechanised warfare, engineering and science the machinery of war was advancing and in the firmament that was Europe, a far worse storm was gathering force. But whilst we waited and King George V had died, there was another difficult challenge ahead for the House of Windsor. Queen Mary after the King’s death would have her own crisis to deal with as the unthinkable happened and her son rather than having a discrete and manageable affair decided he could not live without his Mrs Simpson. The problem was he had already been proclaimed King. Whilst this can all seem so far into the distant past, it remains relatively raw and recent in historical terms. This is a family still holding the crown, the King who had to stand-in was our Queen’s father and the King to abdicate was her own Uncle. It is widely held that the Queen Mother (King George VI’s wife never forgave the Duke of Windsor) as it caused so much grief and such an enlarged burden to be endured by her husband but to consider this period of royal history too close-up can feel like voyeurism. But the issues that surround and connect with  the Edward VIII (David to his family) abdication of of course inextricably entwined with the affairs of state and the nation. In this period a huge amount transpires and the consequence of the change of King was far from trivial.

Difficult Transitions Abdication By Edward VIII King for 10 Months in 1936

The challenges of a divided family are hard enough in any ordinary life but when that family is also Royal, then the consequences are even more profound and impact on a nation , government and its people too.

Queen Mary and Princess Margaret at Duke of Kents WeddingWhen the Prince brought up to be King determines to abdicate and leave his brother to the throne so he can marry “the woman I Love” his mother and the government could not have imagined what would have transpired some 79 years later.

King George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother gave Britain a 2nd Great Elizabethan Age.

 

It was a moment with unintended consequences which would change the direction of the throne, certainly it did increase the burden on his brother’s shoulders but would ultimately give Britain a special gift, a 2nd ‘Queen Elizabeth.’ If she was anything like as strong and courageous as the first, then despite a 1,000 years of predominantly male heirs ascending to the throne, Britain would be able to count itself quite fortunate. Certainly  we seem to have been the winners.

 

But the path has not always been smoothe or easy and has taken its own toll on the Monarchy as post-Abdication we see that the Duke of Windsor would soon be followed by Princes and Princesses who would struggle to hold their own marriages together, get divorced remarry and in some circumstances have a particularly difficult falling out. Did the country ask too much of any person to forsake all others, to prefer a court that sill hid behind a facade of perfection in their domestic lives rather than face the simple human truth, ‘we are all human?  Sociologists tell us that we get the Society we deserve the sum of us all, the collective being or community, is the same true of our Monarchy? Windsor Castle an aerial view

Its certainly coming full circle, but it is just too soon and too personal to focus on the current folks who must work their way through the tangled issues they have to overcome. But some thing’s seem certain, he will not be a Stuart but their will be a future King Charles on the throne, he should be followed by a William , a name that has quite frequently occupied the same seat and the House of Windsor will have come full circle, most likely not in my lifetime. The young Prince George is set in line to honour the Queen’s father and Grandfather by continuing the line of Georges not only from this house but back to the period of their namesake and should have all’s well a sibbling sometime soon. Respecting the family matters as much as possible our House of Windsor will focus on where the official work of the family is focused in the history of the 20th Century. The 21st is probably best left for another generation to make it happen first and only comment in detail with some decent depth of time and hindsight.

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