A future King or Queen from a House other than Windsor?
June 10, 2015 12:22 PM   Subscribe

This question might be a result of my general lack of knowledge concerning the British monarchy, but - assuming that England continues to have a King or Queen in the future - is it possible/at all likely that the crown would ever be go to somebody not from the House of Windsor at this point? Or has the House of Windsor essentially given themselves a lock on all future royal titles simply due to being the last family on the throne when it became unrealistic for wars of succession to be fought over who has the title?
posted by warble to Law & Government (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's possible but not likely. As of 2 May 2015, the first 55 people in the line of succession are all descendents of King George V and therefore in the House of Windsor (Wikipedia, "Succession to the British throne").
posted by grouse at 12:26 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

I seem to recall Prince Phillip was ticked off that his descendants will be Windsors not Mountbattens; wasn't there even a compromise worked out where Prince Charles is Windsor but his siblings are Windsor-Mountbatten? So actually, Queen Elisabeth could've been the last Windsor, and Charles the start of the Mountbatten dynasty.
posted by easily confused at 12:34 PM on June 10, 2015

Mountbatten-Windsor is their personal surname, but the house is still called Windsor (Wikipedia, "Mountbatten-Windsor").
posted by grouse at 12:38 PM on June 10, 2015

I think it could happen, because it has in the past without an accompanying war, but there'd likely have to be a lapse in the line . . . a monarch with no one in the line of succession -- and a willingness by the British to continue having a monarchy.
posted by bearwife at 12:54 PM on June 10, 2015

FYI, the first person in the line of succession who is not a descendant of George V is James Carnegie, Third Duke of Fife, who is the grandson of George V's sister Louise. If George's line died out, he would presumably be the next. I think he's not a Windsor since he's not a direct descendant of George V, so that's the most likely scenario under which the throne would pass outside the house of Windsor.

If you want someone who is assuredly not a Windsor, you don't have to go too far. If the Duke of Fife and the rest of his line died out, then the next in line would be the King of Norway (grandson of George V's youngest sister Maud) or his issue. The Norwegian royal family are definitely not Windsors.

The list here is rather out of date, but has most of the pertinent information.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:04 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Well if Scotland ever successfully succeeds from the United Kingdom, they would have to find their own monarch the last of which was Queen Anne who was a Stuart.

And when England and Wales come crawling back to Scotland begging to be re-admitted as vassal states, it is conceivable that one of the demands could be abdication by the House of Windsor and a restitution of the Stuart monarchy.
posted by three blind mice at 1:39 PM on June 10, 2015 [20 favorites]

Presumably, a future King/Queen could decree whatever change they wanted.

So, imagine George marries Josephine -- a minor scandal, because she's two years older, but go with me -- and they have children and somewhere along the line that King/Queen goes, "You know what? We're in the House of Glücksburg now."

And upon further review:

"The Prince of Wales, who is the heir apparent to the thrones of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms,[1][2] belongs officially to the House of Windsor,[3] but also belongs to a cadet branch of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:41 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: warble: "is it possible/at all likely that the crown would ever be go to somebody not from the House of Windsor at this point?"

"House of" is a pretty arbitrary distinction ... the House of Windsor was the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha until WWI when anti-German sentiment made changing it to something more British a good idea. (I mean not like anybody was going to get in a slap-fight over it or anything, just that the last time they had to physically import a monarch from Germany was George II (a Hanover), and after 300 years and two dynasties of having your monarchs born in Britain you can probably pick a British name for the dynasty, especially when you're at war with Germany.)

Also Phillip is technically of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, and took Mountbatten as a surname when he renounced his foreign titles, rather than having been born a member of the House of Mountbatten-- which is itself an Anglicization of "Battenburg" that occurred during World War I.

For the name itself, the monarch can change the name of the dynasty more or less at will, so they could decide not to be the Windsors any longer. For the family, it seems relatively unlikely to pass outside of the descendants of Queen Elizabeth II, given that she has such a lot of them and most of them aren't married to Catholics and we have antibiotics and whatnot. If there were a zombie plague that killed off 75% of the Royal Family, then it starts to be more likely they have to reach back farther up the tree to someone who might not be a (current) Windsor, but between modern medicine and the lack of dynastic wars (as you note), it seems more likely the UK would disestablish the monarchy first.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:07 PM on June 10, 2015 [11 favorites]

Best answer: It is possible for a line to die out simply by not having any legitimate progeny. That happened to the Tudors, for instance, with Elizabeth I being the last, dying without children. After which England offered the crown to the Stuarts. (The first of those was King James, famous for the "King James Bible".)

In modern times there's been worry about the Grimaldi family line ending. That had constitutional ramifications, because of a treaty between France and Monaco which stated that if the direct line of Grimaldi ever ended, Monaco would become part of France. When it began to look like there was a real risk of that happening about 15 years ago, the two countries hastily rewrote that treaty. Also the Parliament of Monaco changed the law so that Albert's sisters and their children were in the line of succession.

Prince Albert's wife Princess Charlene delivered twins (including one boy) in December of 2014, so the issue is now moot for another generation.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:16 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

By the way, the issue about the Grimaldi family was made even more complicated by the fact that Prince Albert has two illegitimate children by two different women. One of them is a boy. But because the boy is illegitimate he is not in the line of succession. Albert has acknowledged paternity of both children, which has been proven by DNA testing. A bit scandalous, of course, but it had to be revealed because of the constitutional issues.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:29 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well if Scotland ever successfully succeeds from the United Kingdom, they would have to find their own monarch the last of which was Queen Anne who was a Stuart.

Not really: Canada, Australia and New Zealand (etc) are all independent nations who also have the Queen as head of state - she's Queen of Canada (etc) as well as Queen of the UK. An independent Scotland could certainly choose to retain the Queen as their head of state - and this is in fact Scottish National Party policy.
posted by Pink Frost at 5:18 PM on June 10, 2015 [8 favorites]

Well if Scotland ever successfully succeeds from the United Kingdom, they would have to find their own monarch the last of which was Queen Anne who was a Stuart.

That would be Franz, Duke of Bavaria. (This is according to one of my favorite Wikipedia articles: List of current pretenders.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:15 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

The British monarch is whoever from time to time the Parliament declares it to be. I expect that Parliament is far more likely to declare the country a republic than to trade the Windsors for a different dynasty, but the latter is a more likely scenario than all the descendants of George V dying off without issue.
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 10:36 PM on June 10, 2015

Given that Prince Harry is known as Harry Wales not Harry Windsor for no apparent reason (he isn't prince of Wales and is never expected to be, it's one of his dad's titles), you might only have to take out William and his children.
posted by tinkletown at 2:02 AM on June 11, 2015

The English really really like to keep the line of succession. Unlike almost every other European royal family, there's never been a real break. That is, whoever became the monarch was a descendant, usually not too far removed, from a previous monarch. (Even James I, who descended from Edward IV. William III can be said to have conquered England... by invitation of the English... but even he was a grandson of an English king.)

To put it another way, every English monarch has been a descendant of William the Conqueror. You can see that in this family tree.

(This tradition is a lot easier to maintain when you allow descent in the female line. E.g. when they fetched over George I from Hanover, it was because he was grandson of Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James I.)
posted by zompist at 2:27 AM on June 11, 2015

tinkletown: "Given that Prince Harry is known as Harry Wales not Harry Windsor for no apparent reason"

Members of the Royal family don't actually have surnames. In the last 50 years or so, they have used various surnames for convenience. William and Harry both used "Wales" at school and during their military service. By proclamation, the Queen made most of them Mountbatten-Windsors when they want a last name (with the house name still being Windsor), but as you see William and Harry both use "Wales" instead, and neither of them "officially" has a last name, being instead "HRH Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, Duke of Cambridge." (The Royal family website notes that at work he is known as "Flight Lieutenant William Wales.")

Probably at some point when William and Harry are moved up in royal family responsibilities and granted new titles (perhaps when the Queen dies), there'll be a press release that from now on they're using "Mountbatten-Windsor" instead of "Wales" when they need a last name. Little George and Charlotte could use "Cambridge" as their surname, or "Wales," or "Mountbatten-Windsor." They haven't needed one yet!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:11 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

English law doesn't have the same concept of "legal name" for people that you find in the U.S. Your name is whatever you say it is and what people know you as. There are processes to officially announce a change of name (such as a deed poll) but they are not required. For example, you can change the name on your passport by supplying a statutory declaration you are using a new name and providing evidence that other people are using it (such as a letter with your new name).

Harry can call himself Harry Wales, Harry Windsor, or Harry Mountbatten-Windsor without permission from anyone.
posted by grouse at 9:52 AM on June 11, 2015

Best answer: There are some pretty easy ways for this to happen without any rule changes, unexpected decisions about family names, or large numbers of deaths.

The newborn Princess Charlotte grows up, and twenty years from now marries Prince Vincent of Denmark. They have children, who would then belong to the House of Monpezat or House of Glücksburg, depending who you ask. If Prince George never has children, the crown would eventually pass to these children not of the House of Windsor.

Of course, Charlotte could do the same thing as Queen Elizabeth II did, giving the name of her royal house to her children instead of that of her husband. Last time, the UK had been recently at war with Germany, and Elizabether had only recently married. Maybe things would be different if there was no negative association with German/Danish names, and Charlotte's children had styled themselves members of the House of Glücksburg for many years before thinking they might ascend.
posted by vasi at 6:36 AM on June 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

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