September 14, 2017

Horse 2320 - The Royal "We" Were Not We

In name changing news, this week marks the centenary of King George V changing the family name of the British Royal Family from the very very Gerry name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the not at Krauty name of Windsor. What I find almost utterly incomprehensible about this was that it happened in 1917. The proclamation was issued in July 1917, and then not ratified until September.

In the summer heat of three years' previous, in 1914, the archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which was famous for absolutely nothing whatsoever apart from collapsing faster than a house of cards built on a flan in a cupboard of a Bangladeshi textiles factory, decided that it might be fun to go for a drive in an open topped motor car in the somewhat unhappy city of Sarajevo. He died swiftly of lead poisoning thanks to the delivery of a bullet at high speed, thanks to civil disobediant and all round anarchic champion of 1914, Gavrillo Princip.
Thanks to the "don't shoot an archduke" clause which was buried among hundreds of lines of text in treaty and counter treaty, the Triple Alliance of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany and Italy squared off against the Triple Entente of France, Russia and Britain. Denmark declared war on itself and Switzerland announced that everyone had a few too many screws loose in the cuckoo clock and didn't want to join in the continent wide bloodbath. Before 1914, nobody knew what an Archduke was and that remained the case after 1914 but you knew that if you shot and killed one, the consequences were massive.

The reason for the whole sort of general schamozzle was that practically all the nations of Europe were ruled by the inbred grandchildren of Queen Victoria. Kaiser Bill of Germany was the cousin of King Georgey 5 of England and so naturally, they perhaps weren't as keen on severing all ties with their family as the public might have hoped. George spent roughly three years thinking about changing his name while millions of Britons became worm food across the fields of Belgium and France.

It wasn't have been slaughters which had taken place at Gallipoli, Passchendaele, the Somme, or whatnot, because I doubt whether the count of yet another thousands of men destroyed made any difference at all.
No, the thing which finally forced a change of name was when the Luftstreitkräfte finally laid their hands on a bomber which was called the Gotha G.IV, started crossing the English Channel and bombing the streets of London directly. That sort of thing does little for good feelings when it is plastered all over the newspapers.
In 1917 though and to much aplomb and column inches in the great and powerful Times, George V ended the house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and began the house of Windsor. Probably Prince Edward was delighted and Albert stuttered his way back home to the palace; grateful that his last name was shortened from six to two sylables.

It is perhaps fitting in 2017, that the eldest son of William and Kate, who will eventually be King Of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is also called George. At the moment, as he begins going to primary school, he will simply be known as George Windsor​ but eventually he will learn in due time that his Great Great Great Grandpa is the one who changed his surname by choice. It wasn't because they were immigrants to a new land but because​ the dance of history with its many turns and flourishes had for a small moment in time, thrown cousins against each other in a game of continental conflict and brinkmanship.
Little blonde Georgey Windsor has a name which is short and simple and more importantly, of the same stock which saw John Bull and his mate Tommy rise out of the earth, rather than a triple barrel Krauty name like Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. What's curious is that as Britain heads for the exit door of the European Union, the value of this name might be somewhat less than it otherwise would have been. I can't say what the future of the supranational conglomerate is, which lies just forty miles on the other side of the channel but if it again thinks about throwing itself into another slaughter fest, then little Georgey​ might want to consider changing his name back again if it gives him any sort of leverage in diffusing a conflict. A future German leader might not be as affable to George Windsor as they might be to George Saxe-Coburg-Gotha even though they are exactly the same person.

I have a name which is uncommon enough to be interesting. Even so, if Kim Jong Un starts kicking off and starts chucking about his nuclear nonsense, then I might think it fun to change my name to Anders Rollosson and claim refugee status in Åland.

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