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What is Prince William's last name?

Friday 25 Mar 2011 5:40 p.m.

What is Prince William's last name? (Reuters)

What is Prince William's last name? (Reuters)

By Chris Whitworth

What is Prince William's last name?

The question seems simple enough, but in fact has a confusing history that even finds origin in anti-German sentiment from the British public at wartime.

Thank goodness NZ Post didn’t address the matter.

They’ve already made headlines twice this week, once for the release of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s Royal wedding stamps and then again – rather sheepishly – the following day after it was discovered they botched up Prince William’s birth date on the promotional material. 

The simple answer to the Princely question is: He doesn’t have a last name.

As a Prince, he does not need or use a surname for everyday purposes.

When the occasion does call, such as ceremonial purposes, he can however call on two options: Wales and Windsor.

As an officer in the British Army Prince William used the surname Wales on his fatigues, because as a child he was known as Prince William of Wales – named after his father Charles, Prince of Wales. But it is common for area-based titles to be dropped later in life.

His second option, Windsor, is the generic last name given to all members of the British Royal family by Royal Proclamation of King George V in July 17, 1917.

Up until then the official Royal surname was Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but was legally changed during the First World War to the more English sounding Windsor, in an attempt to distance the royal family from its mixed German heritage at a time when anti-German sentiment was high.

The Windsor name was then added to when Queen Elizabeth (the current Queen) married Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark. Tradition dictated that Queen Elizabeth take her husband’s last name, but again his very German sounding Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg surname would never do for a British Royal, so Prince Phillip took the surname of his grandfather – Mountbatten. Thus making the official Royal family surname “Windsor-Mountbatten”.

Confused yet? So were they.

To clear things up, the Queen officially declared on April 9, 1952 that all of her male descendents who bear a Princely title would use Windsor, while all other members of the royal family would take on Windsor-Mountbatten.

Come April 29, the Prince may again get a new title.

He could become the Duke of Clarence, Duke of Cambridge, Duke of Connaught or the Duke of Sussex.

And one day, if he becomes King, he can again change his surname, this time to really whatever he wants.

But for now it’s just Windsor, Wales or nothing.

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