WW1 Armistice Exhibition - The Royal Family

The Royal Family

The First World War was a defining period for the British monarchy, transforming the Royal Family into a more modern institution.

While other monarchs abdicated or were removed across Europe, George V emerged from the Great War more popular, with a new symbolic family name and a secured place on the throne.

As war broke out in August 1914, anti-German sentiment steadily grew among public and press.

The monarchy's family name at the beginning of the Great War was Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which originated from the Bavarian-born Prince Albert when he married Queen Victoria in 1840.

Sensitive of his German background, George changed the family's surname to Windsor in 1917 and gave up its German titles.

The move, although symbolic, was aimed at putting any concerns people had about the King's loyalty to rest.

During the war George visited the troops more than 450 times - including a few trips to the Western Front - and made over 300 visits to hospitals to see wounded servicemen.

In some respects he was the first monarch to embrace being the public face of the state and to be seen by his people.

Queen Mary also did her bit by visiting injured soldiers. When one princess was said to have moaned about another hospital trip, she replied, "We are the Royal Family, and we love hospitals."

When the war ended on November 11, 1918, not only had Britain's society changed irrevocably - so had its Royal Family.

Other pages in this section:
Rationing - Curfew & Censorship - The Blitz - Railways - The Royal Family