Talk:Queen Victoria/Surname

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Comments related to the surname of Queen Victoria that formerly existed on the main talk page have been moved here.

Did She Have A Surname? What was it?[edit]

I don't think it's universally agreed that she had a surname. It's certainly clear she didn't use one, and I would argue giving it in the first sentence as if she did is not a good idea. -- Someone else 04:08 Apr 17, 2003 (UTC)

She did not have a surname. The current Queen, Elizabeth II, also does not have a surname (but there is one available to her, "if she needs one" according to the official web site of the British monarchy, and that is Windsor, which is also the name of the royal house). Heritable surnames are a relatively recent invention and royals are not in the habit of using them. Nor should they have to.

ScottyFLL 11:34, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

It may not be universally agreed that she had a surname, but in fact she did, and it was Wettin. When some months ago I was checking what the current Prince of Wales' surname is, I spoke to some historians and people in the palace. During the conversations I was told about how when Princess Anne was getting married and the Palace had to post the Banns outside the BP gates, they had to do some researching to find out what the surname was. (It turned out to be Mountbatten-Windsor since an Order-in-Council issued in 1960!). I was then told "it was a bit like the time that Queen Victoria became curious and had her aides check out her surname. She was none too pleased when they reported that according to the research, Prince Albert's surname, and hence her own, was an awful word Wettin. Needless to say, Her Majesty was none too pleased and tried to bury then information in the Royal Archives. But her staff talked and so she never could completely bury it. Someone Mrs. Wettin, or even Vicky Wettin, doesn't sound very regal, does it. Makes her sound like a nightnurse in an old folks home". (At that point my source and I both went into fits of hysterics and I stopped taking notes!)

So yes, according to this very well informed source in a place to know, she was Wettin, just as Charles is Mountbatten-Windsor and where we know a royal surname, naming conventions say to put it in. ÉÍREman 04:37 Apr 17, 2003 (UTC)

Again, I don't doubt your story, but having a surname and not knowing what it is (Victoria thought it might have been "Guelf") until a committee determines it for you in adulthood seems remarkably like not having a surname. A discussion of the issue of having a surname belongs in the article, but "Wettin" should not appear in the first line. -- Someone else 04:41 Apr 17, 2003 (UTC)

Well, seems Wettin does sound awful to english ears - let me assure you, there is nothing of that to my german ears, just a normal name. To be exact, the name of the [german] dynasty reigning Saxony.

It sounds pretty normal to English ears too. Perhaps that was the problem: Victoria thought that it was a bit too normal, common even <grin>. -- Derek Ross

Hannover is what her Family/House name was, and when she died it became the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha until 1917 . So why say von wettin nee d'Dste

  • she didn't use any surnames, ever- so this should be removed once the page is free to edit again. Astrotrain 19:37, August 16, 2005 (UTC)

As for Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom the name of her family and Royal House is the same it is Hanover not Wettin. As for King Edward VII and King George V of the United Kingdom their Royal House and surname was House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha it was change to Windsor in 1917. I ask why is some forcing Wettin in to the mix. Silverhorse

Use of Her Surname in the Lead of the Article[edit]

Discussion[edit]

I know we don't have a surname in British monarchs' articles any more, but I thought here would be the most appropriate place to bring this up: on the subject of "Wettin", Cokayne's Complete Peerage (generally regarded as one of the most authoritative works on these sorts of things, but out of print for decades) gives the surname of Victoria's sons as "von Wettin", which certainly make sense, given that it was a noble German name, and they generally have a "von". (Incidentally, it also gives the surnames of the Hanoverian Royals as "d'Este", as opposed to the usual "Guelph", on the grounds that "Guelph" is in that case the equivalent of "Saxe-Coburg and Gotha" here - the name of the House but not the actual surname.) I wondered what people thought of this, since as far as I'm aware we do put surnames on the minor Royals' articles. Proteus (Talk) 16:22, 16 Oct 2004 (UTC)

It's terrible to have artificial surnames in the start of Victoria's article, as she did not use any surname. The search and theories of surnames could be rather explained in a later subsection in the article. 217.140.193.123 06:52, 25 July 2005 (UTC)


Why this insistence on giving completely artificial surnames which were never actually used. Victoria was a member of the House of Hanover. Her husband was a member of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Although these dynasties may theoretically be designated "Este" (or Guelph-Este, or Guelph) and "Wettin," these individuals were never actually called by such theoretical surnames, and giving them at the beginning of the article implies an officialness and realness to these completely hypothetical names which they do not deserve. British monarchs and princes between 1714 and 1917 simply did not have surnames, and although I suppose that they theoretically have surnames since 1917, these surnames are never actually used for those who have princely titles. So what, I ask, is the point of putting them prominently at the top of the article? "D'Este" in particular is ridiculous. john k 21:25, 19 August 2005 (UTC)

Yes they had surnames. Whether they were used or not is irrelevant. If they had them, they have to be covered. FearÉIREANNCoat of arms of Ireland.svg\(caint) 21:45, 19 August 2005 (UTC)
Jtdirl, go over yourself, dude. Keeping such irrelevance in introductory paragraph has certainly approached the borders of irresponsibility. The surname question is explained quite properly in a latter part of the article. 217.140.193.123 21:48, 19 August 2005 (UTC)
Isn't this a tempest in a teapot? As Family name shows, in many cultures surnames are transitory, changing from generation to generation. When a person or family never actually uses a name, what the name would be if one were to be used becomes academic and conjectural and -- as we can see here -- disputed. What was the family name of William the Conqueror? Was his wife Mrs. Conqueror? Mrs. Normandy? Mrs. Normandie? Were Billy Conqueror and Harry Conqueror his children? Because surnames were not always used in history (and today the Islamic world still generally rejects the concept) I suggest there are a lot of keystokes being wasted over a Wikipedian version of how many angels can stand on the head of a pin vs how many on its point. Pointless is actually a good description of this, like disputing over which House is the legitimate claimant to the Title of King of Jerusalem. Unless we can start with the undisputed and accurate family names of say, Alfred the Great and work our way forward to the present queen, I think attempts at assigning family instead of House names to royalty are doomed to rancorous failure and are a waste of good hostile energy that could be better used to fight other, more important, battles. Jtdirl has done an excellent job of defusing the Styles war by creating infoboxes to avoid the issue. I think this, too, is an issue to avoid fighting about, because in the end, it is futile. Even if the Inclusionists win, fighting will then break out over spelling of the "family" names! Now, let's all sit back and sip some tea from the well-stirred pot and then remove the surnames so they are no longer a provocation. What say? --StanZegel 22:43, 19 August 2005 (UTC)
Removing the surnames is what I have done. If surnames are to go in, I would like to see an actual argument a) for why we should believe that Victoria had a surname at all; and b) for why we should believe that her maiden surname was "d'Este." It is simply a complete anachronism to just look back to the first-thing-that-vaguely-resembles-a-surname of some royal's distant male ancestor in the 12th century and then pretend that this is a surname. The House of Bavaria's surname is not "Wittelsbach," the House of Prussia's surname is not "Hohenzollern," the House of Saxony's surname is not "Wettin," and the House of Hanover's surname is neither "Guelf" nor "Este." In fact, this kind of thinking actually leads to flagrant error in the case of modern day German royalty, who have surnames like "Prinz von Preußen" and "Prinz von Bayern," with nary a house name to be seen. These house names are anachronistic archaisms, and nothing more. john k 23:54, 19 August 2005 (UTC)
Perhaps this is a good place to harken interested people to read the report of a previous edit war regarding Queen Victoria: it can be found in the Names section of the long article Wikipedia:Lamest edit wars ever

A Formal Caution reminding user jtdirl of the Three Revert Rule has been placed on User talk:Jtdirl following his reversion at 21:17 19 August 2005. It is hoped that he will reflect that, while his information may be valid and could be placed elsewhere in the Article with appropriate language to indicate any diversity of views upon its accuracy, his insistence upon repeatedly placing it in the lead of the Article is unnecessarily provocative when he has reasonable alternatives available to him. --StanZegel 03:56, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

Frankly that is rubbish.
  • The information is placed in the lead because that is where it is placed in all similar articles all over Wikipedia.
  • The information is demonstrably correct and independently verified.
  • Someone else unilaterally decided, without debating it with anyone, that he would take out information he didn't like, from a series of articles. He has failed to offer any evidence, just POV, to justify his actions.
And BTW if you bothered to count correctly you'd see that I have not breached the 3RR. Please don't make wild allegations without checking your facts.
All I did was reinstate information into the article that (i) had been unilaterally taken out by someone, (ii) was independently verified by numerous sources, and (iii) is always in that location in articles. Not putting in a surname into the name of someone with a surname is perverse and POV. It could only be justified if that was the standard way of writing articles. But the article on Bill Clinton does not call him Bill at the top and mention that his surname is Clinton in the middle of the text. Unilaterally making up new Wikipedia rules to remove factual information, all to keep one user happy, is not how a professional encyclopædia operates. If I had been putting in unsourced material Stan might have a point, but it is sourced in depth, whereas the person who did the deletion of information has failed to provide anything other than his personal opinion to justify his deletions. Where is his "caution" over unilateral , unsourced, POV deletions? This is a debate about NPOV standards of covering facts rather than unsourced "well I don't like it this way" POV deletions. I stand over my actions. FearÉIREANNCoat of arms of Ireland.svg\(caint) 04:11, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

Stan,

Firstly I have done 2 reversions on the Queen Victoria page. I have not breached the 3RR so please don't write rubbish about cautioning me for supposedly breaking the 3RR when I have done nothing of the sort.

If it is appropriate on genealogical sites, reference sites, biographies and other sources to mention the established fact that Queen Victoria had a surname, and even Buckingham Palace says it is 100% accurate and appropriate, how is it wrong to include facts in a Wikipedia article? John's dispute is over accuracy. Any passing examination of sources shows it is unambiguously accurate. Unfortunately John has had a bit of a bee in his bonnet about royal naming for some time. However what he has insisted is correct is not confirmed by genealogists and sourcebooks. His desire to refer to deceased consorts by consort name rather than maiden name, the standard form in genealogy, has bugged quite a few people who have worked on the royal pages and who found the idea of calling Mary of Teck Queen Mary perverse.

I have the height of respect for him but he does need to begin taking objective stances based on sources rather than subjective "I don't like this" campaigns. Wikipedia is an encyclopædia and it has to rigidly follow NPOV sourced standards, not personal POVs. Unilaterally deleting factually accurate, independently verifiable information simply because he doesn't like it is not how he should be behaving. All I did was add back in verifiable information that should not have been removed unilaterally. (I also went to the trouble of explaining why it is verifiable in links on the talk page and on the article page. He has done nothing other than express personal opinions without sources.) If he wanted it removed he should have discussed it first with people and try to achieve a consensus, not do a "I won't accept this. I want it my way" series of edits. There are enough sockpuppets waging edit wars on those pages without someone of the calibre of John behaving unilaterally without consulting people. How come, BTW, that one day you reinstate names based on a "settled consensus" and then you suddenly act as though that consensus has disappeared, all because one user, without evidence, unilaterally deletes the information? FearÉIREANNCoat of arms of Ireland.svg\(caint) 04:21, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

Jdtirl, (I don't know what else to call you):
(editorial note: Jtdirl's name is Jim Duffy, and he sometimes updates the WP article that has the same name. However, best to repeat always also "Jtdirl" so that everyone understands. E.g Jim "Jtdirl" Duffy.)
I know you have not yet done 3 reversions, which is the reason for a caution against doing so, whereas a complaint would have been the term had you done too many.
I have been impressed by your consensus-building with the Style Wars, and I'm a little disappointed by this situation, but I'm sure that men of good will, in a spirit of collaboration, can work things out.
Now for the meat of this problem: royalty are different from you and me and Bill Clinton. They are not subject to all of the cultural customs of others and the use of surnames is one of them, for with the meticulous geneologies kept by other Courts for marriage prospects, there was little need of a surname to avoid confusion.
You will have seen my comments upon the Queens of the Netherlands. Let's approach this from another direction: you should start your surname insertions with another royal house. Let me suggest Afghanistan, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia. Take your pick. Obviously there is no clear family name. Much European royalty is similar and while a family name may actually exist it is, like the Queen's power to withhold the Royal Assent, dormant and more theoretical then practical. Throne names, and family names, are self-selected: "Windsor" in the UK during the anti-German hysteria of WWI, and "Habsburg-Lorraine" when in fact it was all the House of Lorraine (all the Habsburg male line being exterpiated). (And what was the family name of the Dukes of Lorraine, anyway??? So one's name is what oneself says it is and uses. Thus Herbert Fromm becaume Wili Brandt because he said so. Stalin and Molotov and others adopting nomes de guerre did not secure deeds poll. So outsiders can impute what name they think someone else should have, but the ultimate authority is what the person himself uses. Any contrary view would have to conclude that, despite the declarations of King George V and the present Queen, that their family name is immutably "Wettin" or whatever.
Thus, while William Jefferson Blythe Clinton may have one or two of the last names that he actually used in the lead of his article, King Juan Carlos I of Spain has only two of his innumerable (according to the Hispanic naming convention of the full name going on-and-on recapitulating the bilateral geneology) surnames listed. His others, for academic or curious interest if added, would be more appropriate in a separate section of the article than in the lead. Similarly, I suggest, should other Royals who do not use their surnames, and have never been routinely referred to by those surnames, have them listed in a place other than the short and punchy quick-necessary-facts lead of an Article.
I'm reminded of the trial of King Louis XVI of France who was summoned as "Louis Capet" and bemusedly told the Court that that was not his name; one of his many ancestors had once borne that patronym, but he had never considered it his own family name. Some folks, for practical purposes just don't need or have or use one (what, by the way, was Charlemagne's family name?) and if we want to attribute one to them, I think it need not be done in the same prominent place as actual surnames actually used by people who used them.
I'm not disputing the accuracy of "Wettin" or of "Este" (although I have my doubts about the latter) and your research; I think that you can give the reader the benefits of your research while not implying or suggesting that those names were actively used by the subjects. That's why, in the spirit of accomodation you demonstrated with your leadership with Styles infoboxes, I suggest that putting the unused theoretical surnames of royals into a later portion of the Article, not the lead. And if other editors want to put qualifying words around them, well, That's Wikipedia.
You are one of the people I'm looking forward to working with on here, as well as John Kenny, and I'd hate to have intransigence instead of accomodation poison the well.
(Lest you think I'm just a peace wimp, anxious to avoid all confrontations, just you TRY to change the spelling of "Habsburg" to "Hapsburg" and see what happens!)
The sun may be shining in Ireland, but it is midnight here in Chicago, so I'm going to bed. I hope when I log on tomorrow that these thoughts will have been taken into consideration. Regards, --StanZegel 05:20, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
I understand your point. The trouble is that it is a black and white issue. When the College of Heralds tells the King his family surname was Wettin it is IMHO a closed issue. I don't see how we can justify not using a name ruled on by such a body when naming the person. That would involve taking a POV that says "I'm not accepting the archives. I'm not accepting the College of Heralds. I'm not accepting what the Royal Archives say." That is a POV. Where there is a grey area there is plenty of reason to put a name in a speculation paragraph later on. But when it comes to Wettin and Windsor it is 100% certain. (Hanover, Guelph, etc I regard as grey areas.) How can we under Wikipedia rules justify overrulling such convincing sources and treat them as speculative? That is the very essence of NPOV. And how can we justify using surnames of other monarchs worldwide that we know are accurate, while deciding that we won't use the surname of Edward VII that is, on the basis of the sources, equally accurate. If there was a dispute among sources that would be different. But the people whose job it is to know make it quite clear that he was unambiguously Wettin of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
The idea that royalty don't have surnames is not true. Since the 1848 revolutions royalty have been tripping over themselves to have them in case the monarchy was abolished and they had to find another raison etre. That is why Queen Victoria explicitly asked her aides to establish definitely what her surname was. She had seen Louis-Philippe and others lose their thrones and knew it could happen to her. (Few expected the monarchy to survive Edward VII!) All modern royalty own private property, private bank accounts, etc which require legally surnames. The old days when there was no distinction between the crown and the person of the monarch are long since gone. There is now, and has been for at least a century, a distinction between their public title and private identity. If there wasn't a personal surname, Queen Elizabeth would not have had the ability to create the name Mountbatten-Windsor in an Order-in-Council. Indeed her children, who themselves were not originally intended to use it, all have done, in banns for example. Princess Anne's banns for her first wedding explicitly called herself Miss Anne Mountbatten-Windsor and the Prince of Wales's banns for his first wedding used Charles Mountbatten-Windsor.
The suggestion that because they don't use them then they don't really exist is also wrong. Bill Clinton called himself that, not William Jefferson Clinton. But just because he called himself Bill did not mean he was not William Jefferson. And just because he'll never call himself it again does not mean that Pope Benedict XVI is not Josef Ratzinger. Just because she does not call herself Elizabeth Windsor does not mean that that isn't the Queen's name. It is. Whatever about ancient monarchs, modern monarchs in the west all have names and surnames. Wikipedia would be failing in its job if it didn't say that, or pretended against the evidence that it was merely a matter of debate when it clearly isn't. Moving a style was technical. It didn't have to be up front. But a name isn't technical. Either you use the full name or no name at the top. But half a name is not NPOV but POV: "I'll choose to use this bit but leave out that bit." That is something Wikipedia cannot do. FearÉIREANNCoat of arms of Ireland.svg\(caint) 06:02, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

Jtdirl's Supporting Argument: ("The Facts")[edit]

Genealogists[edit]

  • This genealogical site lists Edward VII under the surname Wettin.
  • So does pjcj.sytes.net/cgi-bin/gedcom.cgi?op=indi&gedcom=royal92&indi=I4 this one.
  • And this one.
  • And This research by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska, a genealogist, says the same.
  • This reference to Princess Beatrice Mary Victoria Teodora Wettin (1857-1944), youngest daughter of Queen Victoria.
  • This geneaological tree also uses Wettin.
  • This geneaological listing of all of Queen Victoria's children as possessing the surname Wettin.
  • And this.
  • The century-old Clann Donald of Edinburgh, also calls Edward VII Wettin.

Genealogical sites are worthless for this kind of thing. You are citing "references" that give wholly inaccurates names to these people, and which you yourself would dismiss if somebody was arguing that these sites prove that Princess Beatrice's article should be moved to Beatrice Wettin. Here, let me cite some genealogical sources that don't mention Wettin as a surname for Edward VII:
These are probably the two best genealogical sources on the internet, and they don't back you up. Your sources are falling into the error of believing that everybody must have a surname, and thus endeavouring to discover what the surname of Britain's Saxe-Coburg monarchs was. This does not mean that this was their actual name in any sense at all. john k 07:37, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
Actually they are not. Your argument is as usual based on saying nobody says this and when it is proved that they do, saying my preferred sites don't. Don't be so presumptious as to that everyone is making a mistake and you aren't. Geneaologists only use validly existing surnames. They don't make them up. FearÉIREANNCoat of arms of Ireland.svg\(caint) 22:14, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
Genealogists on the internet only use validly existing surnames? On what basis do you make this claim? On what basis do these sites you are quoting have any authority whatsoever? If you can show me a known genealogical reference source, e.g. Burke's, or the Gotha, which shows them using Wettin or Guelph as a surname, that is one thing. A bunch of amateurs on the internet are utterly worthless. john k 23:08, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

Historians[edit]

Brian Tompsett at the University of Hull lists the following:

  • Wettin, Edward VII, King of Britain, b. 9 NOV 1841
  • Wettin, Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh, b. 6 AUG 1844
  • Wettin, Alice Mary Victoria of Albany, Princess, b. 25 FEB 1883
  • Wettin, Alice Maud Mary, Princess, b. 25 APR 1843
  • Wettin, Alistair Arthur of Connaught, Duke of Connaught 2nd, b. 9 AUG 1914

In addition Dr. John R. Davis, Reader in Modern European History in Kingston University, and Franz Bosbach wrote "Prinz-Albert – Ein Wettiner in Groβbritannien – Prince Albert – A Wettin in Britain" Prince Albert Studies vol 20, Saur, Munich, 2004.[1]

That Albert was a Wettin is not in dispute (although I am quite dubious of the idea that Victoria was an Este - the Guelf/Welf name was pretty consistently used for the German dynasty). That his name was Wettin is. Tompsett's site is another genealogical one, and fairly good, but it seems to have a format that demands that everyone be given a surname. I don't see why we should consider this to be authoritative. john k 07:40, 20 August 2005 (UTC)


Brian Tompsett is a computer scientist! He is not a historian, nor is he a genealogist: his data base on royalty was set up as an experiment to see how people utilize databases! It is notoriously error-ridden, is seldom if ever corrected, and the thought of using it as an authority for anything should make one blanch. Or blush. - Nunh-huh 08:17, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
Thompson put together data provided by independent sources. I did not suggest that he was a historian. I said that Dr. John R. Davis is a historian and he, who writes extensively about Albert, says his name is Wettin. I never said, and never wrote, that Victoria was an Este. I simply reverted wholescale deletions. I replaced it with the name most historians and geneaologists agree is most accurate surname: Hanover.
And please stop with this nonsense about royalty not having surnames. Most royalty have had surnames since the early 19th century. They adopted them for one practical reason. Since 1789 no throne is secure. Having a personal name allowed them to have a personal identity alongside their kingship, which allowed them as a person to own private property and private finances alongside crown property and finances, so giving them property and finances if they lost the throne and had to go into exile, rather than with earlier generations of royalty finding everything they owned, down to the clothes on their backs, deemed to belong to the state and so seized by republics. FearÉIREANNCoat of arms of Ireland.svg\(caint) 22:22, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
If you did not believe Tompsett was a historian, why on earth did you put him in the "historians" section of your discussion? His site clearly belonged in the "genealogy" section, at any rate. (And good catch, Nunh-Huh). At any rate, your claim that "Hanover" is the correct surname for Queen Victoria is highly questionable. Why is "Hanover" an accurate surname, but, say, "Saxony" for the Wettins is not? These supposed "surnames" are utterly arbitrary. They were, like "Louis Capet," devised artificially by people looking back to determine what someone's "real" surname is. As to private property and such, can you find any evidence that Victoria purchased Osborne House as "Victoria Wettin?" Or that Edward VII was "Albert Edward Wettin" when he bought Sandringham? Beyond this, I'd be interested to see where this claim that royalty have had surnames since the early 19th century comes from. The branch ainée of the French royal house never had a surname at any time. The German houses never claimed surnames - they had to be provided with them in 1919, as I noted before. (And of the many branches of the House of Saxony hanging about in Germany at that time, not a single one took the surname "Wettin.") No member of the Imperial House of Russia that I am aware of took the surname "Romanov" prior to the fall of the monarchy in 1917. Nor did members of the Habsburg house ever use "Habsburg" or "Habsburg-Lorraine" as a surname prior to the fall of that monarchy, although that surname was, I think, provided for them by the Austrian government after 1918. The House of Savoy may have kind of used "de Savoia" as a surname, and the Bourbons and Braganças of the Iberian peninsula did use those names as surnames. The Orleans line used "d'Orleans" as a kind of surname. The Belgian house has never used a surname. Nor, to my knowledge, have the Danish house or the Norwegian royal house. The Bernadottes conveniently had a surname from being French interlopers, but this is only used as a name by those descendants of Charles XIV John who are not members of the Swedish royal house. The former King of the Hellenes refuses to take a Greek passport, because it would require him to take the name "Constantine Glücksburg," which he apparently finds ridiculous. john k 23:19, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

That is not the reason why Constantine acted as he did. It is standard for deposed monarchs to be referred to by regnal name for their lifetime, unless they had abdicated. (Some states even grant former monarchs a diplomatic passport.) A personal bitterness between a particular family of Greek politicians and the exiled king was behind it. As part of what was later judged an illegal act, they tried to humiliate him by forcing him to stop using his regnal name, then stripped him of his citizenship. Their behaviour was judged legally improper. As to who said royalty began using surnames? Simple. Two university professors, a biographer of Victor Emmanuel III, oh and the staffs of Queen Margrethe II, Elizabeth II and Albert II. FearÉIREANNCoat of arms of Ireland.svg\(caint) 00:08, 21 August 2005 (UTC)


Biographers[edit]

Stanley Weintraub's biography of Queen Victoria also confirms that Albert's surname was Wettin, as did the College of Heralds in 1917.

Also see G. E. Hofmeister's Das Haus Wettin (Leipzig, 1889)

Another biography talked of

Princess Sibylla (Sibylla Calma Marie Alice Wettin) of Saxe-Coburg Gotha was born in 1908. Her parents were Prince Leopold (Leopold Charles Edward Wettin), Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (1884- ). The Prince was a grandson of Queen Victoria.


The House of Wettin, again, is a perfectly respectable concept, with which I am not at war. I will not try to deny that various people have said that Albert and his agnatic descendants bear (or bore, until 1917, with the exception of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and his familY) the surname "Wettin." But this is because the question "What is the royal family's surname?" demands an answer. The basic fact is that they do not have a surname in any real sense. They have a house name, or several house names. But a real surname is a name that is actually used to identify a person. It is not simply a name picked from the air based on some where the castle of some 12th century baron who was someone's male line ancestor was. Which is about where the name Wettin came from. That Wettin has sometimes been said to be the surname of the British royal family before 1917 is not in doubt. That it was the surname, in a sense so important as to require it to be mentioned at the beginning of the article, is very much in doubt. Given that, without dispute, "Wettin" was never used as a surname by the British royals (and continues to not be used as a surname by the Belgian royals, or the former Bulgarian royals, e.g.), and that to present it as though it is a normal surname may be confusing, I don't see why you must insist on including it at the beginning of the article. BTW, what do you make of the current head of the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha? What is his surname? How about the Duke of Bavaria? According to German law, their surnames are Prinz von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha' and Herzog von Bayern, respectively. Would you deny this? If Prince Andreas does not bear the surname "Wettin," and I think that it is quite evident that he does not, why should we believe that his great-grand-uncle did? In 1918, the German government quite clearly believed that its various royals did not have surnames. If they had believed that the Hohenzollern, the Wittelsbach, the Wettins, and the Guelphs already possessed surnames, why did they pass a law specifically in order to give these people surnames? At the very least, the matter is one which is arguably controversial, and I just don't see why we need it in the first line of the article. john k 08:03, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
Again, not true yet again *sigh*. The claim that The basic fact is that they do not have a surname in any real sense is your POV. It is not the view of the College of Heralds, not what the Royal Archives say, not what Queen Victoria and every subsequent monarch believed. The German government did not know the background (they weren't knowledgeable in the background of royal nomenclature and thought because they were not publicly used that they did not exist, and "created" them to allow some way of making individual royals exist in law in the republic. If the College of Heralds says they had a name, if the royal archives say they had a name, if Queen Victoria and King George V were both advised they had a name, then it is simply POV to decide that because a small handful of people here disagree, Wikipedia must take their word and not word of the College of Heralds, generations of monarchs, the Royal Archives and the vast majority of genealogists. It is NPOV to use what is widely evidenced. It is POV to ignore the evidence and insist the articles has in what only you personally agree with. FearÉIREANNCoat of arms of Ireland.svg\(caint) 22:32, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
On what basis do you claim that the College of Heralds, the Royal Archives, and Queen Victoria are more authoritative than the German legal authorities (who you claim with absolutely no evidence didn't know what they were talking about - personally, I trust German lawyers much more than I trust English heraldic authorities to understand German royal customs), and than the German royals themselves who accepted the names given to them by the German government? Don't you think that if Prince Oskar thought his surname was really "Hohenzollern," the government would have allowed him to take that name. If you can point to any members of former German royal houses with the surnames "Hohenzollern" (other than the Catholic Swabian branch of the family who were always known as this, of course), "Wettin," "Guelph," "Wittelsbach," or "Zähringen," I would be interested to see it. The basic fact is that the German royals themselves do not seem to have thought of these as their surnames, and they willingly accepted the less silly names granted them by the German government.
Oh come on. Have a bit of cop-on, John. They believed that they could be restored to their thrones and that 1918 would to be every bit as transient as 1848. So they decided, for tactical reasons, to play along with the new political elite rather than alienate them, in the hope that they would support a restoration down the line if (as they expected) the new republics proved unstable. Monarchs and exiled monarchs do that all the time if they think it is in their interests. FearÉIREANNCoat of arms of Ireland.svg\(caint) 00:13, 21 August 2005 (UTC)
Beyond this, I hope you will clarify something for me. Are you saying is that "Wettin" was Edward VII's surname because the College of Heralds and the Royal Archives so determined it, and they had the right to decide that it is his surname? Or because the College of Heralds and the Royal Archives do impeccable research which is not open to question? That is to say, is "Wettin" the surname because it was so defined to be their surname in the 19th century, or because it was their "real surname" dating back to the time immemorial when Prince Albert's agnatic ancestor was Graf von Wettin? The former seems potentially defensible. I am willing to concede that certain British authorities in the late 19th century determined that the royal surname was "Wettin" and that it can be seen as their surname. Their remains, however, the fact that this supposed surname was not actually used in the manner of normal surnames, or, so far as I can gather, in any whatsoever (I don't believe the name Wettin, for instance, is mentioned in the royal decree of 1917 that changes the name to Windsor). The latter, however, is completely and utterly absurd. Wettin was no more their name than Meissen or Saxony or Saxony-Coburg-Saalfeld or Saxony-Coburg-and-Gotha was - it just happened to be the furthest back name that genealogists in the 19th century could trace them to. It had not been used for any purpose for hundreds of years. Only some weird notion of genealogical essentialism can claim that this is their "real" surname in that sense. By the same standards, the Stuarts were actually named "Fitzalan," the Hanovers would certainly be "Este," the Bourbons - whether of Spain or of the Orleans line - are "Capet," and so forth. john k 23:34, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

Encyclopædias[edit]

The Columbia encyclopædia [2] and Encyclopædia Brittanica [3] both link Wettins to the British crown. The former speaks of Wettins reigning in Britain while the latter states that Prince Albert was a Wettin.


That doesn't mean their name was Wettin. john k 07:28, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
No. Of course not. It means there horse was called Wettin. Don't be ridiculous. You are grasping at straws at this stage to justify your deletion of independently verified information. FearÉIREANNCoat of arms of Ireland.svg\(caint) 22:34, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
I had not realized that their horse was called Wettin, nor am I certain how this is indicated by the articles cited. That their house was called Wettin is not something which I deny. john k 23:35, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

Media coverage[edit]

The Sunday Times on 16 January 2005 wrote of how

A bit of a mouthful, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha turned out not to be Albert's real surname, which was Wettin, the name of another aristocratic German dynasty. It was only in 1917 that George V, worried by the anti-German feeling caused by the first world war, ordered the royal family to scrap Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Wettin for Windsor.[4]

America's PBS also speaks of Prince Albert Edward Wettin (1841-1910)


The mainstream press is a terrible source for these kind of things. Wettin, for instance, is not "another aristocratic German dynasty" than Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, as this quote appears to suggest. The Saxe-Coburg-Gotha line is a line of the Ernestine line of the Wettin house. And Prince Albert Ernest Wettin? This is ignorant nonsense. john k 07:29, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
I didn't say they were infallible. They are simply yet another source to debunk your theory that no-one ever said they were called Wettin, which is the justification you used to remove the information. FearÉIREANNCoat of arms of Ireland.svg\(caint) 22:36, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
I do not say that nobody has ever said they were called Wettin. You have certainly demonstrated well enough that various people have said that their surname is Wettin. But nobody actually calls them Wettin, in the sense of it ever having actually functioned as a surname in the way that surnames usually function. john k 23:36, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

Evidence clear[edit]

So in other words

  • Wettin is accepted as the surname of Edward VII and his siblings by a large range of genealogists;

That's because genealogical sources are biased towards the idea that everyone must have a surname. john k 07:53, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
Please don't misrepresent how genealogists work. That is unworthy

  • Albert's surname is described as Wettin by a biographer of Queen Victoria, who states, as Wikipedia also states (from another source), that Queen Victoria had the issue professionally researched by her staff;

The fact that the surname had to be researched suggests what I am saying, that this is a completely artificial "surname", never actually in use, that was simply devised out of the idea that everyone has to have a surname. john k 07:53, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
False. It just means that one existed but because they did not have to use it they never knew what it was. They didn't ask the researchers to make up a surname, didn't say what would our surname be if we had one?. They asked a simply question, "what is our surname?" The answer was clear. "It is (not might be, could be, should be, but is) Wettin".
On what basis do you say it really existed? As I said above, I am willing to accept that for some extremely limited purposes, the actions of the College of Heralds or the Royal Archives can be said to have defined "Wettin" as being their surname. But the idea that these people actually discovered a "real" surname is absurd. Wettin is an artificial backwards construction based on the idea that everybody has a surname. There is nothing "real" about it. I am having difficulty believing that you are actually arguing this. john k 23:47, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

  • A range of academics, including historian Dr. John R. Davis of Kingston University and Brian Tompsett at the University of Hull describe Wettin as the Royal Family surname before 1917.

Davis is not saying that Wettin is a surname, just that Albert was a Wettin, which I do not deny. Tompsett is being double counted - his site is a genealogical site, and ought to be counted with the other genealogical sites, for whatever they are worth, which is quite little. john k 07:53, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
Your opinion. Not the opinion of genealogists, researchers, archivists or the royals themselves. FearÉIREANNCoat of arms of Ireland.svg\(caint) 22:50, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
The royals value Tompsett's site? I am confused now. john k 23:47, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
We don't value Tompsett's site, but we DO read Wikipedia. We Are Amused. It is a nice diversion from the bloody boredom of spending the summer up here in the Highlands with nothing else to do but try to make sense of the Ghillies' thick accents. How do they understand each other? And Mr Speaker, with his Glaswegian tongue! Some new MPs started to go home, thinking he had adjourned the House one evening when they heard him cry "I'd like a ride, now let's leave" but senior Hon. Members informed them that he was just ordering a Division ("Ayes to the right, Noes to the left"). If the Scots could understand each other and others, they'd know what was really being said and wouldn't be voting Labour all the time. Labour. Now there's a rum lot. Mr "Just Call Me Charlie" is so thick that he says he can't walk backwards down three steps, yet he can ruin the carefully-evolved administration system of justice. We half-expect later this year, instead of handing Us Our Speech with at least a polite nod, he'll just toss it into Our lap and say "There 'ya go ducks, let 'er rip!" The last Henry in Our place certainly knew how to deal with an unpleasant Lord Chancellor! Too bad Henry died of that ulcerous leg. His physicians prescribed a mixture of frog and snail slime as a poultice. If he lived today, the National Health Service would eventually order the same thing, but only after he had waited three years for the appointment to be seen. If he'd had the National Health back then, he'd not have lived long enough to have all those wives, and Margo and We wouldn't have had all that girlhood gossip to laugh about. Mummy lived to almost 102, but she was a pensioner not on the National Health. Our own Homeopathic physicians. That's what We have always used. Thank God We don't live in Canada -- they'd never allow it.
For One in a certain cultural position, having a family name is like, well, like having Our Right and Trusty Cousin Prince Michael of Kent as a relative: We may be born with it, and it costs Us nothing to keep, but We don't actually make use of it because We have absolutely no real need of it.
To place such emphasis on such an appendage as a family name is absolutely mad! To do what the stubborn of you insist upon would be to make a pig's breakfast of the introduction to an article here of someone to whom I feel especially close, if it contained that level of trivia: "Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor) (born 21 April 1926) is a cousin of Prince Michael of Kent. She is also the Queen regnant of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland..."
And one of you referred to an Order in Council back in the '60s. Forget it. We're not going to do another of those just to solve a silly dispute here. Those meetings are dreadful! We are going to be 80 years old next year, but do you think they even offer Us a chair? They all want Our Assent, but won't give Us an ass-sit. Bloody pompous politicians! The only reason the Privy Council meetings go quickly is that they are closed to the bloody sensationalist scandalmongering fact-fabricating photo-distorting disrespectful hatless press, so the bloody publicity-seeking politicians have no chance to get their pictures into the tabloids, or the silly things they always say quoted in the sheets.
Now Stop It! We are no longer amused. --Ma'am 20:39, 21 August 2005 (UTC)

  • Brittanica and Columbia encyclopædias both say that Wettins reigned in the early 20th century in Britain;

Neither of them refers to those kings as "Albert Edward Wettin" or "George Wettin" in their actual articles on Edward VII and George V. Nobody is denying that the conventional name used for the Saxon dynasty is "Wettin." What I am denying is that it was their surname in any meaningful sense. If it was their surname, this is nothing but a curiosity, and should be reported at some later point in the article. john k 07:53, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
Again your opinion, unproven by any evidence. FearÉIREANNCoat of arms of Ireland.svg\(caint) 22:50, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
It is not my opinion that these names are never used. It is a fact that these names are never used. As to how the question of a surname for these people should be treated in the article, I suppose that is my opinion, but I'm not sure how it could be anything else - of course discussion of how an article should treat a particular subject is a matter for opinion and debate, isn't it? john k 23:47, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

  • The Sunday Times has stated as fact that Prince Albert's surname was Wettin;

The Sunday Times is not an authority on historical subjects. john k 07:53, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
It just proves that your claim that no-one ever said they were called Wettin, is bunkum. FearÉIREANNCoat of arms of Ireland.svg\(caint) 22:50, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
As I said above, I am happy to admit that various people have said they were called Wettin. But nobody actually called them Wettin. john k 23:47, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

  • Buckingham Palace also confirmed to me when I was researching the topic for my own research was Queen Victoria's marital surname was Wettin and that Edward VII's surname was Wettin.

This is because asking the question presumes an answer. I suppose that, in some theoretical sense, one may say that Edward VII's surname was Wettin. But to say that his name was "Albert Edward Wettin," when he was never referred to in this way, and when Wettin never appeared on a single official document for any member of the royal family is to elevate the trivial to far beyond its proper place. john k 07:53, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
Again a misprepresentation. I asked the Palace three questions:
  1. Does the Royal Family have surnames? Answer: yes.
  2. Is that just since the Queen's Order in Council in the 1960s or before? Answer: Long before. Queen Victoria's surname was Wettin, as were those of her children. From 1917 the royals has the same name as both a Royal House name and as a surname.
  3. Was a creation specially created? Answer: No. One existed. Because the royals did not need to use it they didn't know what it was. They had it checked and were told what it was.
Perhaps you could ask them why "Wettin" is to be considered a surname that already existed. Once again, and you have not argued against this, "Wettin" is the name of a small town in Germany, of which the agnatic ancestor of Prince Albert was Count in the 11th century. Shortly thereafter, the line became Margraves of Meissen, and then, in the early 15th century, Dukes of Saxony. The family was, so far as I can tell from genealogics, only known as "Wettin" for two generations. Thimo I and Thimo II. Thimo II's son Konrad became Margrave of Meissen. Thimo I's father was "Graf im Hassegau," and the ancestors for several generations before that were alls "Grafen im Hassegau." Why isn't "Hassegau" their surname? Why is the name Wettin to be reified in this way as though it is a real thing, and not a post hoc construction? (Which is to say: the people at the Palace are clearly wrong if they claim that "Wettin" was the "real surname" of the Saxon royals.) john k 23:47, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

  • In 1917, when George V asked the College of Heralds for advice when changing the royal name, he asked them a series of questions, including clarifying definitively what his names were. They said Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was his Royal House name, and that Wettin (or a translation, Wipper) but almost certainly the former, was his personal family surname. BTW Queen Victoria's mother's maiden name was also Wettin.

The only issue with this article is the maiden name it gave to Queen Victoria. Genealogists generally agree that it was either Hanover or Guelph and nothing else. In its obituary after her death in 1901, the New York Times gave her surname as Guelph, so "giving" surnames (sic) to royalty is not made up thing for Wikipedia, it exists in royal archives, newspapers, historians, biographers and has been done by bodies as senior and credible as the College of Heralds.

In the circumstances it is perfectly correct, and perfectly NPOV, to use the surnames stated to be factual by the Palace, the College of Heralds, genealogists, biographers and historians. It is POV to decide that you, John, disagree with them and don't want them used. Unfortunately, though you are a superb contributor, you have shown elsewhere on Wikipedia that you have a weak understanding of royal naming techniques. On this one you are unambiguously wrong. FearÉIREANNCoat of arms of Ireland.svg\(caint) 02:12, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

Continuation of Discussion[edit]

They should not be used because, whatever a few people have theoretically decided could be said to be the royal family's surname at this time, these names do not function in anything like the way that the surnames of people who actually have surnames function. These names are a pure theoretical construct, and it manners not a whit whether the theoretical construct was made up at the present time or at some point in the past. These names are never used in any context at all. Giving them at the beginning of the article suggests that it is correct to call Edward VII "Albert Wettin," or Victoria "Victoria d'Este." This is simply not the case. If we want to have a brief mention somewhere that Victoria's surname can be considered to be Guelph, or that Edward VII's can be considered to be Wettin, I suppose I will not object. But that you, who are so concerned with us not being a laughingstock with all historians who do things just so, to be insisting upon these ridiculous, never actually used names, being at the top of the article, when no other major reference source does so (not Encarta, not Columbia, not Britannica, not the ODNB), is ridiculous. As to my "weak understanding of royal naming techniques," well, I'll just let people read our comments and decide for themselves. But it would be nice if you wouldn't assume that just because someone disagrees with you, it is because they are ignorant. It's a nasty habit. john k 07:53, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

Wonderful. wonderful. I want to cite an analysis displayed at the page listing lamest edit wars: "This weighty dispute, filling talk pages and edit histories, obviously resurrecting eager expressions of participants' pet views of royalty and monarchy, has spilled over into other British monarchs, other royals and titleholders, several countries having or having had a monarchy, claimants and other royal pretensions, and even hundreds of holders of the papacy, where popes centuries dead are endorsed as “His Holiness” here, losing and regaining the endorsement with blinks of eyes. Ongoing debates deal with the format of dates, and the used or unused, existing or non-existent surnames family names house names former fiefs (some inherited names very few are sure what they precisely are) of monarchs and relatively unfamiliar variants of those, with most edits being extremely trivial." Arrigo 09:37, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
Alright, I thought I'd try to briefly summarize my views on this. Basically, we have here the following facts:
  1. The British Royal family in the 19th century did not use surnames, as they had no need to. They all had peerage titles, or were kings or princes, or whatever. At any rate, no surnames were ever used in any formal context.
  2. During the nineteenth century, most people had surnames, and the British royals were occasionally curious as to what their surname was. When occasional research was done into this subject, they were told that their surname was Wettin.
  3. Wettin is the name of a small town in northeastern Germany which the ancestors of the ruling house of Saxony ruled over in the 11th century before they became Margraves of Meißen, and which is generally given as the house name of the various Saxon dynasties in the same way that Wittelsbach is given for the Bavarian and Palatine houses, Hohenzollern for the Prussian, and so forth. These names were never used as surnames, in the modern sense, for anybody, but are merely the names of places ruled by those families before they ruled the places which they are best known for ruling. They were simply declared to be the surnames at some point due to the increasing sense in the 19th century that everybody must have a surname.
  4. This usage of Wettin as a surname for the British royals before 1917 is sometimes followed by genealogical researchers, and is also repeated by some biographers and historians, and has been printed in the mainstrea media.
  5. No standard work of reference includes the surname "Wettin" (or any surname, for that matter) in their articles on British royals.
With these facts in mind, my argument as to what we should do is as follows:
  1. Given the situation outlined above, it is highly arguable as to whether or not Wettin can be considered an actual surname of the British royal family.
  2. At the same time, it is almost entirely trivial whether or not Wettin should be considered their surname, because it is simply not a terribly important piece of information, since it was not actually used like the surname of an ordinary person would be.
  3. To give the surname of royals who don't use them at the beginning of an article can be misleading to readers, who assume that Edward VII's name was "Albert Edward Wettin" in the same way that my name is "John Kenney." This is, I think, also true for more solid surnames like Windsor. It is even more true for a hypothetical quasi-surname like Wettin.
  4. As such, there is no especial reason to include surnames at the beginning of the article. No other reference work does so, and it adds very little to the article. A brief discussion in the text of this issue would be more than sufficient - it is more than any other reference source does. john k 08:21, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
  • I agree with this approach. Astrotrain 12:41, August 20, 2005 (UTC)
  • So do I. --StanZegel 18:40, 20 August 2005 (UTC)