The Royal Family at Windsor Castle

Meet the Windsors: A Brief History of the British Royal Family

When Meghan Markle weds Prince Harry of Wales on May 19, 2018, she’ll be marrying into the House of Windsor, quite possibly the world’s most famous family. Want to get to know the Windsors? Scroll down for some royal-family history.

THE FIRST WINDSOR IWM/Getty Images/IWM via Getty Images THE FIRST WINDSOR When Prince George rose to the throne in 1910, becoming King George V, he belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But a few years after his coronation, England entered World War I, anti-German sentiment spread throughout the British Empire, and the king’s dynastic name — Saxe-Coburg and Gotha — became a liability. So he changed it to “Windsor,” a shorter, sweeter, far-less-Teutonic handle, borrowed from a very old, very picturesque castle. (Pictured: King George V touring the Western Front in 1917.) QUEEN MARY Popperfoto/Popperfoto/Getty Images QUEEN MARY Princess Mary of Teck married Prince George in 1893, and became Queen when George’s reign began in 1910. George and Mary had six children: Edward, Albert, Mary, Henry, George, and John. (Pictured: Queen Mary in 1912.) THE CROWN AND ITS JEWELS Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Popperfoto/Getty Images THE CROWN AND ITS JEWELS A souvenir postcard of King George V, Queen Mary, and their six children from 1911 (when they were still Saxe-Coburg and Gothas). FAMILY RESEMBLANCE Underwood Archives/Getty Images FAMILY RESEMBLANCE Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (L) and George V (R) were cousins, but they could pass for brothers. In this picture from 1915, the Tsar wears an English uniform, while the King wears a Russian one. RULING THE AIRWAVES Hulton Archive/Getty Images RULING THE AIRWAVES George V ruled from 1910 to 1936, during which time radio broadcasting was born. George was the first British monarch to address the public over the radio, and he delivered, among other broadcasts, the first Royal Christmas Message in 1932. (Pictured: King George preparing to speak on the radio in 1933.) KING FOR A YEAR Hulton Archive/Getty Images KING FOR A YEAR George died in 1936, and his firstborn son, Edward, ascended to the throne. But the reign of King Edward VIII was brief: When he proposed to marry American socialite Wallis Simpson, the British government, led by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, opposed the union. (Simpson was a divorcee, and the Church of England frowned on divorcees remarrying while their former spouses were still alive.) Rather than risk the resignation of Baldwin and his government, Edward abdicated the throne. He'd occupied it for a scant 326 days. THE SOCIALITE Cecil Beaton THE SOCIALITE Wallis Simpson, photographed for Vogue in 1937, wears the famous lobster dress that was custom-made for her by designer Elsa Schiaparelli and artist Salvador Dalí. BERTIE Fox Photos/Getty Images BERTIE Edward's younger brother Albert -- "Bertie" to loved ones -- was next in the line of succession, and in 1937 he was crowned King George VI. The new king suffered from a stammer that made public speaking a challenge, but he worked with an Australian actor turned speech therapist to overcome it. The story of their friendship was dramatized in the 2010 film "The King's Speech." (Pictured: King George VI announcing England's entry into World War II, on September 4, 1939.) QUEEN ELIZABETH Time Life Pictures/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images QUEEN ELIZABETH Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married Bertie in 1923, and had two daughters — Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret — before becoming Queen in 1936. When her husband died in 1952, her firstborn daughter became Queen Elizabeth II (and she became Queen Mother). GEORGE & DAUGHTERS Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Popperfoto/Getty Images GEORGE & DAUGHTERS King George with Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret (and one of the family's corgis) in Buckingham Palace in 1938. SERVICE TO HER COUNTRY Popperfoto SERVICE TO HER COUNTRY During World War II, Princess Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Technical Service as 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Windsor. THE ONCE AND FUTURE PRINCE Keystone/Getty Images THE ONCE AND FUTURE PRINCE Philip Mountbatten had been born Prince of Greece and Denmark, but he'd renounced these titles and become a British subject in 1947, when he and Princess Elizabeth were engaged. Before their wedding, Philip was named Duke of Edinburgh, and in 1957, Elizabeth made him a British prince. HAPPY FAMILY Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images HAPPY FAMILY Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh with their daughter and son, Princess Anne and Prince Charles, in 1951. Elizabeth and Philip would eventually have two more sons, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. FOUR GENERATIONS Topical Press Agency/Getty Images FOUR GENERATIONS Let's see if we've got this straight: King George VI, formerly Prince Albert, aka Bertie; Philip, formerly Prince of Greece and Denmark, now Duke of Edinburgh, but not yet a British prince; Queen Elizabeth, soon-to-be Queen Mother; Princess Elizabeth, soon-to-be Queen Elizabeth II; and Mary, former Queen, now Queen Mother, all pose for a photograph with the newest members of the House of Windsor, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, in 1950. A NEW QUEEN IS CROWNED Popperfoto/Popperfoto/Getty Images A NEW QUEEN IS CROWNED The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953. HER ROYAL HIGHNESS Hulton Archive/Getty Images HER ROYAL HIGHNESS In this studio portrait from 1955, Queen Elizabeth dons a crown first worn by King George IV in 1821. (It was also worn by Elizabeth's great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.) A SCHOLAR AND A NOBLEMAN Peter Dunne/Getty Images A SCHOLAR AND A NOBLEMAN Prince Charles beginning his studies at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1967. THE ROYAL WINDSORS Fox Photos/Getty Images THE ROYAL WINDSORS Prince Edward, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Anne, Prince Charles, and Prince Andrew at Windsor Castle in 1969. THE HONEYMOONERS Serge Lemoine/Getty Images THE HONEYMOONERS In July 1981, Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer. Diana's charity work, style, and charisma would make her an immensely popular figure around the world: the "People's Princess." (Pictured: Prince Charles and Princess Diana honeymooning in Scotland.) HEART AND SOUL Tim Graham/Tim Graham/Getty Images HEART AND SOUL Princess Diana at the piano with her sons, Prince Harry and Prince William, in 1985. WELCOME TO THE NINETIES Tim Graham/Tim Graham/Getty Images WELCOME TO THE NINETIES Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, the Queen Mother, Prince Charles, and Princess Margaret on August 4, 1990 — the Queen Mother's 90th birthday. CAMILLA AND CHARLES Christopher Furlong/Getty Images CAMILLA AND CHARLES Prince Charles and Princess Diana divorced amid scandal — some of it pertaining to Camilla Parker Bowles, an old flame of Charles' — in 1996. In 2005, Charles and Camilla married, and she became the Duchess of Cornwall. THE NEXT GENERATION Handout THE NEXT GENERATION Prince William met Kate Middleton at the University of St Andrews, and they wed in 2011. Now Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Will and Kate have three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis (not pictured). WELCOME TO THE FAMILY WPA Pool/Getty Images WELCOME TO THE FAMILY Meghan and Harry were introduced by mutual friends in 2016, and they'll marry in May. For their venue, they've chosen St. George's Chapel at — where else? — Windsor Castle. And that just about brings us up to speed!
ROYAL WEDDINGS, IN FOOTAGESee a century of royal weddings, in under one minute. From Prince Albert and Lady Elizabeth in 1923 all the way to Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011.




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