Did you know… The Royal Family rebranded in 1917?

British monarch King George V (1910-1936) was cousin to the German emperor Wilhelm II and since the marriage of his grandmother Queen Victoria – the last member of the House of Hanover – to German Prince Albert, Britain’s royal family had rejoiced with some reservation in the dynastic family name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha!

Just over a hundred years ago, in June 1917, a squadron of German Gotha IV biplane bombers set off for London to carry out the first daylight bombing raid of the capital in the First World War, resulting in 95 deaths including 18 children in an East End primary school.

The fact that King George V shared a family name with the perpetrators who produced the Gotha bombers enraged many of his subjects and resentment towards the Royal Family reached a peak. It didn’t help that at the time war broke out the British King held honorary ranks in a number of German regiments – he even had the requisite uniforms – which remain in the Royal Collection to this day, but understandably are rarely displayed!



A bold solution had to be found and the King instructed his then private secretary, Lord Stamfordham, to scour the history books for an alternative to his Teutonic family name. All the obvious solutions were submitted and rejected and Stamfordham began to lose hope writing: “It is disastrous. The King is all for a prompt settlement”. Stamfordham; however, had his defining moment while working at Windsor Castle and thought: “Why not take the name of one of the Royal Family’s best-loved residences?”

It turned out to be a rebranding masterstroke. The monarchy had used Windsor Castle as a base since it was built in the 11th century and it exuded solidarity, stability and most important of all Englishness! The change was approved within two months and on 18 July 1917 The Times carried a royal proclamation introducing the name House of Windsor and the news that the Royal Family would drop “all German titles and dignities”.

Overnight, princes became lords and the Battenbergs – who had married into the Royal Family – opted for the literal translation of their surname to Mountbatten. To this day, though, the Royal Family stick to the German tradition of opening their gifts on Christmas Eve. Prince Albert is also famously credited for introducing the modern tradition of bringing Christmas trees indoors from around 1841 onwards.



A popular wedding venue for British royals, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle married in triumphant style on 19 May 2018 in the gloriously historic surrounds of the Castle’s 15th century St. George’s Chapel.

It’s estimated that the monarchy has generated £550million for tourism in 2017 and extra business for 800 brands with By Appointment royal warrants for companies that have supplied the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh or Prince Charles for 5 out of the past 7 years. The marriage provided another huge boost for the Castle’s visitor numbers, broadcasting rights, tourism and souvenir market and in doing so strengthened the commercial value of the Windsor brand even further, and could contribute a whopping £1billion to the UK economy in 2018 alone.

Such is the public’s fascination for Meghan’s sense of style that, as with the ‘Kate effect’, it seems that anything she puts on becomes an instant must-have. Unofficial Meghan endorsement means that fashion items sell out within hours on both sides of the Atlantic.

As Duke and Duchess of Sussex the happy couple are effectively taking the royal branding in a whole new direction and broadening out the attractiveness of the royals as a brand immensely. In the years ahead there are plans for the royal couple to visit the Commonwealth’s 53 nations where 60 per cent of the 2.4 billion populations are under 30. The Sussexes are set to become fabulous ambassadors for the Commonwealth brand and married life certainly won’t be dull!



George V’s simple act of changing the family name worked wonders. According to Jane Ridley, history professor at Buckingham University: “Having a monarch with a [very] British name was a clever piece of branding and the effect was to make people feel much more patriotic about being British and by 1939 it turned out in the long term to be a very good move!”

Fast forward a hundred years and you won’t need a secretary to do the legwork! Simply call DSD’s eponymous owner Dan Summers for a friendly chat about creating or refreshing your organisation’s public-facing brand, which typically takes the form of a name, logo device and a tagline to describe either the nature of your business or the level of service your customers are likely to receive.

Not only will this enable your business to stand out from today’s crowd, you may ultimately become the proud owner of an iconic brand that really does work wonders for your business and also stands the test of time!

Dan’s own castle is, of course, his Essex-based design studio in Chelmsford and you can contact him on 01245 465324 (no appointment necessary) for more information about the brand review process and the benefits it can bring your business!

Dan Summers

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