Due to the level of fame and popularity of the Royal Family, it is clear that by referring only to first names, you most likely know who is being discussed. The official Royal website states that “members of the Royal Family can be known both by the name of the Royal house, and by a surname which are not always the same and often they do not have a surname at all.”
Prince William’s full name is William Arthur Philip Louis Mountbatten-Windsor, meaning that when Kate Middleton married him in 2011, she could have become known as Catherine Elizabeth Mountbatten-Windsor.
However, in the royal family surnames are usually only used by those who do not have a title, so the Duchess of Cambridge is only referred to as either Kate Middleton or as the title she was given upon her marriage.
Similarly, Meghan Markle added the title of Duchess of Sussex to her name but did not become known as Rachel Meghan Mountbatten-Windsor.
Alongside the surname Mountbatten-Windsor, royal members can also use their family’s official title as a surname.
When Prince William and Prince Harry were attending school and while in the military, they were referred to as William Wales and Harry Wales, the surname deriving from Prince Charles’ title of the Prince of Wales.
Similarly, Prince George and his siblings have adopted the surname Cambridge for their time at school, coming from William’s title of Duke of Cambridge.
As these are not commonly used, it is best practice to refer to either the family member’s first name or their title.
The Queen and her grandfather George V are responsible for the surname that the royal family now hold.
Queen Elizabeth was born to the Duke and Duchess of York who unexpectedly became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother due to Edward’s abdication.
Prior to 1917, the British Royal Family did not have a surname, only the name of the house or dynasty that they belonged to.
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The year of 1917 brought with it much anti-German sentiment during World War One and as a result, George V adopted Windsor as the name of the House and the surname of his family.
Once Queen Elizabeth married Prince Philip, whose surname was Mountbatten, the pair decided to join the two surnames to ensure their direct descendants were distinct from the rest of the family.
The official website reads: “For the most part, members of the Royal Family who are entitled to the style and dignity of HRH Prince or Princess do not need a surname, but if at any time any of them do need a surname (such as upon marriage), that surname is Mountbatten-Windsor”.
The surname was first used in an official document on 14 November 1973 when Princess Anne married Captain Mark Philips.
Unless Charles changes things once he is King, he will continue the House of Windsor and his grandchildren will carry the surname of Mountbatten-Windsor.