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2.4Responses to Anti-German Tendencies

At the moment of the war outbreak, the anti-German tendencies grew stronger among the British citizens. When the Defence of the Realm Act was issued, it included prohibition to make contact with enemies of Britain and so the Germans living in Britain became victimized. The British national archives hold the proof of the riots dated as early as September 17, 1914 reporting the shops of German owners being severely damaged by the crowd in London. (Anti-German riots in London, n.d.). Newspapers like The Daily Mail or Evening News were intensifying the sense of hatred for German “enemies”, the Germans living in Britain who were in reality just ordinary citizens. This resulted in houses being set on fire and Germans fleeing for their lives. The sinking of the British liner Lusitania15 by the German submarine in 1915 caused an outburst of anti-German sentiment. (Dealing in Hate: The development of anti-German propaganda, n.d.).

Even the members of the British royal family were concerned about these anti-German tendencies and tried to dissipate the allegations about their pro-German attachments despite of their German family ties.

Prior to WWI George V held a personal friendship with most of the European monarchs and Germany was no exception. With the outset of the conflict the situation started to develop differently. King George V was not pro-French, pro-Russian or pro-German; he was undoubtedly pro-British. He was not of the opinion that the Germans, having become the enemies overnight, had suddenly stopped being human. He did not share the hysteria with so many of his subjects that caused them to abandon their reason, their dignity, and their sense of fair play. Only five days after the war began, the King received the proposal from the War Office that the German Emperor and his sons should be dispossessed of their honorary commands of the British Army. At first the King disagreed but when Lord Roberts persuaded him, German names no longer appeared in the next edition of the Army List. The King, however, rejected to issue any public notice. As the anti-German campaign continued, the King gave way to other actions to satisfy his nation. (Nicolson, 1984, p.249).

2.4.1Changing the Family Name

With the rising number of the casualties and wounded, a hysterical hatred of anything German ascended. Everybody with a German surname became suspicious. The King became disturbed by the campaign against two public servants: Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg and Lord Haldane. Prince Louis was born a German, but at the age of fourteen he became a British subject and later joined the Royal Navy. Despite his marriage to Queen Victoria´s granddaughter, he was forced to withdraw into private life. The King felt sorry for him and the comment “there is no more loyal man in the country” was put in his diary. (Rose, 1983, p.171-172). The King´s mother, Queen Alexandra, was also contributing to the anti-German campaign. In her letter to her son she stated: “It is but right and proper for you to have down those hateful German banners in our sacred Church, St. George´s at Windsor.” With reluctance, the King yielded, and the banners were removed.” (Rose, 1983, p.173)

In 1917 when his dynasty of Saxe-Coburg was being criticised, the King emphasized his devotion to deal with the issue and proclaimed that all Queen Victoria´s descendants should bear the name of Windsor. The College of Herald could not provide him with a convenient name. Rose (1983, p.174) states that it was Lord Stamfordham, who was the creator of the idea and who suggested ‘Windsor’, as it is the most beautiful and most known place outside of London. Nicolson (1952, p. 309) distinguishes that although it was Lord Stamfordham who suggested the name of Windsor, he did so based on his discovery that during Edward III´s reign, he was called “Edward of Windsor”. The name was published by press on July 18th 1917 with the King´s proclamation:
We, of Our Royal Will and Authority, do hereby declare and announce that as from the date of this Our Royal Proclamation Our House and Family shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, and that all the descendants in the male line of our said Grandmother Queen Victoria who are subjects of these Realms, other than female descendants who may marry or may have married, shall bear the said Name of Windsor:…(Nicolson, 1952, p.310)
The members of the Royal Family with German names were invited to abandon them and to adopt British surnames. The King’s first brother-in-law, the Duke of Teck, became Marquis of Cambridge, the second one, Prince Alexander of Teck, adopted the title of Earl of Athlone with the family name of Cambridge. The King’s two cousins Prince Louis and Prince Alexander of Battenberg became Marquis of Milford Haven and Marquis of Carisbrooke with the family name Mountbatten. Beside the change of the names, it was also understood that the peerage of the United Kingdom was accepted via membership in the House of Lords. Consequently, it was emphasized that acceptance of peerage of the United Kingdom and membership in the House of Lords also meant that the members of the Royal Family would not identify themselves with any political party. (Nicolson, 1984, p.310).

Aronson (1986, p.154) states: “Various Teck and Battenberg princes re-emerged with such mellifluously; Anglicised surnames and titles of Mountbatten, Cambridge, Athlone, Milford Haven and Carisbrooke; while those two grand-daughters of Queen Victoria, the princesses of Schleswig-Holstein, became, as the King robustly put it, ´Helena Victoria and Marie Louise of Nothing.

2.4.2The Titles Deprivation Act

As noted above, the family background of George V was predominately German. His grandmother Queen Victoria came from the German dynasty of Saxe-Coburg, his father Edward VII had a strong German accent when he spoke. During the war the opinions that would criticize the King’s German ancestry increased and the King decided to take a step to emphasize his detachment from his German ancestry. He signed a law that passed through the Parliament on November 8, 1917. It deprived enemies in the existing war of their British peerage. It was called An Act to Deprive Enemy Peers and Princes of British Dignities and Titles.

According to this Act, the King appointed His Privy Council, which consisted of seven members, where at least two of these were to be from the Judicial Committee. The Council had the authority to take evidence. Sequentially, the report from the Council would be passed to the Parliament and the King would make the final decision. The Act quotes:
Where the name of any peer or prince is included in the report, then from and after the date of the presentation of the report to His Majesty- (a) The name of such person, if he be a peer, shall be struck out of the Peerage Roll16, and all rights of such peer to receive a writ of summons and to sit in the House of Lords or to take part in the election of representative peers shall cease and determine :(b) All privileges and all rights to any dignity or title, whether in respect of a peerage or under any Royal Warrant or Letters Patent, shall cease and determine (The Titles Deprivation Act of 1917, n.d.).
Lyon, A. (2000) observes that although the Act went into effect in November 1917, it was not until 28th March 1919 that the Privy Council presented the report with four names. They were:

  • His Royal Highness Leopold Charles, Duke of Albany, Earl of Clarence and Baron Arklow.

  • His Royal Highness Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, Earl of Armagh.

  • His Royal Highness Ernest Augustus (Duke of Brunswick), Prince of Great Britain and Ireland

  • Henry, Viscount Taaffe of Corren and Baron of Ballymote.

Even though their descendants were entitled to present a petition and appeal to have their peerage restored, no-one ever did. (Koenig, M., 2012).

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