#20: Aunty Ask

20.1  If you get the Sunday supplement magazine “Parade” with your paper, you may have seen last week’s “Ask Marilyn” column…if not, here it is…and I might mention that if you see facial hair drawn on Aunty Ask’s picture, your computer has definitely been hacked, because I would never do such a thing, not in a million years…


20.2  On the other hand, how time flies when you’re having fun. Should she have attempted to explain something as complex as Pedigree Collapse in the column space allotted? No. Does the woman who’s said to have the world’s highest IQ have to get cutesy with worlds like “gazillion”? Again, no. Should she have drawn a chart instead? No and double no, as you can see when I tried it, Chart 67. [Helpful household hint: if you click on a chart, you can see it bigger…print it out, even.]

chart 67

20.3  My problem with Aunty Ask, apart from when she gets things completely wrong, is that she doesn’t do a very good job explaining things. In this case, she is accurate, altho by its nature the topic is blindingly complicated, as Chart 67 demonstrates. And she might have further explained that “16 fourth-generation ancestral positions, filled by only the original eight people” applies to just one set of E generation siblings. In the normal course of events, all 4 sets would have 16 distinct individuals as 2C grandparents, for a total of 64 different people, whereas again here there are only 8. So this indeed is a valid, if unrealistically extreme, example of Pedigree Collapse…even the royal houses of Europe didn’t get quite this bad.

20.4  And since she doesn’t mention it, you might wonder if we’re dealing with interbreeding here? (That’s my latest euphemism for incest/inbreeding) Well, each of the 8 members of the B generation is a 1st cousin to 4 other B’s…and of the 4 B marriages, 2 are between 1st cousins. How does this impact the C generation? Just looking at the 4 males…2 are both 1C and double 2C to each of 2 others, and quadruple 2C to the 3rd. The other 2 are both 1C and double 2C to each of 2 others, double 2C to the 3rd, and double 2C to himself…since 2 of the C’s have parents who are 1C’s. That’s that’s just the C males! You’ve got the C females, plus the D’s and the E’s…perhaps someday I’ll write it all out…but today wasn’t the day…

20.5  Funny thing is, she didn’t have to do it with cousin marriages…for example, Ben/Bess, Bryce/Brooke, Blake/Bette, and Brad/Bea would all be non-cousin matches. In Chart 68, the 4 sibling pairs of the A generation are colored teal, yellow, gray and pink…thus 2 colors are passed on to each member of the B generation, making it easy to trace 1st cousins. By simply trading Ben and Blake’s places, you get 4 marriages, each with 4 different colors, hence no cousin marriages. She had Ben/Bette who are “pink” cousins, and Blake/Bess who are “yellow” cousins.

chart 68

20.6  Still, this doesn’t make B generation relationships any less complicated. The 2 C’s who were both 1C and double 2C to each of 2 others, double 2C to a 3rd, and double 2C to themselves remain unchanged. But the 2 who were both 1C and double 2C to each of 2 others, and quadruple 2C to the 3rd….are now double 1C to one, and quadruple 2C to each of the other 2. And if you think that’s an improvement, you’re a better man than I, sez me.

20.7  And not for nothing, but I don’t know where she gets that world population of 2.5 million for the “first calendar year.” Experts put the world population in 1 AD at between 150 and 300 million, and even in 10,000 BC, it was between 1 and 10 million. And your direct ancestors in 1 AD…2 to the 80th power for 25-year generations…would be a little over 1 septillion, that’s 1 followed by 24 zeros…a trillion trillions, considerably less than a gazillion, which is equal to a jillion zillions.


geek 1

20.8  In getting to the answer, we’ll correct a couple of errors. Your situation is illustrated in Chart 69. “…our children share the same great grandparents as each other.” Not really, no. As you can see, they share 4 great grandparents, the same 4 individuals that you and your double 1st cousin share as grandparents. But each has 4 other great grandparents they don’t share, so while you and your double cousins share all your grandparents, your children only share half their great grandparents.

chart 69

20.9  …they are closer than second cousins or first cousins once removed.” The CR for 2nd cousins is 1/32, and for double 2nd cousins, which is what your sons are, it’s 1/16…and that’s indeed closer than 2nd cousins…but only as close as, not closer to, 1st cousins once removed, which is half of 1/8 = 1/16 also.

20.10  So tell your children they are double 2nd cousins, which is to say, 2nd cousins thru 2 different sets of great grandparents…”single” 2nd cousins would be the descendants of just one pair of great grandparents. Your guess that they might be called “second double cousins” is wrong because “double cousins” is an informal term for having 2 different kinds of cousin relationships…what is called “irregular 2nd cousins.” It is used instead of a complicated explanation of the 2 different relationships, like “half 1st cousins on one side, 2nd cousins once removed on the other side.” If, as in our case, both cousin relationships are 2nd, then the double is not irregular, and the correct term would be “double 2nd cousins.”

20.11  Double cousins once removed” is wrong for the same reason, and also for a second reason: your 2 sons are of the same generation, not removed or separated by 1 generation.

geek 9

20.12  You’re right that you are double [1st] cousins…you’re also right on the CR…25% or 1/4 versus 12.5% or 1/8. But where you get the notion that double cousins implies incest, I don’t know. There is certainly none your case, Chart 70…no blood relatives have procreated with each other, that I can see.

chart 70

20.13  Now the opposite is true…interbreeding between relatives of the same generation does create some sort of double cousin relationship. For example, in Chart 71, if Abner and Zeke’s parents are siblings, then Abner and Zeke are, besides brothers, also double 1st cousins…this is because Abner’s father is the brother of Zeke’s mother…and Abner’s mother is the sister of Zeke’s father. That we’re talking about 2 people here instead of 4 doesn’t change that double 1st  ousin relationship.

20.14  And double cousinship implies a reduced variety in the individuals’ genetic heritage…shuffling with half a deck, as it were. The closer the relationship, the fewer genes you have to pick from…and the greater the risk you’ll get a bad one. For Abner and Zeke, it’s 1/2 + 1/4 = 3/4…half again as close as normal siblings.

20.15  Getting back to Chart 70, the worst that’s going on is in-laws marrying in-laws…cultural and religious views of this practice vary across the board, from forbidden to required, as in having to marry your dead brother’s widow in Bibical times. But in-laws aren’t generally blood relatives. So to answer your question as to what you could call yourselves, you have a problem…

20.16  Because saying “non-incestuous D1C” or “non-inbred D1C” or “D1C but not siblings” or even “D1C with different parents” might imply to the listener that you think he has as dirty a mind as you apparently do. On the other hand, it’s quite possible they won’t know what the heck you’re talking about….while people generally accept the notion that, for example, the children of siblings are “too closely related,” it’s unlikely they understand what that relationship technically is…i.e. siblings and double 1st cousins. So they may wonder why you’re bringing it up…is there fire where there’s smoke?

20.17  Another way you can say it is “parallel double 1st cousins,” since “parallel” applies to brothers of your bather and sisters of your mother….”cross” means brothers of your mother and sisters of father. These are anthropologists’ terms. But it’s most likely that people who understand “double cousins” do so because they have them in their family, and they don’t associate it with interbreeding, so don’t you either…well, try anyway…and we’ll catch you here again next week.

wicked tinker-toys…

wicked ballsy

This public service ad also appeared in last Sunday’s paper…looks like the old tinker-toys are catching on, nez pah?


Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved



#19: Both Sides Now

19.1  Kinship is a matter of perspective. From your point of view, you belong to an extended family…but extended families overlap…and some of the people in your extended family are related to everyone you are, others are not. Their extended family is not the same as yours. For example, you are related to everyone your father is related to…you are related to everyone your uncle and grandfather…not so with your cousins.

 19.2  In assembling a Family History, people tend to focus on one “side” at a time…mother’s or father’s.  But everyone has 2 lines of descent. Chart 59  considers both sides of your immediate family…and that of your 1st cousin, your father’s brother’s son.

chart 59

19.3   Here, individuals in the yellow area are relatives of yours, but not your cousin’s. Those in green are your cousin’s but not yours. The unshaded white middle are the relatives you share, the overlap. If one of your parents has siblings but the other does not, this might not be something you instinctively appreciate…that you are in the middle of your own family tree, but off to the side of someone else’s.

chart 60

 19.4  What we did with 1st cousins in Chart 59, we do with 2nd cousins in Chart 60.

chart 61

19.5  And again with 3rd cousins in Chart 61. This demonstrates dramatically how you and your 3rd cousin, blood relatives to be sure, are really affiliated with 2 different groups of people. In Chart 61 for example, you have 14 great great grandparents, the descendants, siblings, and cousins of which have nothing to do with your 3rd cousin…he in turn has 14 2G grandparents whose descendants, siblings, and cousins aren’t related to you. There is only one pair you are both related to. So while your 3rd cousin is in your family, his Christmas card list and yours are very different indeed. This is why he is a “distant” cousin, even if he lives in the next block.


19.6  We now continue to raid someone else’s mailbag. These are questions posed on a “cousin” page at wiseGeek,  here !#$% . I decided answering each and every one would provide useful real world examples of the connections and relationships people wonder about. You might also notice that my post there does not direct those readers to this blogI tried, but wiseGeek, in its, um, wisdom, does not allow the mention of specific links. We just have to hope these folks can find Related How Again? on their own. And if any of you do, drop me a line, why dontcha?

14 copy

19.7  This ties right in with what we’ve been talking about, and fancy that. And the answer is a definite maybe. Assuming, as we always will with these examples, that the relationships stated are the only ones that exist, the cousin of your cousin could be your cousin if on the same side of the family, as in Chart 62

chart 62

…or not if on the other side, as in Chart 63

chart 63

And in Chart 63 a son of a and b could legally marry a daughter of e and f, since they are not related. Then husband and wife would share a 1st cousin, nez pah? Cool…and completely non-inbred. Next, here’s a trickier one…

27 copy

 19.8  In this Tale of Four, the answer is again: it depends. The first step is to get a clear idea of who your half-sister’s half-sister is in the first place. Now the wording of your question suggests that Chart 64a  is NOT what’s going on, but it is a real possibility nonetheless…your full sister is obviously a half-sister to anyone you’re a half-sister to, and your full sister’s cousin is your cousin. More likely your case is represented by one of the next 2 charts.

chart 64

19.9  In Chart 64b, you will notice that c is the mother of 3 girls, each by a different father, a, b, and d. So in this case, you are a half-sister to your half-sister’s half-sister.

 19.10  But in Chart 64c, the opposite is true…you are of no relation to your half-sister’s half-sister. So how do you stand relative to your best friend, who is your half-sister’s half-sister’s cousin?

 19.11  In the unlikely case of 64a, as we have seen, you are your best friend’s 1st cousin. In the more likely case of 64b, if your best friend is a cousin thru a sibling of c, you are again 1st cousins…if thru a sibling of d, then nothing, unless d and a (your father) are siblings. And in 64c, the likely answer is again no relation, unless there is a relation between your father a and either c or d. But check out Chart 65.

chart 65

19.12  Here your best friend is the green circle filled with pink and labeled “cousin”…she is a 1st cousin to your half-sister’s half-sister since d and e are siblings…but she is also your 1st cousin, since her mother f is the sister of your father a…and this is despite the fact that you are not related in any way to her cousin on the other side, your half-sister’s half-sister. And if you saw that coming, in light of today’s general theme, I’m very proud of YOU. Gold Star, my friend. Next week, more answers the wiseGeek crew can’t see but you can…ciao for nao…

wicked ballsy

chart 66

Chart 66  presents a tag-team arrangement that is unusual, but I wouldn’t suggest it’s never happened. In this foursome, each girl has 2 half-sisters, one thru her mother and one thru her father…and for each, there is one girl who is of no relation at all. So if you take any 2, and ask Are X and Y half-sisters?, the answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no. But if you take any 3 of them, what happens? For any threesome, there will be an X with 2 half-sisters in that group, and a Y and a Z with one each. But would it be true to say that collectively the trio of X, Y, and Z are half-sisters? The answer surely is No…but you have to think about it…it seems like they just miss, doesn’t it?


Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved




#18: C-C-C-Cousins

18.1  Last week’s puzzle was to construct a Parental Tree where Abner was 1st cousin once removed to Zeke, and 2nd cousin to Zeke’s mother. The challenge is this: Usually the mother of your 1C 1R is your 1st cousin…which is the whole point of the removed…and that’s descending. The mother of your 1C 1R ascending (i.e. the mother of your father’s 1st cousin) would be your father’s aunt, or your grand aunt. But in this case it’s neither…it’s your 2nd cousin.

18.2  Here’s my first stab at it. In Chart 54a, Abner’s mother e is shown in 2 different places, hence the shading. This is because on the one hand she is a presumed contemporary of Abner’s father h, hence next to him…but at the same time she is the 1st cousin of f, who is h‘s grandfather, so she’s opposite him as well. In Chart 54b, I’ve settled on one spot for e, and flipped her line of descent around to the other side…such is the art behind the science of these diagrams…whatever floats your boat.

chart 54

18.3  Let’s check it: at the top, c and d are siblings. Their children e and f are thus 1st cousins…and their children Abner and Zeke’s Mom are 2nd cousins…that checks. Zeke’s Mom is also a sibling of g…so their children h and Zeke are 1st cousins, and h‘s son Abner is Zeke‘s 1st cousin once removed, so that checks.

18.4  This is how it came out when I first sketched it, and as we’ve seen, it works. Obviously there is a bit of in-breeding, with e marrying h, who is her 1C 2R. Their Coefficient of Relationship is equal to that of 2nd cousins…completely legal virtually everywhere in the world, altho not kosher in some religions, which is what got Rudy Giuliani in dutch…his first marriage was annulled when it was discovered they were 2nd cousins, not 3rd cousins as they claimed they’d supposed. No comment, sez me.

18.5  But in the statement of the puzzle, what we really have are 2 people related to each other in 2 different ways…and that should also be possible in a non-inbred way, since everyone usually has 2 unrelated sides to their family. Thus Abner and Zeke can be 1C 1R on one side, and 2C 1R (which is the same as Abner being Zeke’s mother’s 2nd cousin) on the other, and that’s what we’ve done in Chart 55…again with 2 variations, e being in 2 places in 55a…then around to the other side and in just one place in 55b. And notice that while in Chart 54 everyone is related, in Chart 55 there are 2 families involved, the 2nd family is in yellow: f, h, i, and j.

chaRT 55

18.6   So…c and d are siblings, e and g are 1st cousins, thus Abner is 2nd cousin to Zeke’s Mom…check. And thru Zeke’s father i and uncle h, Zeke is 1st cousin to j, and 1C 1R to j‘s son Abner…double-check. And here there is no in-breeding…the 2 relationships stated in the puzzle are done separately thru Zeke’s materna and paternal sides.

18.7  And while I’m not prepared at this time to say that any 2 relationships between 2 individuals are possible…in both inbred and non-inbred trees…it’s beginning to look that way, you know?

18.8  Now the inspiration for this puzzle was a so-called expert’s pronouncement that William and Kate were 14th cousins once removed, and that Kate was a 15th cousin of the Queen herself. This is certainly wrong…but to frame the puzzle, I took 14C 1R and 15C…and reduced them to 1C 1R and 2C. But you might have noticed that I also changed the relationship from Grandmother (QEII to William) to mother. Chart 56 does it with Abner and Zeke, and with mother changed back to grandmother, both inbred and not.

chaRT 56

18.9  The right side, the interbred side, offers an excellent opportunity to figure the various relationships…for example: Zeke’s grandma is Abner’s great grandma. Abner is 2nd cousin to his own great grandma. Since Abner’s 2nd cousin’s great grandchild is himself, he is his own 2nd cousin 3 times removed. What’s more, since Abner’s mother married her 1st cousin 3 times removed, Abner is his own mother’s 1st cousin 4 times removed.

18.10  On the left side, all that was needed was for Abner’s mother to marry her 1st cousin twice removed’s wife’s nephew…which is to say her 1st cousin twice removed’s brother-in-law’s son. That was easy.


18.11 For the next several weeks I thought we’d raid somebody else’s mailbag and answer some questions I found on a website called wiseGeek, here @#$%. This lady attempted, not entirely successfully it turns out, to explain how Cousins are determined, and generated a bunch of personal examples that needed sorting out. Only a couple were addressed by other posters, so let’s dive right in…

chart 57

18.12 Queries 13, 24, and 26 all amount to the same thing, so I’ve grouped them together.


<24>  Here your girlfriend’s great grandmother Doris is your father’s aunt, hence your grand aunt….making you 2nd cousin to your girlfriend’s father, and 2nd cousin once removed to her. Can you marry? Absolutely…I am unaware of any jurisdiction outside of religious that prohibits 2nd cousins from marrying, and you guys are only half as related as 2nd cousins would be, so go for it!

26 13

18.13   <26> is the same kinship relationship as <24>, just said in a different way. Your grandmother I’ve named Lola, and her aunt is your boyfriend’s grandmother Doris, so again you guys are 2C 1R.  And <13>  describes the same relationship in yet another way. OK, so as you can see, Dom…you and Tim are 2C 1R, since Tim and your mom are 2nd cousins. Moral of the story: there are many ways to get from there to here on a Family Tree.

ques 15

18.14  Sure enough, <15> comes out with the same answer, 2nd cousins once removed. As you can see in Chart 58, Lola and your grandmother Doris are 1st cousins…Doris’ son (your father) and Lola’s children are 2nd cousins…and Lola’s children are to you 2C 1R. So, OK, the kids are related to you in some way…like you said, like.

chart 58

18.15  One point worth emphasizing is the way in which cousins differ from fathers and uncles: If someone is a blood relative of your father or your uncle, he is a blood relative of yours. But this is not necessarily the case for cousins, since cousins have relatives on the “other” side of their family, the side not related to your side. Of course your cousin’s “other” cousins could be related to you, then you’d have some sort of Double Cousin relationship.

18.17  Another way to put this: you are automatically related to both sides of your father’s family…and your uncle’s…and your grandfather’s…but not necessarily to both sides of your cousin’s family, or your nephew’s for that matter. In fact, I’ve got some charts already done showing just what this looks like, and I’m dying to use them next week…so I believe I will, same time, same blog…


Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#17: More Royals!

17.1  I’m doing more on the Royals…it’s such a fine way to flex your kinshipological muscles. Last week we saw how Elizabeth and Philip are 2nd cousins once removed, as well as 3rd cousins, 4th cousins, 4th cousins once removed, and double 5th cousins. They are certainly related in other more distant ways, that supposition being bolstered by the news that William and Kate themselves are related! Should have guessed.

17.2  How do you determine how distant cousins are, if you know all the ancestors involved? You can only be cousins if you share a common ancestor, we’ll call your CA. To simplify matters, we’ll treat that single CA as if it were a married (or at least mating) pair…if it really were just a single CA, you’d be talking about half-relations.  And to start with, let’s assume that you and your cousin are of the same generation…you are numbered cousins, with no removeds…so there are the same number of steps to the CA for each of you. The first thing you do is make a list of your direct line, starting with the CA, all the way down to you. At this point there are various ways to count.

17.3  You can count everyone in the list, including yourself and your CA, which would be counting the generations. You can count everyone except yourself, the steps up from you to your CA…or alternately, you can count everyone except your CA, the steps down from him to you. Or you can count everyone except yourself and the CA, the individuals in between.This last way gives you the exact number of your cousinhood. But unless you’re going to do this a lot, you really don’t need to have a predetermined system in mind. The casual observer can devise an ad hoc system by reflecting on the simplest cousin relationship, that of 1st cousins.

17.4  For 1st cousins, your list has just 3 people: you, your father and your grandfather. From your perspective, your cousin’s list has your cousin, your uncle, and your mutual grandfather. That’s 3 Generations for 1st cousins…so the cousin number is the total number people on your list minus 2. And this will work for any list, no matter how long. It even works for siblings taken as 0th cousins…2 – 2 = 0.

17.5  We’ve been assuming that you and your cousin are of the same generation, but it’s possible you’re of the same general age, but of different generations, and that in fact is the case for William and Kate. Here are their lists…

william and katey

17.6  As you can see, hers has a total of 14 names, his has 15. The rule is: The shorter list determines the number of the cousinhood. In their case, that would be hers with 14…so 14 – 2 = 12, giving you 12th cousins. Now from William’s list, Kate is a 12th cousin to his mother Princess Di. William is down one from Diana, so he and Kate are 12th cousins once removed. Had his list been 16 instead of 15, it would be twice removed…17, 3 times removed…see how it works?

17.7  But exactly how closely related are they, for practical purposes, genetically? To simplify slightly, if William and Kate were 12th cousins, each would have 8,192 11G grandparents…and of those 16,384 ancestors, the number they’d both be related to would be…2. But that’s only if all 16,384 slots were filled by separate individuals, which due to the phenomenon of Pedigree Collapse, they almost certainly wouldn’t be. Still, you can see how insignificant the shared genetic legacy between the newlyweds is likely to be.

17.8  Here’s a puzzle to work on for next week. One so-called expert declared that William and Kate were 14th cousins once removed. I suspect he simply misspoke, and meant to say 12th instead of 14th. But then he added that Kate was the Queen’s (William’s grandmother’s) 15th cousin! Huh? Shrinking down such a relationship to the simplest case, can you construct a Parental Tree where Abner is 1st cousin once removed to Zeke…and also 2nd cousin to Zeke’s mother? I’ll try it too, we’ll see what we come up with…


17.9  Dear Stolf: So do the Royals have a last name?…from Buster in Budapest…

17.10  Dear Buster: Short answer: yes, with a long explanation…because it’s a complex subject. Even the Official Webpage of the British Monarchy is confusing and contradictory in addressing this issue. Here’s the story as far as I can piece it together.

17.11  Up until 1917, the Royal Family had no surname as such. Traditionally, European monarchs were known by their Christian or given name, and the domain over which they ruled, thus Leopold of Ruritania. An extended family or clan would be identified by a hereditary name, usually termed a House. So if Leopold belonged to the House of Krelman, he would be called Leopold of Krelman, or simply Leopold Krelman. Houses were formed, splintered, died out…thus a single House might have many branches, so one would have a choice of which specific branch, itself deemed a House, to be principally identified with. See? Not exactly the way we use surnames.

17.12  With the Brits, the Royal House changed when rival branches of the family attained the throne…you’ve heard of the Tudors, Stuarts, Yorks, Lancasters, etc. This is because a male Sovereign decides what the Royal House will be during his reign. By tradition, he took his father’s house, as we take the surname of our father. But he wasn’t bound by this, and depending on the politics of the day, he could change it, especially if the previous King had not been his father, but for example his uncle. On the other hand, if the Sovereign was a woman, the Royal House traditionally would become that of her husband, despite the fact that he wasn’t the Sovereign, and for our purposes, this is relevant to Victoria and Elizabeth II.

17.13  Queen Victoria was born Alexandrina Victoria [House of] Hanover. This House originated with her grandfather George III and was also known in Britain as the House of Guelph, an anglicized form of the name Welf, the ruling family of the German state of Hanover. Throughout her life, Victoria used Guelph as if it were her surname, altho technically she didn’t have one, or even need one. When she married Albert [House of] Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, she did not take that as her surname, nor did she take Wettin, which was the ancient Germanic House of which Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was a then recent cadet branch, having been formed in the 1820s….Victoria and Albert were married in 1840.

17.14   In this context, “cadet” refers to any son except the oldest. When it was custom that the first son stood to inherit the bulk of a House’s wealth and titles, younger sons sometimes, but not always, formed their own branches, while still falling under the auspices of the parent House. So while the offspring of Victoria and Albert chose Wettin as their putative surname, the Royal House was now known as the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

17.15  Confused? It can be summarized this way…neither Albert nor Victoria had true surnames. When they were identified by more than just their Christian names, the proper usage was the name of their House, with or without the “of”…Saxe-Coburg-Gotha for him, Hanover for her. When an actual surname was called for, there was as yet no formal standards…so he chose Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, she preferred Guelph, and the kids were Wettins.

 17.16   Queen Victoria was succeeded by her son Edward VII in 1902, and her Grandson George V in 1910…both unofficially surnamed Wettin…and the Royal House remained the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. But the idea that in the modern age even the Royals needed an official surname was gaining traction. Then World War I came along, and in 1917, along with his renunciation of his German titles and holdings, Edward decreed that henceforth both the name of the Royal House and the Royal family’s legal surname would be Windsor, the name of their principle castle of residence. In fact, this applied to all descendants in the male line of Victoria except for married females and those who were not British subjects…thus many who had considered themselves Wettins or Saxe-Coburg-Gothas were now Windsors.

17.17  That’s the Cliff Notes version…there are deeper…or perhaps “fussier”…issues concerning the Royal House and the Royal Family, which I intend to address at some point. But now we move on to the fascinating second part of the story.


17.18  Prince Philip was born on the Greek island of Corfu as Philippos [of] Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, a member of the Royal Houses of both Greece and Denmark, altho his family was exiled from Greece when he was a child. In order to marry Elizabeth in 1947, he had to become a naturalized British citizen, and his original choice of a surname was Oldcastle, from Oldenburg, the German name of the Herzogs from whom his Father’s Danish ancestors were descended. All and sundry prevailed upon him to go instead with Mountbatten, an Anglicized version of his Mother’s maiden name Battenberg. “Sounds more British” was the consensus, and we’ll have to take their word for it.

17.19  By tradition, the offspring of Elizabeth and Philip would have been Mountbattens…that would have become the Royal House…and  Philip’s family anticipated this with relish. But…Elizabeth’s grandmother Queen Mary [of Teck] prevailed upon Prime Minister Winston Churchill to intercede in favor of retaining Windsor, and that was what came to pass…in 1952 Elizabeth declared that they would instead remain Windsors. This order was modified in 1960 to allow those descendants not bearing a royal title to use the surname Mountbatten-Windsor. This was done because she and Philip wished to distinguish their direct descendants from other Windsors, without going so far as to change the name of the Royal House.

17.20  It’s worth mentioning that this modification came several years after the death of Queen Mary…and the resignation of Churchill. It was no doubt also done to assuage Philip, who had complained: “I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children. I am nothing but a bloody amoeba.” Such is life backstairs at Buckingham Palace.


17.21  It’s also interesting to note that what they essentially did was create a cadet branch, that of Mountbatten-Windor, of the Philip’s hereditary House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, itself a branch of the House of Oldenberg. This did not impact the House of Windsor per se…for example, descendants of Elizabeth’s sister Princess Margaret remain Windsors, as does for that matter the Queen herself. Topic for discussion: If and when Charles becomes King, will he establish the House of Mountbatten-Windsor as the Royal House. I’m guessing not, but who knows?

17.22   So here’s how things stand today: Princes Charles, Andrew, and Edward (and their sister Princess Anne before she was married) are legally surnamed Windsor…they are not covered by the 1960 modification since they have royal titles: they are styled HRM, His/Her Royal Majesty. In practice however, they all use Mountbatten-Windsor in deference to their father. Less formally, they can use their hereditary titles of nobility as surnames, thus Charles [Prince of] Wales, Andrew [Duke of] York, and Edward [Earl of] Wessex. As for the next generation…both William and Harry currently use the surname Wales. So much for What’s in a name?

17.23  BTW… here’s a mnemonic to remember the ranks of the peerage: Do Men Ever Visit Boston? which stands for Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, and Baron.

Wicked Ballsy


The first flag (after 17.17)  is Philip’s personal “standard”…the second (after 17.20) is the Queen’s…and to give you an idea how complicated these Royal Banners can get, here’s one of a Queen consort from the 1800s. Did they get everyone in the “photo,” I wonder?


Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved