William. Harry. Kate. Meghan.
Even the most casual royal watchers recognize those four as members (or almost-members) of the royal family. They’re so famous throughout the world that we don’t really need to refer to them by their last names.
But wait: What is the royal family last name?
It depends on who you ask.
The lowdown on the royal family last name
Technically, they don’t have to have one — “His Royal Highness Prince” or “Her Royal Highness Princess” is enough.
According to the official royal website, “members of the Royal Family can be known both by the name of the Royal house” like House of York and “by a surname, which are not always the same. And often they do not use a surname at all.”
And royals didn’t even have a last name at all until 1917. King George V decided to change the house name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha — from German origin — to Windsor — after a royal property — to put some distance between them and the anti-German sentiment that began during World War I.
The royal family last name remained as Windsor until 1960 when Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip added Mountbatten to it, creating the hyphenated Mountbatten-Windsor (Mountbatten is Prince Philip’s given last name).
Why Prince William and Prince Harry use different last names
Prince William and Prince Harry are fine to just sign their first names on official royal documents, but they did adopt a royal family last name during their military service — Wales, after their father, Prince Charles of Wales.
William’s wife is often referred to by her maiden name, Kate Middleton, but her official title is Duchess of Cambridge — and William’s title is Duke of Cambridge, meaning they could technically use Cambridge as their last name if they wanted to.
And as for Meghan Markle’s last name when she marries Harry on May 19? She can also use Wales or Windsor, or go by whatever title is bestowed on the couple (bets are on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex or the Duke and Duchess of Connaught).
The bottom line on the royal family last name
Basically, it seems like the royal family can do whatever they want when it comes to their last names. We’ll continue to only worry about what they’ll name the newest royal baby.