The Name Of The Beast

I’m surprised when strong, independent women adopt their husbands’ surnames on marriage. To me, marriage should be a partnership of equals, and abandoning your name seems unnecessarily submissive, especially when it’s not legally or socially required. In fact, Brits and Americans seem unaware that it’s a custom largely restricted to English-speaking countries anyway. Across Europe, for example, look at the label on any doorbell, and both partners’ full names will be there, regardless of whether they’re married or not.

Occasionally, couples decide to combine or double-barrel their surnames, although the latter is more of a middle-class affectation. For actual aristos, it’s always clear which partner has the “nobler” family name, so the question of choice or combination is automatically decided, and it’s not unknown for husbands to adopt their wife’s surname if it’s a “better” one.

guillotineThe British monarchy could try to demonstrate a modern, egalitarian approach if Prince William adopted his wife’s surname on marriage. “Bill Middleton”. There’s a solid, respectable sound to it. Bill Middleton could be a bank manager or a grocer. Not a vacuous parasite.

Or failing that, how about reviving his family’s actual surname of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha? Surely the anti-German sentiment of 1917 which led George V to abandon it is long gone. “Windsor” was chosen merely on geographic grounds. It could just as easily have been “Ascot”, or “Bracknell”, or “Staines”.

No, I don’t really expect Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to ever re-emerge. That would be a reminder that the “heritage” and origins of the family are from a pan-European group of related individuals — royalty and former royalty (and probably lizards) — and very little to do with Britain’s history or its people.

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