Why You'll Never Hear Queen Elizabeth's Last Name

Whenever the topic of the queen comes up, you really never need to clarify which Queen Elizabeth you are talking about. Like Beyoncé or Cher, some people are instantly recognizable with just a first name. Queen Elizabeth does not typically use a last name, basically because she doesn't need one — but it's not only because she is a famous public figure. Like pretty much all things royal, there are more complicated rules and traditions that influence the monikers of the royal family.

According to Time, members of the royal family are not usually referred to by their surnames, but by their house and title. Before 1917, the royal family did not use surnames at all. Instead, they used the royal house or dynasty to which they belonged, according to the royal family website. And although they now can be known by their house or their surname, these names are often not the same.

Members of the royal family take their surnames from their father's house

So Queen Elizabeth, of the House of Windsor, would be known as Queen Elizabeth Windsor. However, after marrying her husband, Prince Philip, who took on the name Philip Mountbatten once he became a naturalized British citizen, the Queen decided to differentiate her heirs from the rest of the Windsor line. Thereafter, her children would be known as the Mountbatten-Windsors.

However, to complicate matters even further, royalty can also take on the house of their father as a surname. So, while Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth's son, may be known as Charles Mountbatten-Windsor, his children may go by William Wales and Harry Wales, after their father's official title, Prince of Wales, according to Time. Young Prince George, the son of Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, is known as Prince George of Cambridge, or simply George Cambridge. Their spouses, although they also have official titles, are generally referred to by their maiden names with the royal title added — as in Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.

So with all the complicated rules surrounding names, titles, and houses, it might just be easier overall to refer to members of the royal family by only their first names. After all, it's not likely that the queen will get confused with the other Queen Elizabeth II.