British Royal Family is the group of close relatives of the monarch of the United Kingdom. The term is also commonly applied to the same group of people as the relations of the monarch in her or his role as sovereign of any of the other Commonwealth realms, thus sometimes at variance with official national terms for the family. Members of the royal family belong to, either by birth or marriage, the House of Windsor, since 1917, when George V changed the name of the royal house from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. This decision was primarily taken because Britain and her Empire were at war with Germany and given the British Royal Family's strong German ancestry, it was felt that its public image could be improved by choosing a more British house name. It is interesting to note that the name of the aircraft which bombed London and south-east England at this time were Gotha bombers. The new name chosen, Windsor, had absolutely no connection other than as the name of the castle which was and continues to be a royal residence.
Although in the United Kingdom there is no strict legal or formal definition of who is or is not a member of the Royal Family, and different lists will include different people, those carrying the style Her or His Majesty (HM), or Her or His Royal Highness (HRH) are always considered members, which usually results in the application of the term to the monarch, the consort of the monarch, the widowed consorts of previous monarchs, the children of the monarch and previous monarchs, the male-line grandchildren of the monarch and previous monarchs, and the spouses and the widows of a monarch's and previous monarch's sons and male-line grandsons.
VAdm Tim Laurence (The Princess Royal's second and current husband)
Mr & Mrs Peter Phillips (The Princess Royal's son by Mark Phillips, and his wife, to whom the Queen's first great-grandchild, a daughter was born on 29 December 2010, named Savannah)
Miss Zara Phillips, MBE (The Princess Royal's daughter by Mark Phillips) & Mike Tindall, her fiancé
The following persons are descendants (or widows) of the younger children of Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, and King George V:
The Earl of Harewood (grandson and first grandchild of George V through his daughter Mary, Princess Royal), his second wife, and his children, and grandchildren, as well as the children and grandchildren of his now deceased brother, Gerald Lascelles.
The Duke of Fife (female-line great-grandson of Edward VII) and his children and grandchildren
The Lady Saltoun (widow of Alexander Ramsay of Mar, a female-line grandson of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, the third son of Queen Victoria), and her children and grandchildren
The Marquess of Milford Haven, grandson of George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, and great-grandson of HGDH Princess Victoria, eldest daughter of HRH The Princess Alice The Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine, 2nd daughter of HM Queen Victoria, and his family
The Countess Mountbatten of Burma (elder daughter of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, youngest son of HGDH Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine) and her family
The Earl of Harewood is a female-line first cousin of the Queen. The Duke of Fife, the Marquess of Milford Haven, the Countess Mountbatten of Burma, and the Lady Saltoun, and their respective families, as well as Lord Harewood's descendants, are so distant from the reigning Sovereign that they are relatives of, rather than members of, the Royal Family.
None of these persons receive any money from the State or undertake official engagements on behalf of the Queen. However, the Queen does invite them to private family functions and to participate in official royal occasions, such as the Trooping the Colour, the Golden Jubilee celebrations, and ceremonial or state funerals.
There are three living former spouses of members of the British Royal Family:
Sarah, Duchess of York (the former wife of The Duke of York),
Captain Mark Phillips (the first husband of The Princess Royal), and
Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon (the former husband of Princess Margaret).
Recently deceased members of the Royal Family include:
HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother (widow of King George VI and mother of The Queen)
HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon (sister of The Queen)
HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester (widow of Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and mother to the present Duke of Gloucester)
The Prince of Wales' first wife, Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in 1997. They had divorced in 1996. She lost the HRH title but was allowed the style "Princess of Wales" and remained a member of the Royal Family to reflect the fact she was the mother of the second and third in line to the throne, Princes William and Harry.
Members of the Royal Family participate in hundreds of public engagements yearly throughout the whole of the entire United Kingdom, as formally recorded in the Court Circular, to honour, encourage and learn about the achievements or endeavours of individuals, institutions and enterprises in a variety of areas of life. As representatives of the Queen, they often also join the nation in commemorating historical events, holidays, celebratory and tragic occurrences, and may also sponsor or participate in numerous charitable, cultural and social activities. Their travels abroad on behalf of the UK (called State Visits when the sovereign officially meets with other heads of state) draw public attention to amicable relations within and between the Commonwealth and other nations, to British goods and trade, and to Britain as a historical, vacation, and tourist destination. Their presence, activities and traditional roles constitute the apex of a modern "royal court," and provide a distinctly British and historical pageantry to ceremonies (e.g. Trooping the Colour) and flavour to public events (e.g. Garden Parties, Ascot). Throughout their lives they draw enormous media coverage in the form of photographic, written and televised commentary on their activities, family relationships, rites of passage, personalities, attire, behaviour, and public roles. Senior members of the royal family often drive themselves instead of having a driver.