Who were the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas?

Prince Albert's marriage to Queen Victoria was responsible for introducing multiple hyphens to the British monarchy.

Who were the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas? © Wikimedia Commons

Until the 1870s, the realm we now call Germany comprised dozens of mini-states. In Saxony, the lands of dead nobles were split between brothers, rather than simply being inherited by the firstborn.

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Resulting territories included the large Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach plus smaller duchies of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Hildburghausen and Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

Prince Albert, the most famous member of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, was born a Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. His great-uncle’s death in 1825 led to a baffling swapping of lands, creating four large Saxon states.

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When Gotha-Altenberg became an extinct line, Gotha was exchanged for Saalfeld. So when Prince Albert married Queen Victoria in 1840, ‘Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’ became the house of the British monarchy. There you have it, but why they couldn’t pick a simpler moniker is anyone’s guess.

This article was first published in the April 2015 issue of History Revealed and answered by one of our Q&A experts, Greg Jenner.