Allegiances beyond Borders: South Australia’s journey from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor


Bruce Baskerville gives a taste of his paper at the recent Australian Historical Association conference in Newcastle. The presentation was based on part of chapter three in his 80,000 word PhD thesis, so giving just a 20-minute talk was a challenge. As one speaker at the conference noted ‘constraint is enabling’, in other words, a field of research needs to be bounded in order to keep it achievable. The actual paper, with illustrations, will be published on Bruce’s HistoryMatrix blog on 17 July 2017, the centenary of the proclamation of the House of Windsor.

 A century ago the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha dynasty in Britain became the Windsors.  This was much more than a name change. It capped a series of ‘de-Germanising’ or ‘de-Europeanising’ tactics by George V during the Great War. King George wanted to strategically reposition his dynasty and its future as fundamentally British. The change drew upon, and consciously projected, stories and traditions of a mythologised ancient past of ‘Anglo’ and ‘Celtic’ mixing or fusing to create a new and uniquely ‘Briton’ dynasty with shared genealogical and emotional links to every British community in the world.

South Australia was one of those British communities. The dynastic strategy both mirrored and was interlinked with responses to a vicious anti-German campaign in that state from 1915 to 1918. Between 1.5 and 4 per cent of South Australians shared some degree of German heritage. The campaign to demonise, exclude and contain them was visceral and relentless.  It was also, measured by its own objectives, perhaps the most successful such campaign in the Empire. Like the dynastic name change, the mass ‘toponymic cleansing’ of German place names in South Australia reached its fruition in 1917.

But, like the king, the opponents of South Australia’s anti-Germanists drew upon a mythologised traditionalism of what they called ‘admixture’ in response to anti-German ‘racialism’.  All sides invoked the dynasty and its supposed histories in support of their claims and counter-claims.  Eventually, a re-imagined and newly-traditional royal family emerged, transformed for the cultural needs of modern South Australia. To read more on this transformation, see Bruce’s post on his HistoryMatrix blog.

Bruce Baskerville’s recently completed University of Sydney PhD thesis is titled The Chrysalid Crown: An un-national history of the Crown in Australia 1808-1986, and is accessible online through Sydney University’s library catalogue.

For more on the AHA conference see Yvonne Perkins’ blog: Stumbling Through the Past.





1 thought on “Allegiances beyond Borders: South Australia’s journey from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor”

  1. Bruce’s paper was entertaining, informative and precise. Along with a bunch of other PHA members, Bruce demonstrated the way public/professional historians can bring new perspectives to historical questions. Great work Bruce.

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