Lord Louis Mounbatten of Burma (1900-79)

Figure 1.--This was Dickie's first in a long series of sailor suits which I assume means that he was just breeched. He wears a kneepants sailor suit with liong stockings and I think strap shoes. He is pictured with a favorite teddy. The photograph was taken on the balcony of the family home at 70 Cadogan Square in London. He looks to be about 4 or 5 uears old so it would have been 1904-05.

The youngest child of Prince Louis proved to be the most famous. He was quite a bit younger than his brothers and sisters and thus grew up in relative isolation. He was a very active child. Given his connections with the Russian, British, and Hessian royal families. Queen Victoria was at his chritening and he was on familiar terms ith King Edward VII and King George V and Tsar Nucholas II and their families. From an early age he was interested in the navy and pursued a naval carer. Battenberg was supposed to sound to Teutonic for the anti-German British public following World War I. Thus the family name was changed to the more British sounding Mountbatten. Mountbatten had an illustrious World War II career. He was very close to Prince Charles who found it difficult to speak with his father Prince Philip. He was killed by Irish terrorists in 19??.


The Battenberg family was descended from Grand Duke Louis II of Hesse through a morganatic marriage. This is reflected in Lord Mountbatten's arms.

Father--Prince Louis

The eldest son of Prince Alexander of Hesse was thorougly German, but spoke excellent English even as a child. The royal families of Britian and Hesse were constant visitors to each other's court. This was especially the case when Princess Alice mairred Louis IV. Louis was a serious, studious boy. He had one surprising interest and that was to become a sailor. Hessians had always been soldiers and of course had no navy. Germany at the time had no navy and was not yet even united. His father disapproved of the idea. Louis insisted and so at the age of 14 left Hesse for England in 1868. He was supported by Queen Victoria's son Prince Alfred who had pursued a naval career. Louis with his foreign accent had a hard time in cadet school, but made a very successful naval career--even being appointed captain pf Dreadnought, the most powerful ship of its day. Louis, mairred Princess Victoria Alberta of Hesse in 1884. She was the daughter of Louis IV of Hesse and Princess Alice. During World War I, Louis had to resign from the navy because of anti-German sentiment. Louis was Lord Mountbatten's father.


Louis mother was Princess Victoria Alberta of Hesse in 1884. She was the daughter of Louis IV of Hesse and Princess Alice. The Grand Duke Louis IV was not pleased because of the loyly rank of Prince Louis' mother. Louis had an ally, however, Queen Victoria, and the matter was settled. The Princess was a strong-willed girl who as a child had been a tomboy. She had a keen intelligence and did not hesitate to speak her mind. She also was exposed to Prince Wilhem (furure Wilhelm II) at an early age as he would often visit the family while a university student. The Princess had the misfortune of losing her mother at a young age. She appears to have been the perfect match to her often rather formal husband.


Louis had three older brothers and sisters.

Princess Alice (1885-1969)

Dicky's eldest sister Alice was 15 years older than him. She mairred Prince Andrew of Greece and was the mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The royal family was rescued by the British Royal Navy after a military coup in 1922.

Princess Louise Alexandra (1889- )

Louise, the future Queen of Sweden, was 11 years older than Dicky.

Figure 2.--In some ways Dickie led a very ordinary life of the son of a naval officer. Here he is with his father and brother Georgie who follow in his father's foot steps Osbourne. Dickie's attention is focused on something at the side. The photograph was taken on "HMS Drake" at Gibraltar. Georgie looks to be about 6 years old which means this would have been about 1906.

George, Marquess of Milford Haven (1892- )

Closest in age to Dickie was his brother Georgie who was still 8 years older than him. Dicky loved and admired his older brother. George was offered the British sounding title of Arquess of Milforhaven at the end of World War I in order to obfuscate the German sounding Battenburg.


The youngest child of Prince Louis proved to be the most famous. His childhood began with a bang. He was born at Frogmore House on the Windsor Castle grounds. He reprtedly arrived kicking and screeming. Queen Victoria took a great interest in her great-grand so and wanted him to have both her name and that of her beloved Albert. The baby was this named Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas. As a child he was at fitst called Nicky, but this confused his Russian relatives, many who were called Nickie, so he soon became known as Dickie, a name he used for the rest of his life. His godmother held him at his christening at Windsor shortly after his birth on the June 25, 1900. Indeed, she had described him as a beautiful, large child. He promptly knocked her spectacles off her nose. Not to many babys started out like that.


Dickie was quite a bit younger than his brothers and sisters and thus grew up in relative isolation. Even so by all accounts he had a happy childhood. He was a very active child.


Dicky loved animals and had many pets. A lot of his childhood memmories are associated with these pets. One of the first was a canary when he was about 3 years old. He used to say that the first real sorrow he remembered was one day when he was running with the much-loved little canary in his hand he tripped and fell, squashing the poor little bird to death. A bit later he was given a lamb called Millie, who of course grew into a sheep with a mind of her own. He would take her out in a collar and lead and when he'd try to pull her one way she would pull the other way and start choking. He devised a method of preventing this by tying the lead round the top of her leg. However, if he pulled hard she she pretended to choke in order to stop him.

Later on he had more exotic pets such as bush babies, the tiny, furry, squirrel-like animals which jump the most fantastic distances. He had one that used to accompany him when he was living aboard ship. But very sadly, a much loved one, when jumping around one night (they are nocturnal creatures) fell into the lavatory and was drowned. There was great sorrow.


Many of Dickie's earlist memories are assiciated with Ellen Hughes, a Welsh nurse. He caled her Ennen because he couldn't pronounce the "ll"s. She traveled with the family and fell in love while the family was on one of the many stays in the estate at Heiligenberg Castle. Dickie attended the wedding with a pet rabbit in tow.

Next came with Sophie Becht who Dickie adored.

Nona Kerr also played an important role in Dickie's life. She was in fact his mother's lady in waiting, hired in 1897. The daughter of an admiral, she became an imprtant part of the family. She was patient and generous, but quite capable of standing up to Dickie's parents when need be. Nona was an important point of security for the young Dickie.


Next, when he was living in Kent at the age of ten, in 1910, a pilot friend of the family took him up in one of those terrifying old biplanes, or "stringbags" as they were called. I think it was an S-27, which you now see only in a very specialized aircraft museum. There was no protection for the pilot, who merely had a seat on the bare struts, and certainly no place for a passenger. However, he sat on the petrol can behind the pilot with his legs over the pilot's shoulders, clinging to the aircraft's struts. He did say that you had to be careful not to be blown off by the wind. I think the really brave person was my grandmother to let him go.

Family Life

The Battenburg/Mountbattens were a very close and loving family. In many ways they lived a fairly simple life as a Royal Navy family, following the flag. However they were by no means an ordinary nval family. Ther were exciting holidays on the continent to visit all their relations among the ruling houses of Europe, including the Czar and Czarina of Russia, the Czarina was the sister of Dicky's mother.

Figure 3.--The young Dickie moved in the higest circles. Here he is (seated) with the Czar, the Archduke of Hesse and two German princes. Princes Sigismund and Waldemar were sons of the Kaisser's brother Henry. They are on board the Czar's yacht Standardt. Dickie looks to be about 10 so the photograph was taken about 1910. It is a good example of the close personal ties beteen the British, German, and Russian royal families before World War I.

Royal Relatives

Given his connections with the Russian, British, and Hessian royal families. Queen Victoria was at his christening and he was on familiar terms ith King Edward VII and King George V and Tsar Nicholas II and their families. Close friendships were ormed. Greetings were exchanged on holidays and birthday. He was particularly enamored as a boy with one of the Tsar's young daughters, the Grand Duchess Marie, and he planned to marry her. Unfortunately when Dicky 18 the Tsar and his family were murdered

Childhood Clothing

I have not been able to find much mention of Dicky's boyhood clothing. Most savailble photographs show him and his cousins in sailor suits. Given his father's naval career, the penchant of royals for sailor suits, and the populaity of the suits at the turn-of-the-cntury, this is not surprising. Aphotograp of Dickie at about age 5 with a favorite teddy show him in a kneepants sailor suit with long stockings. Afterwards photogrphs show him wearing longpants sailor suits.


Home Schooling

Like many boys from priviliged families, Dicky was schooled at home. His mother was very well educated. She taught Dicky at home until he was 10 years of age. In part this home schooling was necessary because as a young boy he traveled so extensively with his parents. (As an adult when he visited Red Square, he tried to figure out where he slept as a boy in the Kremlin while visiting with the Tsar's family.) I'm not sure if tutors were also employed. His mother reportedly taught him all the usual subjects plus Latin, Greek, algebra, geometry and of course languages, which he learnt anyway from conversing with his many cousins. His mother appaears to have been an excellent teacher. Dicky was not the most clever boy and she realized this.

Boarding School

Dickie was sent off to boarding school at age 10. This was becoming an established practice for the prpperous middle class, often beginning at age 8 years. At the time the royals and wealthy aristocrcy were just beginning to also follow this practice. In Dicky's case his father's work demands and his parents travel made boarding school necessary to get any kind of coherent education. His mother wrote to him once at school, "Cleverness is not the thing. It is the willingness to do right, and the effort made, that really counts." He seems to taken this to heart and achieved acceptable resuts at school through hard work. An experience at boarding school was also important if he was to enter the Royal Navy which maent attending the rigorous Naval Cadet School at Osbourne. (His cousins Edward VIII and George VI had no such preparation and thus had a very tough time of it at Osbourne.)


From an early age Dickie was interested in the navy and like his father decided to pursue a naval carer. He thus entered the Naval Cadet School at Obourne. At the age of twelve and three quarters my father entered the Royal Naval College at Osborne, on the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England, of which island he much later was appointed Governor and Lord lieutenant by our Queen. He had a very tough beginning to his naval career by catching scarlet fever, mumps, whooping cough and bronchitis in very quick succession, but he survived.

It was at Osbourne in fact that Dickie recalls an exchange with Winston Churchill. His daughter relates the story, "There was a second occasion when he was at school a few years later at Osborne and Mr. Churchill came down as First Lord to visit. He went round the cadets and he very unwisely asked them whether they were satisfied with their evening meal which they happened to be eating, and my father, who was never at a loss for words, said, "Well not really Sir, we only have two sardines, and we would very much like to have three." So Mr. Churchill called up to whomever was going around with him and said, "Admiral, see to it that these young gentlemen are given three sardines for their suppers!" The Admiral said, "Yes, Sir." However, they waited a day or two, a week or two and nothing happened. So Mr. Churchill was definitely not reliable. (However, he did revise that opinion of him when he grew up!)" The idea of a cadet saying that to the First Sea Lord must have given the officers at Osbourne apolexy. One suspects that without his ties to the Royal Family that there may have been severe repercussions.

But by far the most traumatic experience at Osborne came when he was 14 years old. His father felt compleled to resign his post as First Sea Lord because of the anti-German husteria sweeping Britain. It is not difficult to imagine how Dickie must have suffered. His daughter even mentions taunts from "the less nice boys".


After Osborne he went on like the other naval cadets to Dartmouth Naval College

World War I

Prince Louis entered the Royal Navy in 1913 and saw active service in World War I. He left Dartmouth as a midshipman just in time to play his part at sea for the last year of the war in 1918. In fact, he went to sea on his 16th birthday. Even younger boys were aboard British ships at the time. (Presumably German ships also, although we have less information on the German fleet.) I do not yet know on which ship he served. He missed the huge engagement at Jutland in 1916, the principal naval engagementbof the War. When peace came, the Admiralty decided to send some of these young officers who had interrupted their educations for the war off to have a taste of university life.

Family Name

Battenberg was seen as a Teutonic by the increasingly anti-German British public during World War I. Anti-German feelings had reached hysterical levels by 1916. Peole did not play music by German composers like Beetoven and Wagner, considering it un patriotic. Dachshunds might be kicked on the streets. People with German names were reviled. German shops were vandalized. Even the royal family, as the House of Saxe-Coburg, did not escape criticism. As a result, King George V in 1917 decided to change the name of the Royal House to Windsor. He also asked his relatives who were British but known by German names and titles to relinquish use of them. As the tiular head of the House of Battenberg, Lord Louis, Mounbatten's father adopted the name Mountbatten, much more English sounding, and was raised to the peerage as the Marquess of Milford Haven, Earl of Medina and Viscount Alderney. As a result of the anti-Grman hysteria, however, his career was essentilly ruined. Since Louis (Dickie) was now the younger son of a marquess, he was no longer Prince Louis Francis of Battenberg, but now Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Prince of Wales

Lord Louis developed a closer friendship with the Prince of Wales who he had known since childhood. They were second cousins. Lord Louis accompanied th Prince on highly publicized and successful tours to British Dominions, Australasia in 1920 and to the East in 1921-1922.


Lord Louis married the Hon. Edwina Cynthia Annette Ashley in 192 at St. Margaret's, Westminster. The Prince of Wales was his best man.


The Mountbattens had two children. Patricia was born in 1924 followed by Pamela in 1929. His daughter considered him a wonderful father. She writes, "He was very much the center of my childhood and indeed all our family, and a most marvelous father. He and I were very, very close indeed. He was wonderful with children, never talking down to them but interesting them in everything. He was always the same person whomever he was with at the time, be it The Queen or one of his farmworkers. He was the most loyal and devoted friend, for whom nothing was too much trouble."

Inter-war Years

During the years between the two wars, Lord Louis persued his naval career. He had several postings. He chose communications as his speciaty. Lord Louis was appointed a GCVO and wore the mantle at the Coronation service. He also achieved the rank of Captain in 1937.

World War II

Mountbatten had an illustrious World War II career. When war was declared in 1939 after the German invasion of Poland. Lord Louis commanded the 5th Destroyer Flotilla from HMS Kelly. He was involved in operations in the North Sea, the Western Approaches and the Mediterranean. He was appointed DSO in 1941. He lost the Kelly during the vicious fighting during the Battle of Crete. This was to feature in the film In Which We Serve Lord Louis was played by Noel Coward. After Crete, he was given command of the HMS Illustrious, an aircraft carrier. Lord Louis was promoted Commodore in 1941. He was given the assigment of Chief of Combined Operations and investigated invasion of France. It was here that he came to the attention of Eisenhower. Unexpecedly however his military duties wer shifted from invading France to Southeast Asia, an assignment that he had not expected. He was appointed Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command in 1943 with the rank of acting Admiral. This assignment ended in 1945 when Japanese forces were driven out of Burma, ground links were established with the Chinese, and the Japanese surrendered in Malaya. A great effort was made to get to the prisinors of war and internees, some of whom were murdered by the Japanese to hide war crimes and virtually all were at the point of starvation.


After the War, Lord Louis was appointed a KG and ennobled as Viscount Mountbatten of Burma in 1946. He was appointed a Privy Councillor in 1947 and was advanced in the peerage to Earl Mountbatten of Burma and Baron Romsey. He was also appointed to a number of foreign orders at this time.


Lord Mountbatten was appointed Viceroy of India in 1947 with the understanding tht he would be the last Viceroy and move India to indeoendence. This was a difficult assignment, reuiring considerable tact. With the title he became the Grand Master of the two Indian orders: the Star of India and the Indian Empire. He and Edwina develooed close relations with Nehru which helped ease the path to Britain's exit. Ginga proved more difficult to deal with and insisted on partition. Millions died in the resulting disorders. After partition of India, Lord Mountbatten remained as Governor-General until 1948.

Final Assignments

Lord Mounbatten became First Sea Lord in 1955. He was promoted from Admiral to Admiral of the Fleet, the highest rank in the Royal Navy, in 1956. He retired as Chief of Defence Staff in 1965 and was appointed OM.

Prince Charles

He was very close to Prince Charles who found it difficult to speak with his father Prince Philip.

Later Years

Lord Louis was killed by Irish terrorists in August 27, 1979. Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed by a bomb placed on his boat Shadow Vjust as they were stting off on a fishing trip. One of the earl's twin grandsons, 14-year old Nicholas was also killed, along with a local boat boy, The IRA claimed credit for planting the bomb. An IRA statement read, "This operation is one of the discriminate ways we can bring to the attention of the English people the continuing occupation of our country." Lord Mountbatten along members of his family had been on holiday at his castle in County Sligo in north-western Ireland. The blast, according to eye-witnesses, blew the boat "to smithereens". Fishermen attempted to rescue them, but they were ither killed in the blast or died shortly afterward.


Philip Ziegler, Mountbatten (New York: Knopf: 1985).


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Created: December 6, 2001
Last updated: July 24, 2003