The eldest son of Prince Alexander of Battenberg 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, Queen Victoria's Granddaughter, 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. A German navy did not yet exist. 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 second it command of Dreadnought, the most powerful ship of its day, and later Forst Sea Lord. 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. A brother, Henry, actually mairred into he British royal family.
The younger sons of the reigning family of many small German states are generally lost to history. This did not prove tobe the case with Alexander. This was in large measure to the fact that his sister Marie mairred the Tsarvitch who became Alexander II. He purued a successful military career in Russia before running afoul of the Tsar over his Polish wife. Standing up to the Tsar ruined his future in Russia. Family connections provided close relations with the Bitish royal family. One of his sons persued a storied naval career as did a grandson--Lord Louis Montbatten of Burma. Another son, Henry, actually married into the British royal family. By all accounts he was a true gentleman and kindly to those with which he came in contact. After being banished by the Tsar, Alexander entered the Austria army as a major-general.
Julia Hauke was a Polish countess who charmed the young Prince Alexander, runing his future in Russia. He had to forgo his dynastic claims, but the Countess and Prince Alexander mairred and lived a quiet life in Hesse. hile Julia was not of royal origins, her family history is quite interesting. The family apparently traces its origins to aof Count Heinrich Bruhle who was aage and later aimeminister of Augustus the Strong of Saxony. The original Haucke married aerman baker and had a son, Maurice (1775). Count Bruhle arranged for the boy to enter the Polish cadet corps. (Poland was partioned in the 18th century between Austria, Prussia, and Russia. Apparently Maurice fought with Polish units loyal to the Tsar, although I have few details at this time.) During the Napoleonic Wars Maurice rose in the ranks to general in the Polish army and married Sophie de la Fontaine. The Poles had hoped to have a Polish state restored and many thus supported Napoleon. Their hopes were frustrated at the Congress of Vinna (1815) which confirmed the partitions od Poland. The Great Polish Rebellion attempted to establish a Polish state (1830). Maurice Hauke was one of the few Polish officers to remain loyal to Tsar Nicholas I. As a result, he was killed by the rebels. When Nicholas and his army retook Warsaw, he hinored Hauke by giving Hauke's son a commission in the Russian army and appointing his daughter Julia as a maid-of-honor to his daughter-in-law. There was a third child Emilie. Julia was quite well educated. She couls speak French, German, Polish, and Russian as well as read in English and Italian. It was said that Bismarck was afraid of her intelect. It was in the Russian court that Alexander met Julia. The resulting marriage was a cndal at court. The Tsar did not approve of the relationship, but Julia found herself pregnant ans marriage was necessary. [Vickers, pp. 8-9.] Alexnder and Julia eloped. The Tsar banned Prince Alexander from court. Lord Mounbatten was later to attribute the brains in the family to Julia. For her part, Julia took a special interest in her grand-daughter Alice.
Louis came from large family. He had four brothers and sisters:
Princess Marie von Battenberg was born in 1852.
Alexander known as "Sandro" in the family was born in 1857. He was appointed soverign prince of Bulgaria in 1879. Prince Alexander objected to Bulgaria's democratic constitution and attempted to institute arbitrary royal authority. He had wanted to marry Princess Victoria of Prussia, but both Emperess Augusta and Prince Wilhelm's wife Donna objected non-royal origins of Sandro's mother. (Actually Donna herself had humble origins.) Her brother Prince Wilhelm also objected, in part because of his non-royal orgins and in part because of the unstable Bulgarian throne. He was forced to abdicated by Tsar Alexander III. His marriage to Johanna Loisinger shockd his mother.
Another son, Maurice was born in 1858. He fell in love with Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria's youngest daughter. Queen Victoria was horrified at the idea as she had planned for Princess Beatrice to stay by her as she grew older. Apparently the Princess was not to happy with that arrangement. Prince Henry found an unexpected ally in the Princess of Wales who was not normally fond of Germans, even members of the family. The matter was resolved when the Prince agreed that he and Princess Beatrice would live the Queen. The two were married in 1885 about the same time the affair between his brother Alexander and Princess Victoria was unwinding. The mairrage was criticised both in England and Prussia. Queen Victoria, however, became quite attached to Prince Henry. His name in the family was "Liko". The marriage ended tragically. Prince Henry participated as a volunteer in the Ashanti Expeditionary Force to Sierra Leone where he contracted malaria. The Prince died at sea in 1896 while returning home. Princess Beatrice was devastated by her husband's death.
Francis Joseph, Prince of Battenberg, was born in 1861.
Louis was born in Graz in 1854 while his father was serving with the Austrian Army. Louis was the eldest son and 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. The family moved into Alexander Palais at Luisen Platz in Darmstadt in the 1860s. The family would spend the winters in Darmstadt where they could enjoy the social life, plays and dances. The summers were spent at the Heiligenberg. I know relatively little about Louis' childhood, but somehow as a boy in the middle of Europe, Louis became very interested in the sea and naval affairs.
HBC has no information on Louis' boyhood clothing. We have not yet succeded in finding a photograph of the young Louis.
Louis' mother Julia was on frienfly terms with Princes Alice, Queen Victoria's second daughter, and now the Grand Duchess of Hesse. Princess Alice offerred guidance to Julia and provided needed introductiins in England. It was quite o=unusual for a German prince to want to enter the Royal Navy. At the time, however, the Germans were still largely seen as allies against the French.
Louis had one surprising interest and that was to become a sailor. Growing up at Heiligenberg Castle in Hesse, far from the sea, it is unclear just where this passion for the sea arose. Hessians had always been soldiers. (George III in the 18th century cotracted for Hessians soldiers in the American Revolutiionary War. After the war many remained iun America.) Hesse of course had no navy. The German Empire did not even exist when Louis was young and even after it was founded had no substantial navy until Wilhelm II began building one in h 1890s. Prince Alexander disapproved of Louis' dream to enter the navy. Louis insisted and so at the age of 14 years 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. Europeans were increasingly nationalistic in the late 19th century. A more who stood out as destinctly foreign in England was in for a tough time. (It strikes HBC that a boy with an English accent in a French or German military school might arguably have had an even tougher time of it, but it was rough enough at Osborbne for Prince Louis.) Another problem was that given his family connections. he may have been given favorablr treatment by the authorities, which undoubtedly caused him more problems among the ither boys. The fact that Louis by all accounts endured the taunts and initial illwill of the other boys is a "tribute to his doggedness and decency." [Ziggler, Montbatten, p. 23.]
Despite his foreign origins and accent, because of his ability and drive, Louis pusued a very successful naval career. His entrance into the Royal Navy was ceratonly smoothed by privilidge. His Cadet experience had been difficult, but he dealt with it. He served as a midshipman on the frigate HMS Ariadne in 1869. It was a trying experience. He was a child of privlidge. As a midshipman the work was difficult and assignments had to be carried out in all kinds of weather. The superior officers were not gentle with the boys. He almost resigned. But returning home in his naval uniform, the family treated him as rather a young hero. Louis began to think better of his experience and a naval career was born. [Vickers, p. 10.] He received considerable support from the royal family including the Queen and Prince of Wales, but this had advantages and disadvantages. His biographer insists that his success in the Navy were due to merit. [Ziggler, Montbatten, p. 23.] He came up with many inovative ideas such as drew up plans for using destroyers armed with torpedos against heavier vessels. He was appointed second in command to the battleship Dreadnought, the most powerful ship of its day and a ship by its very creation which revolitionized naval warfare. One has to realize that Dreadnought in one sence demonsrtrated the power of the Royal Navy. It also rendered the entire British battle fleet obsolete, giving foreihn navies the opportunity for the first time since Trafalger to challenge the British--an opportunity the Germans were to take. The appointed to Dreadnought was criticized as owing to royal favor, but the First Lord of the Admiralty insisted that Lord Louis nwas simply the best qualified for the position. [Ziggler, Montbatten, p. 23.] He won praise for his work as Commodore in the Mediterranean and even more so as the Director of Naval Intelligence.
Prince Louis as a young naval officer with connections to the royal family led a rather adventuresome life. A Maharajah in Kashmir provided the Prince of Wales (Bertie the futute Edward VII) a liason of nobel birth which was passed on to Louis. The Prince of Wales also passed on Lilly Langtry to Louis. Both Lillie and Sarah Bernhardt are believed to have been involved intimately with Bertie. Both Lillie and Sarah were the equivalent of contemporary fashion models and film stars. For some time it was thought that Lillie and Louis had a child. Louis reportedly wanted to marry her. One source indicates that the child, Jeanne-Marie (1881- ) never really knew who her parents actually were. She thought that Lillie was her aunt and that Edward Langtry, Lillie's husband, was her father. But the day before Jeanne-Marie was to be married, Lady Asquith hinted that her father was not Edward Langtry. Jeanne-Marie's fiance then explained to her who her father was. [British Heritage online] He was, according to this account, Prince Louis of Battenberg. Jeanne-Marie never forgave her mother and from that point on was estranged from her. It apparently broke Lillie's heart. Queen Victoria was hopeful a marriage could be arranged with Princess Beatrice. Louis began to pay more attention to his cousin Victoria Alberta (1883). [Vickers, pp. 10-13.]
I am not sure when Louis and Victoria alberta first met, but it must have been as children. Princess Alberta Victoria was the eldest daughter of Louis IV of Hesse and Princess Alice, Queen Victoria second daughter. She was the eldest sister of Emperess Alexandra and Grand Duchess Surge of Russia. As a girl Princess Victoria proved to be rather a tomboy and inseperable from her older sister Victoria. One writer desibes her as a good companion for Prince Wilhelm during his visits while he was a university student at Bonn. Wilhelm would often as a student stay with his his Hessian relatives. His ecentricities were notable even then to the children. The Princess was intelligent and blessed with a formidable mind. She was curious and independently minded. At a time when women wre not expected to be to vocal, she could be argumentative "to the point of peversity. [Ziggler, Montbatten, p. 24.] Her character was no doubt formed by the untimely death of her mother. Princess Victoria Alberta was only about 15 at the time and as the oldest child had to assunme responsibilities that would have normally come much later. I am not sure where Prince Louis met Princess Victoria Alberta, but surely at various family events. The Grand Duke Louis IV was not pleased with his daugters interest in Prince Louis, because of the loyly rank of Prince Louis' mother. Nor only was Prince Louis not personally wealthy, but her father as a widower had hope his daughter and a better connected husband would care fr him. Princess Victotia Alberta would have none of that. She was determined to select her husband herself. Prince Louis appears to have been quite enfactuated with her, telling the future George V that she was a "darling girl" and that he was "off his chump". [Ziggler, Montbatten, p. 23.] Louis had an ally, however, Queen Victoria, and the matter was settled. She appears to have been a perfect match to Prince Louis who tended toward formality in his associtions. Queen Victoria who was a keen judge of character preceived her granddaughter's strong character if a certain lack of tenderness. [Ziggler, Montbatten, p. 24.]
Queen Victoria who liked Louis was not at first pleased with a marriage with Victoria Alberta, in part because she wanted him to marry Princess Beatrice. Louis and Victoria alberta soon brought her arround. Louis, mairred Princess Victoria Alberta (1884). She was the daughter of Louis IV of Hesse on the German side. She was a grand daughter of Queen Victoria and daughter of Princess Alice on the English side. Her father disapproved, but Queen Victoria knew Prince Louis and liked him. He in fact served as a personal Aide-de-camp to the Queen as well as later King Edward VII and King George V. One did not argue with the Queen often on such matters and win. So the two were mairred. The mairrage tied Prince Louis and his future family tightly to both the main line of both the Hessian and British royal families. When her husband renounced the title of Prince of Battenberg, she dropped her German titles as well as took Louis' new name.
Prince Louis became intimate with King Edward VII while he was still Prince of Wales. As a young naval officer he occamined the Prince and Princess on an extended tour, the highpoint of which was a trip up the Nile. Princess Alexandra in particular always remembered that trip.
Louis and Victoria had four children. Although neither parent brought great wealth to their mairrage, Prince Louis inherited a considerable fortune when his father died in 1888 and Victoria Alberta had legacies from her grandmother. The children were this reared in comfortable circumstances.
Princess Alice was born at Winsor Castle. Queen Victoria herself assisted with a difficult delivery with left her profoundly death. This was not forst understood and as a child she was criticized for not listening. She is said to have taught herself to lip read in four languages, although her proficiency is dispited. She was named Victoria Alice Elizabeth Julia Marie. After her mairrage she was often referred to as Princess Andrew. Prince Andrew, a younger son of King George I of Greece, mairred Princess Alice. The wedding in 1903 was a major event. Attended by royalty from all over Europe. Tsar Nicholas threw a satin slipper at Princess Alice who in turn hit him over the head with it. The Princess was only 18 years old when they mairred and was described by some as the "prettiest princess in Europe". Their son Prince Philip married Britain's future Queen Elzabeth.
Princess Louise like the other children lost her princely title and became Lady Louise Mounbatten. She married King Gustav VI Adolf Bernadotte in 1923 at the Chapel Royal, St.James Palace in 1923. They had one daughter, Bernadotte, daughter (1925- ).
George was offered the British sounding title of Marquess of Milforhaven at the end of World War I in order to obfuscate the German sounding Battenburg. Georgie as he was called in the family was born at tghe Alte Palais in Darmstadt. Queen Victoria kept careful account and entered him in as her 13th greatgrandchild. When his grandmother the Princess of Battenburg died, Georgie insisted on placing a pear at her side, insisting that she would prefer it to flowers. [Vickers, p. 40.] He followed his father into the Royal Navy. His letters show that he was much impressed with what his sister Prince Alice was going through in Greece. As his father rounced the German sounding title of Pfrince Louis of Battenberg, George lost his princely title and became Earl of Mediana.
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. As his father rounced the German sounding title of Prince Louis of Battenberg, Dickie lost his princely title and became Lord Louis Mounbatten. 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??.
While Prince Louis had pursued his career in the Riyal Navy, this was out of a love for the sea, not due to any lack of feeling for Hesse and Germany. His sister once wrote of him, "He is perhaps the most German of us all." Thus the outbreak of War must have been a great personal agony. It was in fact Prince Louis that as First Lord of the Admiralty had to issue the order, "Commence histilities with Germany." [Heald, Philip, p. 21.]
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-German hysteria, however, his career was essentilly ruined.
Rumors about spys were every where. People even whispering that the head of the Royal Navy must be a spy because of his German name. Of course this was Prince Louis. He concluded that despite his immense popularity that in the best interest of the service for him to reign. It was a terribly difficult decission. Since the age of 14 when he came to England and became a naturalized British subject, he had devoted his life to the Navy. He did not want to embarrass the service he loved in the midst of the War. After much soul searching, he decided that the only course was to resign his post, and this, according to his granddaughter, "very nearly broke his heart". It also greatly saddened Mr. Churchill who, as First Lord of the Admiralty, unsuccessully attempted to dissuade him. It was with considerble family pride that Prince Louis' son, Lord Mountbattn of Burma, 40 years later was appointed First Sea Lord--the only son to follow his father in that post.
Tim Heald, Philip: A Portrait of the Duke of Edinburgh (William Morrow and Company, Inc.: New York, 1991).
Philip Ziegler, Mountbatten (New York: Knopf: 1985).
Vickers, Hugo. Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece (St. Martin's Press: New York, 2000), 477p.
British Heritage online.
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