1932 - 1936: Abdication of Edward VIII
Mountbatten returned back to his Naval career and following various promotions, by 1932 he had reached the rank of Commander and subsequently became the commanding officer of HMS Daring and HMS Wishart respectively. To try and encourage his crew on HMS Wishart, he organised a band, a ship’s newspaper and entered the ship into the 1935 Flotilla Regatta, where the HMS Wishart swept the board at the Regatta and became the 'Cock of the Flotilla'. Whilst Mountbatten was the commanding officer of the Wishart, a regular visitor was Sir Noël Coward (1899-1973), who used his growing friendship with Mountbatten to start writing about the dramas on-board a Naval ship. On 20th January 1936, the news that King George V (1865(1910-1936) had died after a long illness rocked the Empire and of course Mountbatten’s friend and cousin 'David' - Prince Edward, The Prince of Wales, subsequently King Edward VIII (1894(1936)1972) and later The Duke of Windsor, succeeded to the Throne.
Mountbatten with King Edward VIII (his cousin 'David')
The Duchess of Windsor (Mrs Wallis Simpson)
& Prince Edward, The Duke of Windsor following their wedding
Mountbatten with a young Princess Elizabeth
(now Queen Elizabeth II) - daughter of King George VI
and Heiress Presumptive
The new reign saw a great deal of promise, particularly as the new King did not like the stuffy and pompous protocols of previous reigns. His popularity soared but after a series of secret love affairs with married women including Mrs Freda Dudley Ward (née Birkin) (1894-1983) and Thelma, Viscountess Furness (née Morgan) (1904-1970), the arrival of Mrs Wallis Simpson (née Warfield) (1896-1986) in his life was to shake the very foundations of the monarchy throughout the Empire. The King’s relationship with the twice divorced American caused members of the Royal Family to take sides and soon Mountbatten’s once close friendship with his cousin was to cool off. After months of public and press speculation over the King's private life and the subsequent constitutional crisis - The King abdicated from the Throne on 10th December 1936 and left the UK with the intention of marrying Mrs Simpson in due course. Mountbatten offered to be his best-man (supporter) at his cousin's marriage to Mrs Simpson in lieu of his own brother, but was turned down in the futile hope that his brothers and members of the Royal Family would actually attend. However
King George VI (1895(1936-1952) had made it clear that no member of the Royal Family would attend the ceremony. Although Mountbatten was against his cousin renouncing duty and tradition for love, he still wanted to return the honour of being best-man (supporter) as his cousin had been for him in 1922.
On the day of the abdication, Mountbatten tried to comfort the new King - who had told him how he felt unprepared and untrained to take on the role of King and Emperor. Thinking of his own father, he said that "there is no more fitting preparation to be King than to have been trained in the Royal Navy”. On 3rd June 1937, the former King (who had been created Duke of Windsor following his abdication) married at the Château de Candé, near Tours, France Mrs Simpson, who became The Duchess of Windsor without the style of Royal Highness. The fact that King George VI (1896(1936-1952) had forbidden any member of the Royal Family to attend became a fundamental cause of conflict between The Duke and Duchess and the Royal Family for the rest of their lives. Mountbatten obeyed his King’s command and stayed away - reluctantly.
Some say that Mountbatten 'jumped ship' and turned his allegiance to the new King to remain in favour and influence, some say that the Duke turned away thinking only of himself and his wife rather than of duty and his responsibilities and was full of resentment and bitterness - as always there are two sides to every family disagreement. Mountbatten was never on good terms with The Duchess of Windsor, who was jealous of his close relations within the Royal Family and she knew only too well that he had opposed the idea of a morganatic marriage (which would have allowed her to marry The King, but nor share his Royal rank) and was unhappy with The Duke abdicating altogether.
Mountbatten said later - “I know it was terrible for him. Winston [Churchill] was among those who believed he couldn’t live without her. I didn’t think that, but I know it was a terrible decision for him. I always thought it was his duty to remain King and told him that he ought to give up Wallis if that was the only alternative.”
Not only did Mountbatten ally himself to the new King but also to his eldest daughter - Princess Elizabeth, the Heiress Presumptive and who later would succeed as Queen Elizabeth II (1926(1952- ).