LOUIS, 1st EARL MOUNTBATTEN OF BURMA
1950: The Death of Mountbatten's Mother
In the Autumn of 1950, Mountbatten’s mother who from 1921 was styled 'The Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven' was taken ill with bronchitis at Broadlands, Mountbatten's home in Hampshire. Victoria, who was a favourite granddaughter of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) had been born a Princess of Hesse & By the Rhine with the qualification of Grand Ducal Highness at Windsor Castle in 1863 and upon her marriage in 1884 to Prince Louis of Battenberg, became a Serene Highness until the family renounced their Princely titles and styles in 1917. When Victoria became ill, she told her son (Mountbatten) that she had wanted to return to London as it was "so much better to die at home."
LEFT: Mountbatten's mother -
Victoria, The Dowager Marchioness
of Milford Haven (formerly Princess Victoria
of Hesse & By the Rhine,
later Princess Louis of Battenberg)
Victoria, The Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven died aged 87yrs at Kensington Palace, London on 24th September 1950, sadly without seeing her son fulfil his destiny as First Sea Lord, but she had seen him back in the Royal Navy and rising to the top of the organisation which her late husband had been forced to resign from in 1914. Mountbatten and his sisters - Crown Princess Louise of Sweden - later Queen Louise of Sweden (1889-1965) and Princess Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece & Denmark (1885-1969) were at Victoria's bedside when she died. Upon Victoria's death, King George VI (1895(1936-1952) ordered a week of Family Mourning and the Royal Court of Sweden honoured her with two weeks of mourning. Victoria had written her memoirs, with the help of her Private Secretary - Baroness Sophie 'Isa' de Buxhoeveden (1883-1956), but have remained unpublished, and are currently in the Mountbatten Archive at the University of Southampton. She saw great sorrow throughout most of her life - from the early death of her mother in 1878 (at the young age of 35yrs), most of her family died young, tragically in accidents or were murdered - so her life was constantly shadowed by grief.
The 1948 official christening photograph of Prince Charles of Edinburgh (later The Prince of Wales) -
Rear (left to right) Patricia, Lady Brabourne (later 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma);
Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh representing Prince George of Greece & Denmark; King George VI;
The Hon. Sir David Bowes Lyon; The Earl of Athlone (formerly Prince Alexander of Teck)
representing King Haakon VII of Norway and Princess Margaret, later Countess of Snowdon;
Front (seated left to right) - Victoria, The Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven,
formerly Princess Louis of Battenberg; Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh
(later Queen Elizabeth II) holding her infant son (Prince Charles)
& Queen Mary, formerly Princess Victoria Mary 'May' of Teck
At the time of her death in 1950, The Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven was the oldest surviving grand-daughter of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) and notable for being a sister of the last Tsarina of Russia - Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, formerly Princess Alix of Hesse & By the Rhine (1872-1918) who was murdered with her family in the Russian Revolution; was the mother of Queen Louise of Sweden, formerly Princess Louise of Battenberg (1889-1965); was the grandmother of Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021) and the great-grandmother of King Charles III (1948(2022- ) - whose christening was one of the last 'family' events she was photographed at on 15th December 1948.
RIGHT: The coffin of Victoria,
The Dowager Marchioness
of Milford Haven
being taken onboard
HMS Redpole at
BELOW: The joint grave of
Mountbatten's parents -
Louis, 1st Marquess
of Milford Haven
(Prince Louis of Battenberg)
& Victoria, The Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven
at St Mildred's Church, Whippingham
on the Isle of Wight
Mountbatten's mother -
Victoria, The Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven
(formerly Princess Victoria of Hesse & By the Rhine,
later Princess Louis of Battenberg)
Four days after her death on 28th September 1950, after a brief service at The Chapel Royal, St James's Palace, London, Victoria's coffin was taken to Portsmouth and subsequently taken across the Solent to the Isle of Wight onboard the frigate HMS Redpole. Victoria was laid to rest beside her late husband - Louis, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven, formerly Prince Louis of Battenberg (1854-1921) at St Mildred’s Church, Whippingham on the Isle of Wight. She wrote her own typically forthright epitaph at the end of her life in conversation with Mountbatten - "what will live in history is the good work done by the individual & that has nothing to do with rank or title ... I never thought I would be known only as your mother. You're so well known now and no one knows about me, and I don't want them to."
The Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven left a handwritten 'farewell letter' to her family, in which she stated - "... the bitterest grief in my life has been the loss of Georgie... You will miss me I know, but let it be a comfort to you to realise that the best part of my life and on the whole it has been a happy one, was ended when your dear father died and that I am ready and willing to enter into my rest at any time now." On 24th October 1950, a private memorial service was held at The Chapel Royal, St James's Palace, London, in the presence of King George VI (1895(1936-1952), Queen Elizabeth (later The Queen Mother) (1900-2002), Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, later Queen Elizabeth II (1926(1952-2022) and Victoria's grandson - Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021). Other members of the congregation were - Princess Margaret, later Countess of Snowdon (1930-2002) and Queen Mary, formerly Princess Victoria Mary 'May' of Teck (1867-1953).
Victoria had been a tough matriarchal figure in the Mountbatten family and her death was another blow for Mountbatten and the family. Mountbatten remembered her fondly despite being strongly opposed to Mountbatten accepting the role of Viceroy of India - "my mother was very quick on the uptake, very talkative, very aggressive and argumentative. With her marvellous brain she sharpened people's wits." Her granddaughter - Patricia (who later succeeded Mountbatten as 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma) said of her that she was "formidable, but never intimidating... a supremely honest woman, full of common-sense and modesty." Victoria was largely responsible for the education and upbringing of Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021) during his parents' separation and his mother's institutionalisation. Prince Philip recalled - "I liked my grandmother very much and she was always helpful. She was very good with children... she took the practical approach to them. She treated them in the right way —the right combination of the rational and the emotional."