ALEXANDER, 1st MARQUESS OF CARISBROOKE
Sir Alexander Albert Mountbatten, GCB, GCVO, 1st Marquess of Carisbrooke, 1st Earl of Berkhamsted, 1st Viscount Launceston, formerly HH Prince Alexander of Battenberg was born at 5.10pm on 23rd November 1886 at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, the eldest son (and first child) of Prince Henry of Battenberg (1858-1896) and Princess Beatrice (1857-1944), the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) - and was known in the family as 'Drino'. The Queen wrote of her grandson that he was - "not big but very vigorous and well developed with a big nose and very pretty small ears." His mother struggled being maternal and like her own mother, found it difficult to show loving emotions towards her children. Originally Alexander was styled 'Prince Alexander of Battenberg', with the qualification of Serene Highness, however under the terms of the Royal Warrant issued by Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) on 13th December 1886, he was granted the style of Highness within the United Kingdom, but as a male-line descendant of The Princess of Battenberg (1825-1895), Alexander was styled Serene Highness within the German Empire.
Alexander, 1st Marquess of Carisbrooke
(Prince Alexander 'Drino' of Battenberg
On 18th December 1886, Alexander was baptised in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle. His godparents were - Prince Albert Edward 'Bertie', The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII (1841(1901-1910); Princess Irene of Hesse & By the Rhine, later Princess Henry of Prussia (1866-1953); his grandfather - Prince Alexander of Hesse & By the Rhine (1823-1888) and Prince Alexander of Battenberg, later Alexander I, The Prince of Bulgaria, later Count VON Hartenau (1857-1893); and his elderly grandmother - Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901).
Alexander’s childhood was spent happily under the careful shadow of the ever present elderly Queen. His mother had only been allowed to marry Prince Henry on condition that he gave up his German commitments and lived permanently with Princess Beatrice and ultimately with the aged Queen - who took great pleasure at spoiling her favourite Battenberg grandchild by her favourite child. Alexander was soon sent to Stubbington House School, Fareham, Hampshire, a preparatory school which had such close links to the Royal Navy, it was called 'the cradle of the Navy' and one of its most famous alumni was the explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott, 'Scott of the Antarctic' (1868-1912). He was then subsequently sent to Wellington College, Crowthorne, Berkshire but his was not a happy time for Alexander as the other boys considered him conceited and arrogant.
ABOVE: Queen Victoria with
RIGHT: A young Prince Alexander
of Battenberg being held
by one of Queen Victoria's
Indian servants - Mohammed Buksh
BELOW: A sketch of Prince Alexander
'Drino' of Battenberg in 189
by George Ogilvy Reid
Upon leaving education, Alexander joined the Royal Navy as a Midshipman cadet in May 1902 completing his basic training onboard the training ship HMS Britannia. He continued to serve in the Royal Navy until 1908. However in 1910, Alexander became one of the earliest members of 'The Castaways' Club' - an exclusive dining club for Naval officers who resigned whilst still junior but who wished to keep in touch with their former service. He changed his career path and joined the Army on 4th August 1909 as a Second Lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards and by 1915 he was a Captain. Alexander was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) in the Coronation Honours List of King George V (1865(1910-1936) in 1911 having been appointed a Knight Commander (KCVO) the year before. During active service in World War I, he was wounded and twice mentioned in dispatches on 21st June 1916 and 25th January 1917.
On 19th June 1919, Alexander resigned his commission and went on the Reserve List. By this time, Alexander had been awarded numerous foreign orders and decorations which included The Croix de Guerre - with palms (France), The Order of St. Vladimir, 4th Class with Swords (Russia) and being appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal & Distinguished Spanish Order of Charles III (Spain).
in the uniform
in the Royal
of the Royal & Distinguished Spanish Order
of Charles III
On 17th July 1917, King George V (1865(1910-1936) issued a Royal Proclamation in response to anti-German attacks against the dynastic German Royal Family of Britain where he declared that members of the Royal Family and extended family would cease to use their inherited German styles and titles and that his family
name would be 'Windsor' instead of 'Saxe-Coburg & Gotha'. At the King's request, Alexander's family relinquished their Princely status and decided to adopt the surname of 'Mountbatten' - a literal Anglicized translation of Battenberg. As a result, Alexander initially became styled 'Sir Alexander Mountbatten'.
On 19th July 1917 at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, London, Alexander married The Lady Irene Denison (1890-1956), the only daughter of Sir William Denison, 2nd Earl of Londesborough (1864-1917), who sadly died a few months after the wedding; and The Lady Grace Fane (1860-1933), the eldest daughter of Francis Fane, 12th Earl of Westmorland (1825-1891). Although the wedding was simple in comparison to some of his Royal relations due to the War, it was attended by King George V (1865(1910-1936), Queen Mary, formerly Princess Victoria Mary 'May' of Teck (1867-1953) Queen Alexandra, formerly Princess Alexandra 'Alix' of Denmark (1844-1925) and most of the Royal Family. The service was led by The Most Rev & Rt Hon. Randall Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury, later 1st Lord Davidson of Lambeth (1848-1930), assisted by The Rev Canon Edgar Sheppard, Sub-Dean of The Chapels Royal (1845-1921) and Alexander's best man was a fellow officer in the Grenadier Guards - Captain Sir Osbert Sitwell, Bt. (1892-1969), who stood in at the last minute for Alexander's younger brother Leopold.
Unlike most of her contemporary brides, Lady Irene had no bridesmaids and instead of carrying a bouquet she carried a silver-bound prayer book which was a gift from her mother. The bride's dress was a gown of white satin, with Brussels lace, bought by Irene's great-grandfather Major Sir Henry Somerset, 7th Duke of Beaufort (1792-1853) in Paris, France in 1851, with a pompadour brocade train lined with blue and embroidered with lotus flowers touched with silver and blue and finished with silver fringes. Hanging from both shoulders was drapery of the same Brussels lace, finished with a large spray of orange blossom. Irene wore a coronet of orange blossom and a tulle veil edged with silver. Irene wore a cluster of diamond roses, which once belonged to Julia, The Princess of Battenberg (1825-1895), Alexander's grandmother. There was no formal reception after the wedding as would be customary for such a society wedding of this standing. In fact, the whole event was pretty lacklustre but the bridal party did return to 7 Chesterfield Gardens, Curzon Street, Mayfair, London (the London town-house of Irene's parents) to sign the wedding register. Alexander and Irene left to spend their honeymoon at Polesden Lacey, Dorking, Surrey - the home of the wealthy socialite Dame Margaret Greville (née McEwan), The Hon. Mrs Ronald Greville (1863-1942).
LEFT: Prince Alexander 'Drino'
of Battenberg in the uniform of
a Captain in the Grenadier Guards
ABOVE: The Lady Irene Denison
RIGHT: Prince Alexander 'Drino'
of Battenberg & Lady Irene Denison
shortly after announcing their
engagement in May 1917
ABOVE: The Chapel Royal,
St James's Palace, London
RIGHT: The Lady Irene Denison
later The Marchioness of Carisbrooke
Prince Alexander 'Drino'
of Battenberg in the uniform of a Captain
in the Grenadier Guards
Alexander had a somewhat over-inflated opinion of himself, which caused many members of his family to mock him and he was often seen as a 'figure of fun' within the family. On 7th November 1917, Alexander was created Marquess of Carisbrooke, Earl of Berkhamsted & Viscount Launceston. Naturally Alexander saw losing his Princely title as a demotion and was resentful. His cousin - Queen Louise of Sweden, formerly Princess Louise of Battenberg (1889-1965) said - "I shriek with laughter when I think of Drino, losing his title." He continued in the Grenadier Guards throughout World War I but subsequently resigned his commission on 19th June 1919 and was placed on the General Reserve of Officers.