ALEXANDER, 1st MARQUESS OF CARISBROOKE
Irene, The Marchioness of Carisbrooke
with her only child - Iris, in 1929
ABOVE: The insignia of a
Dame Grand Cross
of the Order of the British Empire (GBE)
RIGHT: Irene, Marchioness
of Carisbrooke with Queen Mary
(right) at the unveiling of the
1912 portrait by Philip de Lászlo
of Alexander's mother -
Princess Henry of Battenberg
the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria
Alexander became the first member of the Royal Family to enter the world of commerce and although he had no practical experience he went into the banking house of Lazard Brothers and subsequently became as a member of the Board of Directors of the British shipping firm of Lamport and Holt. Later be became a Director of Lever Brothers and other major concerns and became Senior Steward of the Greyhound Racing Club. When Alexander became a director in 1936 of a famous Oxford Street drapery store he announced his intention of doing his day's work in the store as well as his director's duties. His duties were then described as being "an adviser to buyers of decorative fabrics." Before that, he had worked for a time with the Metropolitan Housing Corporation which controlled many housing estates for artisans, and eventually took full charge of the social work connected with the estates.
ABOVE: The 1934 portrait
by Philip de Lászlo
of Irene, Marchioness of Carisbrooke
RIGHT: The 1937 portrait
by Alfred Egerton Cooper
(which was exhibited
at the Royal Academy)
of Alexander, 1st Marquess
in Parliamentary Robes,
wearing the collar
of a Knight Grand Cross of
the Order of the Bath
When Irene, who following her marriage became styled The Marchioness of Carisbrooke subsequently became pregnant in 1919, Alexander’s cousin - Prince Edward 'David', The Prince of Wales, subsequently King Edward VIII (1894(1936)1972) and later The Duke of Windsor who thought his cousin was pompous and effeminate said - "I hear that Irene Carisbrooke has signs of a baby and that Drino has retired to bed for a month’s rest cure!" Their only child was -
Irene threw herself into charitable work and many good causes and worked tirelessly on numerous committees and charity fundraising events, particularly throughout her native born county of Yorkshire. Irene was a keen golfer and joined the Ladies Parliamentary Golf Association, was devoted to animals - in particular dogs, and was regularly a guest at all the fashionable society events of 'The Season'. She became close to King George V (1865(1910-1936) and Queen Mary (1867-1953) and she was often hailed by the King as "an asset to the family". King George VI (1895(1936-1952) appointed Irene a Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE) in his first Birthday Honours List in June 1938.
The Arms of Alexander, 1st Marquess of Carisbrooke
In 1927, Alexander was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath - Civil Division (GCB). The Carisbrookes never missed the State Opening of Parliament every year - Alexander (like most of his Mountbatten relations) particularly enjoyed the pomp and pageantry of the event and of course the opportunity to parade around in his Parliamentary robes.
of a Knight
of the Order
of the Bath (GCB)
Robes for the
of King George VI
in May 1937
Irene, Marchioness of Carisbrooke's Strawberry Leaf Tiara -
a wedding present from Queen Victoria to Alexander's mother
Princess Henry of Battenberg (Princess Beatrice)
There had always been rumours about Alexander's sexuality and it was suggested that Irene 'turned a blind eye' to his affairs with men. In the 1930s, the author E. F. Benson (1867-1940) - the younger brother of A. C. Benson (1862-1925) who wrote the lyrics of "Land of Hope and Glory" for the music of Sir Edward Elgar, Bt. (1857-1934), dedicated two of his famous camp comedy "Mapp & Lucia" novels to Alexander. Benson was known to be openly gay and very indiscrete. The historian and writer James Lees-Milne (1908-1997) famously described Alexander in his diaries as "an old spruce hen… a typical old queen". The society photographer and designer Sir Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) wrote in his diaries that Alexander did indeed have a long-term lover - the socialite and antiques expert Simon Fleet (1913-1966).
At the start of World War II, despite being in his 50s, Alexander joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves (RAFVR) and was commissioned on 6th June 1941 as an acting Pilot Officer and soon was promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant. He subsequently served as a Staff Officer to Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory (1892-1944), the RAF Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command and relinquished his commission on 21st May 1945. After the War, The Carisbrookes took up residence in a 'grace and favour' residence - King's Cottage, Kew Green, Richmond, Surrey, but later took up residence at Kensington Palace - where his mother, Princess Beatrice, Princess Henry of Battenberg (1857-1944) had lived. On 11th May 1953, Alexander was appointed to the honorary rank of Group Captain in the RAFVR.
The Carisbrookes' latter years were full of attending parties, holidays and numerous social events, but were also met with grief and health concerns. He was considerably upset upon the death in March 1953 of Queen Mary, formerly Princess Victoria Mary 'May' of Teck (1867-1953), not only had she been a close relation, but she was a good friend to both Irene and Alexander. In May 1953, Alexander had an operation to remove a blood clot on his brain, but whilst he was in hospital, his home - which overlooked Kew Gardens, was burgled whilst Irene was asleep.
Alexander’s long-suffering wife -
Irene, The Marchioness of Carisbrooke died after a long illness on 16th July 1956 at a private nursing home in Marylebone, London - just several days after her 66th birthday. Her ashes were interred in her husband's family chapel - the Battenberg Chapel at St Mildred’s Church, Whippingham on the Isle of Wight.
RIGHT: The memorial of
Irene, The Marchioness of Carisbrooke
within the Battenberg Chapel,
St Mildred's Church, Whippingham
on the Isle of Wight
Alexander & Irene at the London premiere
of the musical "The King & I" in 1953
For the last few years of his life, Alexander spent much of his time concentrating on a suitable resting place in death for himself and Irene, having designed the niches himself for their ashes within the Battenberg Chapel in St Mildred's Church, Whippingham, on the Isle of Wight. He argued with Mountbatten, who insisted in filling the Chapel with memorial tablets for members of his branch of the family, despite Alexander (with an excess of self-importance and too much time on his hands) feeling he and his family should take precedence.
On 23rd February 1960, Alexander died in his apartment at Kensington Palace, London from a cerebral haemorrhage aged 73yrs. Queen Elizabeth II (1926(1952-2022) had already announced Court Mourning upon the death of his cousin's wife - Edwina, Countess Mountbatten of Burma (1901-1960), who had died just two days earlier. His only child, Iris (who was living in Canada) was given the news of her father's death when she arrived at London Airport, having flown into the UK for the funeral of Edwina. At the time of Alexander's death, Mountbatten's sister - Queen Louise of Sweden (1889-1965), who had been born a Princess of Battenberg, said at the time of Alexander's death - "poor lonely old man... it was for the best!" Alexander was the last surviving grandson of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) and will also be remembered for being a Senior Steward of of the National Greyhound Racing Club, President of the Bribery Prevention League and the London President of "The Old Contemptibles". His ashes were also interred in the Battenberg Chapel and upon his death, his titles became extinct.
Alexander, 1st Marquess of Carisbrooke
The memorial of Alexander 'Drino',
1st Marquess of Carisbrooke
within the Battenberg Chapel, St Mildred's Church, Whippingham on the Isle of Wight
A memorial service was subsequently held for Alexander at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, Berkshire on 11th March 1960 and Queen Elizabeth II (1926(1952-2022) was represented by her uncle - Prince Henry, 1st Duke of Gloucester (1900-1974).
In the Summer of 1997, vandals stole Alexander's ashes from the Chapel, but were subsequently retrieved in a nearby field.