Prince Franz Joseph of Battenberg
His Serene Highness Prince Franz Joseph of Battenberg, GCVO, KCB was born on 24th September 1861 in Padua, Italy, the youngest son and fifth child of Prince Alexander of Hesse & By the Rhine (1823-1888) and The Princess of Battenberg, formerly Countess Julia VON Hauke (1825-1895). Due to his parents morganatic marriage, Franz Joseph and his siblings were all barred from the line of succession to the Hessian Grand Ducal Throne. On 21st December 1858, his mother was created Princess of Battenberg with the style of Serene Highness which her children shared, so Franz Joseph was styled from birth Prince Franz Joseph of Battenberg.
Within the family Franz Joseph was known as 'Franzjos'. He was named after his godfather - Emperor Franz Joseph I, The Emperor of Austria & King of Hungary (1830-1916).
Prince Franz Joseph of Battenberg
The 4 Battenberg brothers (left to right):
Prince Louis (later 1st Marquess of Milford Haven),
Prince Alexander (later The Prince of Bulgaria),
Prince Henry and Prince Franz Joseph
Franz Joseph was academically gifted but was often considered insignificant and spent much of his childhood trying unsuccessfully to 'keep up' with his more talented brothers, and in particular his older brother - Prince Alexander I of Bulgaria (1857-1893), who he idolised and spent most of his life trying to emulate. He followed his brother to Bulgaria, where he served as a Colonel in the Bulgarian Cavalry. In 1891, Franz Joseph published an academic study on Bulgarian economic history "The Economic Development of Bulgaria from 1879 to the Present", which he dedicated to his brother - Alexander. It was said that Franz Joseph - "spent his life going to clandestine meetings, telling lies and living in limbo, uncertain of the difference between truth and invention" in his quest to try and win back his brother's princely Throne in Bulgaria.
In 1894 at a party hosted by society 'grand dame' Comtesse Mélanie de Pourtalès (1836-1914) - a former Lady-in-Waiting to Empress Eugénie of France (Eugénie de Montijo), 16th Countess of Teba (1826-1920), widow of Napoléon III, Emperor of the French (1808-1873), Franz Joseph met Consuelo Vanderbilt (1877-1964), the eldest child and only daughter of millionaire William Kissam Vanderbilt I (1849-1920), a wealthy American businessman and philanthropist. Consuelo wrote in her autobiography - "The stage seemed set for a political intrigue and my hostess' ambitions to place her protégé on a Throne showed signs of succeeding. I think that for a moment my mother's intentions to marry me to an English Duke faltered! A royal Crown glittered more brightly than a coronet!" However she clearly was not taken by him as she wrote - "It seemed I was but to exchange one bondage for another. Such a marriage could mean only unhappiness. Separated from my family and my friends, living in a provincial capital, ironbound in a strict etiquette, with a man whose views were those of a prejudiced German princeling - how could I reconcile myself to such a life?" Franz Joseph did indeed propose marriage to Consuelo, but she turned him down. Her mother clearly won the day as she would later marry The Rt Hon. Sir Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough (1871-1934) in 1895, but the marriage was an unhappy one as it was more of a business transaction rather than a love-match and they divorced in 1921.
Franz Joseph subsequently met in Cimiez, near Nice, France, Princess Anna of Montenegro (1873-1971), the sixth daughter of King Nicholas I of Montenegro (1841-1921), who due to his daughters marrying into numerous European Royal Families gained the nickname of 'the Father-in-Law of Europe'. At the time of their meeting, Franz Joseph was a guest of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) and Princess Anna was visiting her sister - Grand Duchess Militza Nikolaevna of Russia, formerly Princess Milica of Montenegro (1866-1951) whose husband (Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich of Russia (1856-1929) was a grandson of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia (1796-1855) who introduced the self-proclaimed cleric Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin (1869-1916) to the Russian Imperial Court. Franz Joseph married Princess Anna on 18th May 1897 in Cetinje, Montenegro in services in both the Eastern Orthodox and Protestant churches. It is said that Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (1868-1918), who was fond of Franz Joseph, gave her a dowry of 1 million rubies.
Princess Anna of Montenegro
A newspaper cutting reporting the wedding of
Franz Joseph to Princess Anna of Montenegro
Princess Anna (right) with her husband's niece -
Princess Victoria Eugénie (later The Queen of Spain)
Franz Joseph and his wife were popular with their respective families and the marriage was a happy one, but sadly childless. Franz Joseph, who had been appointed a Colonel in the Bulgarian Cavalry and was a favourite of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901), was made an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) on 6th February 1896 and a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) on 26th April 1897.
Upon her father assuming the title of King of Montenegro on 28th August 1910, Princess Anna, who was born with the style of Highness, became elevated to the style of Royal Highness. Prior to World War I, Franz Joseph and his wife lived in Hesse, Germany but soon were advised to leave and ended up in exile in Switzerland. Their finances soon became an issue and by August 1916, Franz Joseph was described as being "awfully bad off" and to add to their income Princess Anna anonymously wrote and successfully published a large number of musical compositions. In addition, despite the fact that they had never met, Edwina (who married Franz Joseph's nephew and god-son- Mountbatten) sent Franz Joseph an allowance.
The joint grave of Prince Franz Joseph of Battenberg
& Princess Anna at Schaffhausen
The Battenberg family were one of the many 'victims' of the Royal Proclamation of 17th July 1917, when King George V (1865(1910-1936) – in response to anti-German attacks against the dynastic German Royal Family of Britain, 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. As has been noted, The Battenberg family used the name of Mountbatten, however Franz Joseph and his wife refused to renounce their names and titles and continued to use their Battenberg princely title for the rest of their lives.
On 31st July 1924, Franz Joseph died at Territet, near Montreux, Switzerland, aged 62yrs. Following his death, Princess Anna's sister - Queen Elena of Italy, later Countess of Pollenzo, formerly Princess Elena of Montenegro (1873-1952) bought a villa for her widowed sister near Villa Ada Savoia, Rome, Italy so that the sisters could be closer. However Princess Anna refused the offer because she said she wanted to live near her husband's grave at Schaffhausen Forest Cemetery, Schaffhausen, Switzerland. Anna remained in mourning for Franz Joseph for the rest of her life. By the 1950s, many of the wider Mountbatten family were quite concerned about their 'Aunt Anna' as her financial situation had not improved. She had her rent paid for her by her nephew - King Umberto II of Italy (1904-1983), the son of her sister Queen Elena and she continued to get an allowance from Edwina, which stopped upon Edwina's death in 1960.
Princess Anna lived until she was 97yrs - being one of the oldest lived Princesses in Europe. She died in Montreux, Switzerland on 22nd April 1971 and was buried alongside Franz Joseph at Schaffhausen.