Heiress & Engagement to Mountbatten
ABOVE: Brook House, Park Lane, London
LEFT: The Rt Hon. Sir Ernest Cassel
- Edwina's grandfather
Edwina's wealthy Cassel grandfather was famous for his lavish parties, and Edwina became his hostess – she was in her element and she soon became renowned in society as one of the most interesting and richest of debutantes in London’s society. Inevitably at one of these society parties, Edwina met her future husband - the young Lord Louis Mountbatten at Claridge’s Hotel, London. They were introduced by Alice, Mrs Cornelius Vanderbilt (1845-1934). Edwina and Mountbatten met again at the Cowes Regatta on the Isle of Wight and they attended the numerous parties throughout the society week and shortly afterwards, Mountbatten introduced Edwina to his parents. Mountbatten’s father said to his son at the time - “Edwina is the most charming and remarkable girl of this generation I have met. She’s got intelligence, character, everything. If you decide to marry her, you have my whole-hearted approval.”
Mountbatten intended to propose marriage in September 1921 – but the death of his father changed his plans. Within days of the death of Mountbatten’s father, Cassel died and left his young granddaughter an estate (including his Brook House mansion) of the value of over £7 million (over £60 million in today's money). Mountbatten decided against making a proposal, having been dissuaded by his mother with the thought that he was no longer in Edwina’s league as a poorly paid Naval officer. Mountbatten decided to accept the invitation from his cousin 'David' - Prince Edward, The Prince of Wales, subsequently King Edward VIII (1894(1936)1972) and later The Duke of Windsor to accompany him on his tour of India and Japan, in an effort to give him some distance from Edwina.
An engagement photograph
of Mountbatten & Edwina
Edwina - as a society hostess
Whilst touring India with his Royal cousin, Mountbatten wrote to Edwina throughout and at his request she engineered a way to stay with the then Viceroy of India in Delhi. On 14th February 1922, at a dance Mountbatten took Edwina aside and he proposed marriage and Edwina accepted. The then Vicereine - Alice, Countess (later Marchioness) of Reading (1866-1930) said - “I am afraid she has definitely made up her mind about him… I say afraid, tho’ I know nothing against him except that he is too young”. It appeared that Lady Reading told Edwina that she hoped that she would marry “someone older with more of a career before him.” Although Mountbatten wrote to Edwina’s father for consent to marry his daughter, news reached him of their engagement before the letter arrived - her father was not happy and even delayed making the official announcement in the newspaper.
Mountbatten (right) with his cousin Prince Edward, The Prince of Wales
whilst in Japan on the Prince's Empire Tour
On 21st February 1922 their romantic break was to come to an end. The next schedule of The Prince of Wales’ tour meant that his party had to leave to head onto Karachi and subsequently onto Hong Kong and Japan, meanwhile Edwina left for Broadlands, her home in Hampshire. However whilst near Port Said on 24th April 1922, Edwina read the shocking news that “Lord L. Mountbatten, cousin of The King died yesterday”. Clearly having just announced their engagement, Edwina was devastated to think that her romance had ended before it had really begun. After some delay, she was to discover that the “Lord L. Mountbatten” in question was in fact Mountbatten’s cousin - Captain Lord Leopold Mountbatten (1889-1922), the son of Colonel Prince Henry of Battenberg (1858-1896), Mountbatten’s uncle who had married Princess Beatrice (1857-1944), the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901). Lord Leopold had also been born a Prince of Battenberg and like Mountbatten relinquished his princely status in 1917.
The Prince’s tour finally came to an end on 20th June 1922, and Mountbatten returned to Plymouth on board HMS Renown. Edwina joined the large crowd of on-lookers to welcome the Royal party home. For the next few weeks, Edwina and Mountbatten spent much of their time together at parties and lunches and were the highlight of society.