28 MAY 2023
A tribute & memorial website to honour - Lord Louis MOUNTBATTEN, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma
EDWINA, COUNTESS MOUNTBATTEN OF BURMA
Heiress & Engagement to Mountbatten
Edwina's new and limited organisational skills were put the test at Brook House, for her grandfather was a stickler for punctuality and his social arrangements were now to be Edwina's priority. Sir Ernest was famous for his lavish parties, and Edwina became a confident hostess – she was in her element and she soon became renowned in society as one of the most interesting and richest of débutantes in London’s society. In May 1920, Edwina's own 'coming out' into society was a full list of several weeks of parties and social events, including a ball held at Brook House itself, which she shared with cousin Marjorie Jenkins, later Countess of Brecknock (1900-1989). As Edwina was labelled one of the richest heiresses in the country, it meant that every dinner, every dance, and more importantly every dance partner was documented in the newspapers. She soon became recognised as one of the 'fast set' of debutantes which included - (Dame) Barbara Cartland (1901-2000); The Hon. Grisell Cochrane-Baillie (1898-1985) and Miss Audrey James (1902-1968).
Inevitably at one of these society parties, Edwina met her future husband - the young Lord Louis Mountbatten at Claridge’s Hotel, London. They were first introduced by Mrs Cornelius Vanderbilt II, née Miss Alice Gwynne (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. She'll make a wonderful wife for you."
Sir Ernest Cassel's London residence
- Brook House, Park Lane, London
Alice, Mrs Cornelius Vanderbilt II
On 19th October 1920, Edwina and Mary were bridesmaids at St Margaret's Church, Westminster, London, at the marriage of cousin Marjorie Jenkins (1900-1989) to John Pratt, Earl of Brecknock, later 5th Marquess Camden (1899-1983). The best man at the wedding was The Hon. Charles 'Charlie' Rhys (1899-1962), later 8th Lord Dynevore - who had previously (unsuccessfully) proposed marriage to Edwina. Another bridesmaid was Miss Sonia Keppel (1900-1986), who later married Roland Cubitt, 3rd Lord Ashcombe (1899-1962) and was the grandmother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, formerly Mrs Camilla Parker-Bowles, née Shand (b.1947), second wife of Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales (b.1948). Sonia Keppel was herself the youngest daughter of The Hon. Mrs George Keppel, née Alice Edmonstone (1868-1947), the mistress of King Edward VII (1841(1901-1910).
RIGHT: An official
photograph of the
John, Earl of Brecknock,
later 5th Marquess Camden
to Miss Marjorie Jenkins,
'cousin Marjorie', a great-niece of Sir Ernest Cassel.
Amongst the bridesmaids
were Edwina & Mary
(seated) far right.
The Rt Hon.
Sir Ernest Cassel -
Dame Margaret Greville,
The Hon. Mrs
in India in 1921
Mountbatten intended to propose marriage to Edwina in September 1921 – but the death of his father on 11th September 1921 changed his plans. Within days of the death of Mountbatten’s father, Sir Ernest died on 21st September 1921, following a heart attack whilst at his desk in Brook House - he was 69yrs old. Edwina and Mountbatten sought each other for solace in grief, and they went for quiet walks in Hyde Park together to discuss their situation and their future - more importantly, IF, they had a future. Mountbatten decided against making a proposal, having been dissuaded by his mother with the thought that he was no longer in Edwina’s league being a poorly paid Naval officer.
Sir Ernest was as well organised in death, as he was alive. His will was detailed - with an estate valued at over £7 million (nearly £300 million in today's money), Amongst the bequests - Edwina and Mary were to inherit jointly Sir Ernest's Villa Cassel in Switzerland; Sir Ernest's sister - Mrs Wilhelmina 'Bobbie' Cassel (1847-1925) was given use of Brook House for the rest of her life, and then it would go to Edwina, and failing all his relations in specific order, Brook House would be offered to the Sovereign; Sir Ernest's estates in Newmarket, including Six Mile Bottom Estate would pass to Mary. Sir Ernest's vast fortune would be split into 64 parts - with 16 parts going to Mary when she came of age; and 25 parts to Edwina (the largest single share) - worth £2 million (nearly £90 million in today's money). Should Mary or Edwina die childless, then the surviving sister would inherit their share of Sir Ernest's fortune. Edwina was hailed "the richest girl in Britain." Following Sir Ernest's funeral, Edwina was invited to stay with 'matchmaker' and society hostess - Dame Margaret Greville (née McEwan), The Hon. Mrs Ronald Greville (1863-1942) at Polesden Lacey, her country home near Dorking, Surrey, who Edwina persuaded to invite Mountbatten. In October 1921, at Mountbatten's request, Mountbatten's sister-in-law - 'Nada', Marchioness of Milford Haven, formerly Countess Nadejda Mikhailovna de Torby (1896-1963) invited Edwina to stay at The Milford Haven's home in Southsea, Hampshire.
Mountbatten had decided to accept the invitation from his cousin - Prince Edward 'David', 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 onboard HMS Renown as his Aide-de-Camp (ADC). Edwina joined The Milford Havens at Portsmouth Harbour to see the departure of the Royal party on 26th October 1921. 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, with her great-aunt Mrs Cassel even lending Edwina £100 for the fare and ensuring that Edwina be properly fitted out with new hats and dresses.
On 14th February 1922, whilst at a dance Mountbatten took Edwina aside and he proposed marriage and Edwina accepted.
The then Vicereine - Dame Alice Isaacs, née Cohen, 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.
An official engagement photograph of Mountbatten & Edwina
his cousin - Prince Edward 'David',
The Prince of Wales
whilst in Japan during
the Prince's Empire Tour
Prince Edward 'David',
The Prince of Wales,
King Edward VIII)
later Duke of Windsor
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 - Lord Leopold 'Leo' 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 of Wales’ tour finally came to an end on 19th June 1922 when HMS Renown returned to Plymouth. On 21st June 1922, The Prince (accompanied by Mountbatten) officially left the ship for a day of processions and official welcomes, culminating in a carriage procession to Buckingham Palace. Edwina decided not to join the large crowd of on-lookers and officials to welcome the Royal party home (although she did witness the carriage procession from the balcony of Bath House), but arranged to finally meet her fiancé at her cousin Marjorie's London home in Belgrave Place later that evening.
For the next few weeks, Edwina and Mountbatten spent much of their time together at parties and lunches and were the highlight of society. Edwina took Mountbatten to Broadlands, her father's estate in Hampshire to meet Wilfrid, with whom he discussed Mountbatten's marriage settlement. The day before their marriage, Mountbatten and Edwina attended the wedding of Henry Herbert, Lord Porchester, later 6th Earl of Carnarvon (1898-1987) to Miss Catherine Wendell (1900-1977) at St Margaret's Church, Westminster, which Mountbatten said was useful as they "picked up some tips."
A short film (no audio) by Pathé
about the return of Prince Edward 'David',
The Prince of Wales following his 1922 Empire tour
Edwina - a fashionable lady of society,
prior to her marriage to Mountbatten
Edwina & Mountbatten with the Barker Cabriolet
Rolls-Royce - her wedding present to Mountbatten
Edwina obtained a marriage licence from the Vicar-General's office herself and was now financially independent, with full control of her own finances. One of the first items she bought was a Barker Cabriolet Rolls-Royce, as a joint 'welcome home' and wedding present to Mountbatten. It was now that the pressure of their wedding started to hit, with his sense of complete supervision of every detail causing minor arguments, after all their wedding was to be a mixture of protocol, ordeal and accepted legal and religious ritual - all in the glare of society and the press. Queen Mary (1867-1953) was reported to be shocked to see details of Edwina's lingerie in the newspapers!