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 Julia, The Princess of Battenberg

Julia, The Princess of Battenberg

Her Serene Highness The Princess of Battenberg, formerly Countess Julia Therese Salome VON Hauke was born on 12th November 1825 in Warsaw, Poland (then ruled by Russia), the daughter of Count John Maurice VON Hauke (1775-1830), Poland's Deputy Minister of War and Sophie Lafontaine (1790-1831).  Julia's father was a distinguished soldier, becoming a General in 1828 and was created a Count in 1829 by Tsar Nicholas I of Russia (1796-1855).  

 

In the November Uprising of 1830 in Poland, Julia's father was killed (in front of his wife and children) by the rebelling Army cadets.  His wife never got over his murder and died shortly after, and as a result their children were made wards of The Tsar.  Julia was just 5yrs old when she was orphaned.  Julia was subsequently appointed a Lady-in-Waiting to Tsarina Maria Alexandrova, formerly Princess Marie of Hesse & By the Rhine (1824-1880), the wife of Tsar Alexander II of Russia (1818-1881), the daughter of Grand Duke Louis II of Hesse & By the Rhine (1777-1848).

Julia met her future husband during her service with the Tsarina.  The handsome and dashing Prince Alexander of Hesse & By the Rhine (1823-1888) was the elder brother of the Tsarina (and god-son of The Tsar) and had been causing difficulties at Court by his scandalous womanising and gambling.  He soon fell in love with a Countess at Court and at a ball in January 1848, the Countess' mother sent a message to Prince Alexander during dances to implore him to finish the affair.  The messenger who was sent to convey the news was Julia. The Prince responded by taking Julia in his arms and began dancing with her instead of his lover.  However, Julia was used as a go-between taking love letters between Prince Alexander and his lover but the affair was soon to end, but his attentions turned towards Julia.  They began to meet in secret to avoid a scandal as she was clearly not a suitable suitor for the Prince.  However careful they hoped they were, detection was inevitable and they were discovered by The Tsar himself and were ordered never to see one another again.

Prince Alexander sought The Tsar's permission to marry Julia, which he refused and threatened to strip him of his military rank and make him an outcast in the Court if he married her.  The result was Prince Alexander and Julia eloped, secretly in the night and arrived in Breslau (now Wroclaw) in Poland, and it was there on 28th October 1851 that they were married.  The Tsar banished them, Prince Alexander was dishonourably discharged from the Army and the couple were now socially unwelcome at Court.  They had no home, no money, no position and did not even know how Julia should be styled.  The couple did know that they faced hard times.

ABOVE:

Prince Alexander of Hesse & By the Rhine

- Mountbatten's paternal grandfather

BELOW: A portrait of

Countess Julia

VON Hauke

by Woldemar Hau

On 5th November 1851, Prince Alexander's brother - Grand Duke Louis III of Hesse & By the Rhine (1806-1877) who had succeeded their father in 1848 and who had initially accused his brother of being an embarrassment to the Grand Ducal House of Hesse, decided after some consideration that he would recognise the marriage and created Julia - Countess of Battenberg, with the qualification of Illustrious Highness.  The Grand Duke declared the marriage a morganatic marriage (where the wife did not share her husband's rank and title) and ordered that any children of the marriage would use their mother's style and would not be in the line of succession to the Grand Ducal Throne.  At this time, Julia and Prince Alexander officially lived in Geneva but in fact were in Strasbourg, France where in July 1852 they had their first child.

Julia's status remained a bone of contention, being a morganatic wife she received invitations to dinner and events at Court, but was not allowed to sit with her husband and was somewhat ostracised publicly.  In 1857, Prince Alexander managed to broker a meeting between his brother-in-law - Tsar Alexander II of Russia (1818-1881) and Napoleon III, Emperor of the French (1808-1873), which prompted Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria & King of Hungary (1830-1916) to reconcile relations with Russia.  This entry into diplomacy improved Prince Alexander's status and re-introduction to favour - he was allowed to wear his Russian General's uniform, was awarded the rare Military Order of Marie Theresa by The Emperor of Austria and his brother - The Grand Duke of Hesse & By the Rhine advanced Julia to the title of Princess of Battenberg, with the qualification of Serene Highness on 26th December 1858.  In 1862, Prince Alexander retired and lived with Julia and their 5 children in Darmstadt.  Finally the family had a permanent home at Schloss Heiligenberg, a country home in woodland in the heart of the city.  He had inherited the castle when he was just 13yrs and it had remained empty for 26yrs. In May 1875, Julia converted from Catholicism to Lutheranism. 

ABOVE & BELOW:

Julia, Countess (later Princess) of Battenberg

& Prince Alexander of Hesse & By the Rhine

(Mountbatten's grandparents)

Schloss Heiligenberg, Jugenheim, Darmstadt, Hesse 

Julia was a strict mother, but her ultimate goal was to secure that her children should achieve material and marital success.  It was said that she would rather see her son - Alexander I, The Prince of Bulgaria (known as 'Sandro') dead rather than see him flee Bulgaria.  She had hoped that Sandro would have married the daughter of the German Kaiser, so she was exceptionally disappointed when he abdicated in 1886 and married an actress in 1889. On hearing the news that Sandro was seriously ill in November 1893, Julia's daughter Marie hurried to Darmstadt to persuade their mother to join her to go to his bedside.  Sadly their mother did not go, and Marie received the news that Alexander had died whilst she was travelling to her brother's deathbed.  Julia never forgave Sandro for marrying beneath him.

On 15th December 1888 at Darmstadt, Julia's beloved husband Prince Alexander died of cancer, he was 65yrs. He had been ill for some time and her daughter-in-law - Princess Victoria, Princess Louis of Battenberg wrote to The Queen (her own grandmother) and said - "I do not know how my poor mother-in-law will ever be able to bear it."  Julia died after suffering a stroke at Schloss Heiligenberg on 19 September 1895.  She was 69yrs.

 

Prince Alexander was originally buried in the Grand Ducal burial site at Rosenhöhe, Darmstadt, but even in death Julia was not considered part of the family and worthy to be buried beside her husband. On 3rd August 1894, Prince Alexander's remains were moved to the Battenberg Memorial Chapel in the Cross Garden at Heiligenberg, commissioned by Julia.  However in 1902, their remains were finally united (in accordance with his will) in a grave together outside the Chapel.  In front of their grave, lies a memorial to Mountbatten (their grandson), placed by the local community in his memory after his murder in 1979. 

ABOVE: The memorial plaque to Mountbatten at the grave of

his grandparents at Heiligenberg

 

LEFT:

Julia, The Princess

of Battenberg

FAR LEFT: The joint grave of

Julia, The Princess

of Battenberg

& Prince Alexander of Hesse

& By the Rhine

at Heiligenberg