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JULIA, THE PRINCESS OF BATTENBERG
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​ Julia, The Princess of Battenberg ​

Julia, The Princess of Battenberg

HSH 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 1830 November Uprising 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), and a 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 had been causing difficulties at Court by his scandalous womanising and gambling.  Prince Alexander had travelled in 1840 to Russia with his sister (then a young 16yr old Princess Marie) for her wedding in St Petersburg to the Tsarevitch Alexander - later Tsar Alexander II of Russia (1818-1881), then heir of Tsar Nicholas I (1796-1855).  He and his young sister were close and Prince Alexander decided to remain in Russia and enlisted in the Russian Army and enjoyed life at the Russian Court.  As the brother of the then Tsarevna, Prince Alexander was promoted to the rank of Colonel at 18yrs and Major-General  at 20yrs and revelled in his new status at the Russian Court, which of course enabled his womanising.  He even became besotted with the Tsar's daughter - Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna (1822-1892) and was offered the hand of his niece - Grand Duchess Catherine Mikhailovna (1827-1894) in an attempt to settle him into a stable and respectable relationship.  However, Prince Alexander's roving eye had set his heart on another.

 

Prince Alexander soon fell in love with Countess Sophie Petrovna Shuvalov (1837-1928) at Court, however 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, and 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 that Prince Alexander and Julia eloped, secretly in the night and arrived in Breslau (now Wroclaw) in Poland, and on 28th October 1851 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 only certainty was that the couple knew that they faced hard times.

Prince Alexander of Hesse & By the Rhine - Mountbatten's paternal grandfather
A portrait of Countess Julia  VON Hauke by Woldemar Hau

RIGHT:

Prince

Alexander

of Hesse

& By the Rhine

(Mountbatten's

grandfather)

LEFT: A portrait of

Countess Julia

VON Hauke

(Mountbatten's grandmother)

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 Prince Alexander's marriage and created Julia - Countess of Battenberg, with the qualification of Illustrious Highness.  The Grand Duke declared the marriage to be 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.  Due to the obvious embarrassment that Julia fell pregnant prior to her marriage (28th October 1851), their eldest child Princess Marie insisted years later that she was born on 15th July 1852 - her father's birthday.  

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Julia, Countess (later Princess) of Battenberg  & Prince Alexander of Hesse & By the Rhine

Julia, The Princess of Battenberg

& Prince Alexander of Hesse & By the Rhine in 1885

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The insignia of
a Knight's Cross of the Military Order
of Marie Theresa

 

Julia's status remained a bone of contention, being a morganatic wife she received invitations to dinner and events at Court, but was not even 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 Emperor 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 and he was allowed to wear his Russian General's uniform, was awarded the rare Knight's Cross of the Military Order of Marie Theresa in 1859 by Emperor Franz Joseph and Julia was advanced to the title of Princess of Battenberg, with the qualification of Serene Highness on 26th December 1858 by his brother - Grand Duke Louis III of Hesse & By the Rhine (1806-1877).  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 26 years.  In May 1875, Julia converted from Catholicism to Lutheranism - her religion had been heavily criticised by his family.

​ Schloss Heiligenberg, Jugenheim, Darmstadt, Hesse  ​


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 when her son - Alexander I, The Prince of Bulgaria, known as 'Sandro' (1857-1893) faced loosing his Throne, that she would rather see him dead rather than see him flee Bulgaria into exile.  Julia had also hoped that Sandro would marry Princess Viktoria of Prussia (1866-1929), the daughter of the then Crown Prince of Germany, later Kaiser Frederick III, Emperor of Germany & King of Prussia (1831-1888), who was also a granddaughter of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) - who had engineered the match.  Julia had hoped Sandro's marriage to Princess Viktoria would secure an alliance with the two most influential Royal Families of Europe, but her family were against the match due to the unstable political situation in Bulgaria, his 'inferior' status being issue of a morganatic marriage and fear of offending Tsar Alexander III of Russia (1845-1894), so she was exceptionally disappointed when her son abdicated in 1886 and subsequently married an actress in 1889.  On hearing the news that Sandro was seriously ill in November 1893, Julia's daughter Princess Marie, The Princess of Erbach-Schönberg (1852-1923) hurried to Darmstadt to persuade their mother to join her at his bedside.  Sadly Julia refused to go to Sandro, as she never forgave him for marrying beneath him, and Marie received the news that Sandro had died whilst she was travelling to her brother's deathbed.  

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 Julia's daughter-in-law - Princess Victoria, Princess Louis of Battenberg, later The Marchioness of Milford Haven (1863-1950) wrote to her own grandmother - Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) 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 19th September 1895.  She was 69yrs.  Despite being treated as socially unacceptable in Royal circles throughout her married life, it is ironic that Julia's descendants rank amongst many of the Royal Houses of Europe.

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ABOVE: The joint grave of Julia, The Princess of Battenberg

& Prince Alexander of Hesse & By the Rhine at Heiligenberg.

To the right of the Cross, is the Battenberg Memorial Chapel

BELOW: The memorial plaque to Mountbatten

at his grandparent's grave at Heiligenberg

The memorial plaque to Mountbatten at the grave of  his grandparents at Heiligenberg
Julia, The Princess of Battenberg

Julia, The Princess of Battenberg

in later years

Prince Alexander was originally buried in the Grand Ducal burial site at Rosenhöhe, Darmstadt, but even in death Julia's morganatic status was an issue and she was still 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 the grave of Prince Alexander and Julia, now lies a memorial to Mountbatten (their grandson), placed by the local community in his memory after his murder in August 1979. 

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