Louis, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven
Louis, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven
(Prince Louis of Battenberg) - Mountbatten's father
Admiral of the Fleet The Rt Hon. Sir Louis Alexander Mountbatten, GCB, GCVO, KCMG, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven, 1st Earl of Medina & 1st Viscount Alderney, formerly HSH Prince Louis of Battenberg was born on 24th May 1854 in Graz, Austria, the eldest son of Prince Alexander of Hesse & By the Rhine (1823-1888) and The Princess of Battenberg, formerly Countess Julia VON Hauke (1825-1895). Due to Louis' parents morganatic marriage, from birth Louis was styled Count Louis of Battenberg with the style of Illustrious Highness and was not permitted to use the higher title and style he would have had from his father. Louis and his siblings were all barred from the line of succession to the Hessian Grand Ducal Throne. On 21st December 1858, Louis' mother was created Princess of Battenberg with the style of Serene Highness which her children shared and subsequently Louis adopted the new style of Prince Louis of Battenberg. He was born on the 35th birthday of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901).
In 1862, Louis' father - 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. Louis' father had inherited the castle when he was just 13yrs and it had remained empty for 26yrs - but despite their transitory life it was always the place that Louis considered as 'home'. Louis was just 8yrs old when the family finally settled at Heiligenberg.
Louis knew by the age of 12yrs that England and the Royal Navy was where his future lay. Louis was impressed at hearing first hand stories of life in the Royal Navy direct from Queen Victoria's second son - Admiral of the Fleet Prince Alfred, The Duke of Edinburgh (1844-1900), who later succeeded as Duke of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha in 1893. Prince Alfred visited Darmstadt to see his sister - Princess Alice (1843-1878), who had married Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse & By the Rhine (1837-1892), Louis' cousin. In 1868, at the suggestion of Prince Alfred, Louis left Hesse for England to prepare to join the Royal Navy. Both his parents had objected to this career path but eventually gave in, but Prince Alexander warned his son about the ramifications of joining the Royal Navy - "to do that you would have to give up your German citizenship and become a British subject" to which the young Louis said - "that is what I intend to do!"
Prince Louis of Battenberg
as a young Lieutenant in the Royal Navy
On 14th October 1868, Louis went before a public notary at Gosport, Hampshire and swore the Oath of Allegiance to The Queen on becoming a British subject and became a cadet in the Royal Navy and was assigned to HMS Victory in Portsmouth. He passed all of his exams and it was decided he would be posted in a training ship and go straight to sea, however Prince Albert Edward, The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII (1841(1901-1910) known as 'Uncle Bertie' arranged it that Louis would join him as an Aide-de-Camp on-board HMS Ariadne on for a cruise of the Mediterranean by The Prince & Princess of Wales.
Jeanne Marie Langtry, MBE,
Lady Malcolm of Poltalloch
By 1880, Louis was madly in love with the socialite-come-actress Mrs Edward 'Lillie' Langtry, née Emilie Le Breton, later Lady de Bathe (1853-1929), the former mistress of 'Uncle Bertie' - The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII (1841(1901-1910), who encouraged the liaison. Mrs Langtry subsequently fell pregnant and to avoid any scandal Louis was assigned to HMS Inconstant and on 8th March 1881 a daughter was born in Paris. The child - Jeanne Marie, was 20yrs when she discovered Mr Langtry was not her father, the disclosure of which caused a great rift between mother and daughter who was asked - "who would you prefer to have as a father - a penniless drunken Irishman or a Royal Prince and the most handsome of all Naval officers?"
On 30th June 1902 at St Margaret's Church, Westminster, Jeanne Marie married Sir Ian Malcolm of Poltalloch (1868-1944), a Conservative MP, whose family disapproved of Mrs Langtry. Lady Malcolm established herself into respectable society (unlike her mother) and went on to head the Marylebone Housing Association for many years and was awarded an MBE for her Red Cross work. Jeanne Marie died on 15th February 1964, aged 83yrs.
Although Mountbatten himself publicly acknowledged and accepted that Louis was her father, due to the well documented promiscuity of her mother, Jeanne Marie's paternity has never been confirmed.
Whist serving onboard HMS Inconstant, Louis went on his next adventure - which meant he would not return to England for 2 years. His ship, which was part of the 'Flying Squadron' was the flagship of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Richard Meade, 4th Earl Clanwilliam (1832-1907). One of the other ships within the Squadron was HMS Bacchante, who had 2 notable young junior officers - the eldest sons of 'Uncle Bertie' : Prince Albert Victor 'Eddie', The Duke of Clarence & Avondale (1864-1892) and Prince George of Wales, later King George V (1865(1910-1936). On this long voyage Louis formed a strong friendship with his cousin Prince George, a friendship which would last all of his life. Louis finally returned to England on 16th October 1882. Upon his return, Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) personally awarded Louis the Egypt Medal (for his part in his ship's part in Alexandria) and thanked him for looking after her grandsons.
ABOVE: A painting of HMY Victoria & Albert II
by William Frederick Mitchell
RIGHT: The Egypt Medal (1882-1889)
In July 1869, Louis was posted to HMS Royal Alfred, the flagship of Admiral Sir George Wellesley (1814-1901), the Commander-in-Chief of the North American Squadron, and Louis finally was able to get on with his training in the Royal Navy. In 1874, he started to study for his Sub-Lieutenant's examinations at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. Whilst in London, he was close to his British Royal cousins but in September 1875, The Prince of Wales asked Louis to join him on his official visit to India, for the celebrations of The Queen becoming Empress of India.
In 1876 on return to England, Louis joined HMS Sultan back in the Mediterranean Fleet, but his 'Uncle Bertie' opposed his posting, wishing him to stay close for 'the Season' at Marlborough House in London. He joined HMS Sultan but during this time he became fully aware of the poor state of the British Fleet and was getting frustrated at being treated differently to his fellow junior officers. About this time, Louis realised that his feelings for his cousin - Princess Victoria of Hesse & By the Rhine (1863-1950), the daughter of Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse & By the Rhine (1837-1892) and the cousins became more romantically inclined. Her mother was
Princess Alice (1843-1878), daughter of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) who had died of diphtheria in 1878.
Princess Victoria of Hesse & By the Rhine
In 1883, Louis was posted to the Royal Yacht 'Victoria & Albert II' and he and Princess Victoria became engaged. His parents approved of the very acceptable union between their son and a favourite granddaughter of The Queen. However, her family were not so pleased, thinking that at 19yrs she was too young and inexperienced for marriage, and that she should be spending more time looking after her recently widowed father. In addition many relatives throughout Russia and Germany were against the relationship. However The Queen made it clear that she approved and wrote - "I am very glad she has found a person, kind, good and clever and whom she knows thoroughly well."