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LOUIS, 1st MARQUESS OF MILFORD HAVEN 
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Admiral of the Fleet
The Rt Hon. Sir Louis Mountbatten,
1st Marquess of Milford Haven
(Prince Louis of Battenberg)

 

Admiral of the Fleet The Rt Hon. Sir Louis Alexander Mountbatten, GCB, GCVO, KCMG, ADC(P), 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 (where his mother did not share her husband's rank), 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 26 years - 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.

Prince Louis of Battenberg as a young Lieutenant in the Royal Navy ​


LEFT:
Prince Louis of Battenberg
as a young Lieutenant
in the Royal Navy

 


ABOVE: Prince Louis
in his youth

 

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BELOW:
Admiral of the Fleet
Prince Alfred,
The Duke of Edinburgh,
later Duke of
Saxe-Coburg & Gotha
- second son of Queen Victoria

 

 

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 the reigning 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 Louis' 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!"  

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 so that Louis would join him as an Aide-de-Camp (ADC) on-board HMS Ariadne on for a cruise of the Mediterranean.

Jeanne Marie Langtry, MBE,

Lady Malcolm of Poltalloch

(1881-1964)  

Jeanne Marie Langtry, MBE, Lady Malcolm of Poltalloch (1881-1964)

 

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, France.  The child - 'Jeanne Marie', was 20yrs when she discovered Mr Langtry was not her biological 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 appointed a Member of the Order of the Order of the British Empire (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.  In 1978, letters were discovered, written by Mrs Langtry to a secret lover and childhood friend - Arthur Clarence Jones (1854-1930), which infers that he was Jeanne Marie's biological father.


RIGHT: Princess Victoria of Hesse & By the Rhine
(Mountbatten's mother)

 

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. 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 from India, Louis joined HMS Sultan back in the Mediterranean Fleet, but his 'Uncle Bertie' opposed his posting, wishing him to stay close by 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 he had 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 soon became more romantically inclined.  Her mother was Princess Alice (1843-1878), a daughter of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) who had died of diphtheria in 1878.

Princess Victoria of Hesse & By the Rhine​ ​
The Egypt Medal (1882-1889) ​


The Egypt Medal
(1882-1889)

 

 

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 two notable young junior officers: the eldest sons of 'Uncle Bertie' - Prince Albert Victor 'Eddie', The Duke of Clarence & Avondale (1864-1892) and Prince George 'Georgie' of Wales, later King George V (1865(1910-1936).  On this long voyage Louis formed a strong friendship with his cousin Prince George, 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 actions in Alexandria) and thanked him for looking after her grandsons. 

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 very 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."

Princess Victoria of Hesse & By the Rhine (left)  & Prince Louis of Battenberg at the time of their wedding ​


A drawing of the bride & groom (Mountbatten's parents) -
(left) Princess Victoria of Hesse & By the Rhine
and (right) Prince Louis of Battenberg

 

On 30th April 1884, Louis married in Darmstadt his first cousin, once removed - Princess Victoria of Hesse & By the Rhine (1863-1950), in the presence of her grandmother - Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) and most of the Royal Families of Europe.  Victoria wore her mother's wedding dress with Honiton lace, patterned with roses, orange blossom and myrtle over the white satin, with a short 6ft train.  Her veil was surmounted by a sapphire and diamond diadem and a wreath of orange flowers and myrtle, which The Queen had given her favourite granddaughter.  Firstly a civil ceremony was held, conducted by the Prime Minister, then the wedding party moved onto the castle chapel. The bride entered the chapel between her father and Louis' father.  Louis wore his dress uniform of a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and wore the insignia of a Grand Cross of the Order of Louis of Hesse and a Knight Commander (Civil Division) of the Order of the Bath (KCB) - which The Queen gave Louis the night before his marriage  

 

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A drawing of Mountbatten's parents -
Princess Victoria of Hesse & By the Rhine
and Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884

 

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ABOVE: An engraving of the wedding
of Prince Louis of Battenberg
& Princess Victoria of Hesse
& By the Rhine


BELOW: Princess Victoria,
Princess Louis of Battenberg

in her wedding dress
 

Mountbatten's mother -  Princess Victoria  of Hesse & By the Rhine (Princess Louis of Battenberg) in her wedding dress
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Princess Victoria,
Princess Louis of Battenberg

in her wedding dress
 

With the bride limping (having sprained her ankle) and feeling delicate (having not eaten properly prior to the wedding) that was just enough to upset the arrangements, however news of the bride's father surprise second marriage came to Darmstadt shocked everyone.  Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse & By the Rhine (1837-1892), who had married Princess Alice (1843-1878), the daughter of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) in 1862, had been widowed in 1878.  On the eve of Princess Victoria's marriage, her father contracted a morganatic marriage to a divorcée Frau VON Kolemin, the former Countess Alexandrine Hutten-Czapska (1854-1941), which considering his first wife's family - including Queen Victoria (his former mother-in-law) had already gathered in Darmstadt - it caused a great scandal with opposition on all sides.  The Grand Duke's marriage was was to end in separation after just a week and an annulment within three months and in May 1884, his wife was paid off financially and given the title 'Countess von Romrod'. 

Prince & Princess Louis of Battenberg (as they were now styled) took a lease on 'Sennicotts', a small country estate on the outskirts of Chichester, Sussex - not far from Portsmouth, and was their first home together as a married couple.  During her first pregnancy, Victoria spent her time travelling around the area, whilst her husband was on duty in Portsmouth.  However The Queen was determined that their child should be born in the same place (and literally the same bed) as Victoria had been born in 1863, so in February 1885 The Battenbergs left 'Sennicotts' for Windsor Castle.  After World War II, the estate was bought by Captain Geoffrey Bowes Lyon (1886-1951), a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (1900-2002), the mother of Queen Elizabeth II (1926(1952-    ).  
On 30th August 1885, Louis was promoted to the rank of Commander, but spent the next two years years at various shore based establishments.  In 1887, he was appointed the Executive Officer of HMS Dreadnought, a ship of the Mediterranean Fleet and during this time the Royal Navy was being encouraged to modernise by younger officers such as Louis, who wanted to abandon sails for iron-clad fighting machines and steer away from old Nelsonian tactics.  However such 'modern' thinking was met with strong opposition and Louis and his fellow contemporaries were ignored and some passed over for promotion.

Prince & Princess Louis of Battenberg and their 4 children - baby Louis (Mountbatten) sitting on his mother's lap,  Alice (later Princess Andrew of Greece & Denmark),  George (later 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven & Louise (later Queen Louise of Sweden) ​


Prince & Princess Louis of Battenberg
with their four children -
baby Mountbatten (on his mother's lap);
Alice (standing at the rear); George (centre);
and Louise (seated right)

 

On 30th August 1885, Louis was promoted to the rank of Commander, but spent the next two years years at various shore based establishments.  In 1887, he was appointed the Executive Officer of HMS Dreadnought, a ship of the Mediterranean Fleet and during this time the Royal Navy was being encouraged to modernise by younger officers such as Louis, who wanted to abandon sails for iron-clad fighting machines and steer away from old Nelsonian tactics.  However such 'modern' thinking was met with strong opposition and Louis and his fellow contemporaries were ignored and some passed over for promotion.