LOUIS, 1st MARQUESS OF MILFORD HAVEN
Following Louis' resignation as First Sea Lord, in November 1914, The Battenberg (now living in more modest circumstances) retired to Kent House, East Cowes (near Osborne House) on the Isle of Wight, the former home of Princess Louise, The Duchess of Argyll (1848-1939), which Queen Victoria (1819)1837-1901) had purchased for her daughter in 1864 and Mountbatten would stay there whilst on leave. He did point out how hypocritical one newspaper was with anti-German hysteria that had brought his resignation as First Sea Lord. On one page a newspaper was still publishing articles full of horrible comments about his German name, family and background - questioning his loyalty to the UK, yet on another page the same newspaper had warm tributes about his nephew Prince Maurice of Battenberg (1891-1914), who was killed at Zonnebeke, Ypres, Belgium in October 1914, who had gallantly served in the King's Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC) and killed in action aged just 23yrs.
The Battenberg family were one of the many 'victims' of the Royal Proclamation of 17th July 1917, when King George V (1865(1910-1936) – in response to anti-German attacks against the dynastic German Royal Family of Britain, declared that members of the Royal Family and extended family would cease to use their inherited German styles and titles and that his family name would be 'Windsor' instead of 'Saxe-Coburg & Gotha'.
The 1910 portrait of
Prince Louis of Battenberg,
(later 1st Marquess of Milford Haven)
by Philip de Lászlo
ABOVE: The Arms of
The Rt Hon. Sir Louis Mountbatten,
1st Marquess of Milford Haven
BELOW: one of the last photographs
of the Imperial Russian Royal Family
whilst in detention in
The Governor's Mansion, Tobolsk in 1918
Prince Louis of Battenberg,
later 1st Marquess of Milford Haven
with his two sons in Naval uniform - Mountbatten (left)
& (right) Prince George, later 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven
At The King's request, Louis relinquished his Princely status and decided (after much debate) to adopt the surname of 'Mountbatten' - a literal Anglicized translation of Battenberg, and was created a Peer of the Realm taking the title Marquess of Milford Haven, Earl of Medina & Viscount Alderney within the Peerage of the United Kingdom. During his transition from German Prince to a Peer of the Realm, Mountbatten’s father was staying with his eldest son George, who took the courtesy title of Earl of Medina and who would later succeed their father as 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, famously wrote in the guest-book during his change in status - "arrived Prince Hyde. Departed Lord Jekyll." Louis duly took his seat in the House of Lords on 25th July 1917, with his sponsors being - The Rt Hon. Sir Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe (1858-1945) a distinguished Liberal statesman and The Rt Hon. Sir Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne (1845-1927), a former Conservative minister who had been Viceroy of India and Governor-General of Canada.
the last Tsarina of Russia,
formerly Princess Alix
of Hesse & By the Rhine
(sister of Louis' wife -
of Milford Haven)
In her memoirs, Queen Victoria's granddaughter - Princess Marie Louise (1872-1956), youngest daughter of Princess Helena, Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein (1846-1923), wrote how in July 1918 she was at Windsor Castle having lunch with King George V (1865(1910-1936) and Queen Mary (1867-1953) and noticed how sombre The King looked. Thinking it was due to bad news from the trenches in France (in the last months of World War I), he told her of the tragic news of the murder of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (1868-1918), his wife - Tsarina Alexandra, formerly Princess Alix of Hesse & By the Rhine (1872-1918) and their five children by the Bolsheviks at Ekaterinburg. Russia. He told Princess Marie Louise that he had asked for publication of the news to be delayed so he could inform the Tsarina's sister - Princess Victoria, the new Marchioness of Milford Haven. As Princess Marie Louise was going to stay with The Milford Havens the next day, she offered to take a letter from The King and she wrote - "I have often had to face difficult situations that have needed both tact as well as courage, but never anything so terrible as to inform someone that their much-loved sister, brother-in-law and their five children had all been murdered." Upon her subsequent arrival at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, Princess Marie Louise recalled how she was met by Louis and she told him privately of the letter and its sombre content. Louis said - "give me the letter. It is far better to let me tell Victoria."
Following his resignation, Louis occupied his time in writing a comprehensive encyclopaedia on Naval medals, published in three large volumes which became the standard reference work on the subject. At the end of the War, Louis was hurt at not being invited to witness the formal surrender of the German High Fleet, but the final insult was to come. Upon his resignation, Louis had been assured that he would be able to return to the Royal Navy after the War. However on 9th December 1918, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, later 1st Lord Wester Wemyss (1864-1933), the First Sea Lord wrote to Louis to inform him that he would not be employed again and suggested that he might retire in order to facilitate the promotion of younger officers. He immediately replied to the Admiralty to accept and asked to officially be placed on the Retired List. He also wrote to The King -"in response to a letter from Admiral Wemyss I have just sent in my papers. As he did not appear to be aware of the reasons why I am still on the active list I informed him in reply that I had the promise of H.M. Government, when I resigned office, that I should hoist my flag directly the war was over." His youngest son - Mountbatten, wrote to his mother - "I see they have accepted Papa's resignation... it would do you good to hear the remarks in the mess about it. They're all furious as they hoped he'd get some big job now! I do think it is disgraceful myself." On 1st January 1919, Louis officially retired a few months before the mandatory retirement age of 65yrs.
A formal photographic portrait of
Louis, 1st Marquess
of Milford Haven
The insignia of a
Knight Grand Cross
of the Honourable Order
of the Bath (GCB) -
The financial affairs of The Milford Havens became a matter of concern. Following the Russian Bolshevik revolution, Louis lost all of his considerable investments - as the brother-in-law was the Tsar, Louis had considered his investments safe in Russia. With the collapse of the German Mark after the War, Louis' properties in Germany were practically worthless. As a result, Louis was forced to give up Kent House, East Cowes on the Isle of Wight and settled into a house within the grounds of Netley Castle, near Southampton, Hampshire - the home of the family of the husband of Mrs Nona Kerr Crichton (1875-1960), Lady-in-Waiting to The Marchioness of Milford Haven. In 1920 he sold Schloß Heiligenberg, his family home in Hesse for a pittance.
In the 1921 New Years Honours List, Louis was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath - Military Division (GCB) in recognition of long service in the Royal Navy - he had already received a GCB - Civil Division in 1887. On 19th August 1921, King George V (1865(1910-1936) appointed Louis to the rank of Admiral of the Fleet, the highest rank (5* rank) in the Royal Navy. In this appointment, The King referred to how Louis had "bowed to his fate without murmur or complaint and with that dignity worthy of his generous nature." Within twenty minutes of receiving a hand-written note of congratulations from The Rt Hon. Arthur Lee, 1st Lord (later 1st Viscount) Lee of Fareham (1868-1947), then First Lord of the Admiralty who had recommended the promotion to Admiral of the Fleet to The King, Louis headed to Lord Lee's office in tears and told him - "I think you know what this means to me. It is the greatest moment of my life."