Meeting Edwina Ashley
Just prior to his father’s death, Mountbatten had met a leading member of London society – Miss (later The Hon.) Edwina Ashley, the daughter of Colonel The Rt Hon. Wilfrid Ashley, later 1st Lord Mount Temple (1867-1939), a former Army officer who was a Member of Parliament 1906-1932 and held several ministerial posts including Minister of Transport 1924-1929. They met during the annual Cowes Regatta on the Isle of Wight. Edwina's pedigree was both aristocratic, political and wealthy and in 1921 following the death of her grandfather - The Rt Hon. Sir Ernest Cassel (1852-1921), Edwina had inherited £2 million and amongst other properties - the family country seat of Broadlands in Romsey, Hampshire. To compare their income, Mountbatten’s Naval salary at the time was just £610 per annum. Mountbatten was subsequently invited on a short cruise on the yacht of Brigadier-General Cornelius Vanderbilt III (1873-1942) and conveniently Edwina was also invited, and their friendship blossomed into a romance.
Miss (later The Hon.) Edwina Ashley
Edwina - society heiress
An engagement photograph of Mountbatten & Edwina
Whilst touring India with his cousin 'David' - Prince Edward, The Prince of Wales, subsequently King Edward VIII (1894(1936)1972) and later The Duke of Windsor, Mountbatten wrote to Edwina throughout and at his request she engineered a way to stay with the then Viceroy of India in Delhi. On 14th February 1922 there was a dance at the Vice-regal Lodge and Mountbatten wrote - “I danced 1 and 2 with Edwina. She had 3 and 4 with David and the fifth dance we sat out in her sitting room, when I asked her if she would marry me, and she said she would.” Mountbatten later said - “in India, I found three loves… the first, India herself… the second, polo… And finally, my real love.”
Mountbatten and Edwina became engaged but on 21st February 1922 their romantic break was to come to an end. The next schedule of the Prince’s tour meant that his party had to leave to head onto Karachi and subsequently onto Hong Kong and Japan, meanwhile Edwina left for Broadlands, her home in Hampshire. However whilst near Port Said on 24th April 1922, Edwina read the shocking news that “Lord L. Mountbatten, cousin of The King died yesterday”. Clearly having just announced their engagement, Edwina was devastated to think that her romance had ended before it had really begun. After some delay, she was to discover that the 'Lord L. Mountbatten' in question was in fact Mountbatten’s cousin - Captain Lord Leopold Mountbatten (1889-1922), the son of Colonel Prince Henry of Battenberg (1858-1896), Mountbatten’s uncle who had married Princess Beatrice (1857-1944), the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901). Lord Leopold had also been born a Prince of Battenberg and like Mountbatten relinquished his princely status in 1917.
The Prince of Wales’ tour finally came to an end on 20th June 1922, and Mountbatten returned to Plymouth on board HMS Renown. Edwina joined the large crowd of on-lookers to welcome the Royal party home. For the next few weeks, Edwina and Mountbatten spent much of their time together at parties and lunches and were the highlight of society.
On 17th July 1922 (the day before his wedding to Edwina) Mountbatten was invested as a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) for his service as Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to The Prince of Wales on his tours throughout the Empire. The Prince gave Mountbatten and Edwina as a wedding gift - a silver globe engraved with the tracks of the Australian and Indian tours. Other wedding gifts included a diamond encrusted cuff-links from King George V (1865(1910-1936) and Queen Mary (1867-1953), a diamond tiara and brooch from Aga Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, The Aga Khan III (1877-1957) and a silver fruit bowl from the tenants of the Broadlands estate.