LOUIS, 1st EARL MOUNTBATTEN OF BURMA
Meeting Edwina Ashley
Just prior to his father's death, Mountbatten met a leading member of London society - Miss (later The Hon.) Edwina Ashley, the daughter of Lt-Col The Rt Hon. Wilfrid William Ashley, later 1st Lord Mount Temple (1867-1939), a former Army officer who was a Member of Parliament 1906-1932 who had held several junior ministerial posts including Minister of Transport 1924-1929. They first met at a party at Claridge's Hotel, London and then met subsequently during the annual Cowes Regatta on the Isle of Wight. Edwina's pedigree was both aristocratic, political and wealthy and in September 1921 following the death of her millionaire grandfather - The Rt Hon. Sir Ernest Cassel (1852-1921), Edwina inherited £2 million (nearly £90 million in today's money) and amongst other properties - the family country seat of Broadlands in Romsey, Hampshire and the Classiebawn Castle estate in County Sligo, Ireland. To compare their income, Mountbatten's Naval salary at the time was just £610 per annum.
Following Sir Ernest's funeral, Edwina was invited to stay with 'matchmaker' and society hostess - Dame Margaret Greville (née McEwan), The Hon. Mrs Ronald Greville (1863-1942) at Polesden Lacey, her country home in Surrey. Amongst her guests was the young Mountbatten. In October 1921, at Mountbatten's request, Mountbatten's sister-in-law Nadejda 'Nada' Mountbatten, Marchioness of Milford Haven, formerly Countess Nadejda Mikhailovna de Torby (1896-1963) invited Edwina to stay at The Milford Haven's home in Southsea, Hampshire. It soon became clear, that romance was blossoming.
An informal photograph of Edwina
Mountbatten had decided to accept the invitation from his cousin 'David' - Prince Edward, The Prince of Wales, subsequently King Edward VIII (1894(1936)1972) and later The Duke of Windsor to accompany him on his tour of India and Japan onboard HMS Renown as his Aide-de-Camp (ADC). Edwina joined The Milford Havens at Portsmouth Harbour to see the departure of the Royal party on 26th October 1921. Whilst touring India with the Prince, 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, whilst at 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 proposed and the couple were engaged that night.
An engagement photographic portrait of
Mountbatten & Edwina
A painting of the arrival of HMS Renown on 22nd June 1922
to Plymouth, Devon, by Frank Watson Wood
The Prince’s tour finally came to an end on 19th June 1922 when HMS Renown returned to Plymouth. On 21st June 1922, The Prince (accompanied by Mountbatten) officially left the ship for a day of processions and official welcomes, culminating in a carriage procession to Buckingham Palace. Edwina decided not to join the large crowd of on-lookers and officials to welcome the Royal party home (although she did witness the carriage procession from the balcony of Bath House), but arranged to finally meet her fiancé at her cousin Marjorie's London home in Belgrave Place later that evening.
For the next few weeks, Edwina and Mountbatten spent much of their time together at parties and lunches and were the highlight of society. Edwina took Mountbatten to Broadlands, her father's estate in Hampshire to meet Wilfrid, with whom he discussed Mountbatten's marriage settlement. The day before their marriage, Mountbatten and Edwina attended the wedding of Henry Herbert, Lord Porchester, later 6th Earl of Carnarvon (1898-1987) to Miss Catherine Wendell (1900-1977), at St Margaret's Church, Westminster, which Mountbatten said was useful as they "picked up some tips."
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.
A formal photograph of Edwina
Mountbatten and Edwina were 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 even 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 'Leo' 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 title and status in 1917.
Mountbatten's cousin -
Lord Leopold 'Leo' Mountbatten
(formerly Prince Leopold of Battenberg)
The insignia of a Knight Commander
of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO)