EDWINA, COUNTESS MOUNTBATTEN OF BURMA
Spirit of Adventure
Edwina with her sister-in-law - Nadejda 'Nada', Marchioness of Milford Haven (left)
camping next to their aeroplane near Akaba, Transjordania
A few weeks after the libel Court case, Edwina went on holiday for a few months with Mountbatten's sister-in-law 'Nada', Marchioness of Milford Haven, formerly Countess Nadejda Mikhailovna de Torby (1896-1963), without any servants and with little luggage to make an archaeological tour through Persia (now called Iran), taking with a tent and sleeping bags and travelled 'light'. The Mountbatten ladies travelled from Istanbul, Jerusalem, Damascus, Syria onto Iraq and in Baghdad dined with King Faisal I of Iraq (1885-1933) - who like the British Ambassador, expressed concerns for their safety. They continued on and travelled onto the Afghan border and down to the Persian Gulf. Nada Milford Haven called it - "a journey of discovery". By the time Edwina returned to Malta to be with Mountbatten, she had travelled some 14,000 miles. Mountbatten (who was serving on HMS Queen Elizabeth) and Edwina were then able to spend Christmas 1932 at home in London together.
ABOVE: Nadejda 'Nada',
Marchioness of Milford Haven
Nadejda 'Nada', Marchioness of
Milford Haven (left)
and Edwina (right) with
King Faisal I of Iraq (centre)
and other guests,
whilst on their travels in October 1932
Whilst visiting friends in Paris, France in January 1933, Edwina became ill and needed an operation to remove her appendix. She underwent surgery at the Sisters of Saint Sauveur Nursing Home by the eminent French surgeon Dr Antoninus Gosset (1872-1944) and made a full recovery by April 1933. In June 1933, it was announced that The Mountbattens had decided to sell Brook House - the mansion on Park Lane, London, that Edwina had inherited from her wealthy grandfather - The Rt Hon. Sir Ernest Cassel (1852-1921). The property was sold, re-developed with Mountbatten and Edwina having the new style of a 'New York penthouse' at the new building (where the old Brook House stood) as their London home.
ABOVE: Edwina (left) and
Marchioness of Milford Haven (right)
outside the Church of the
Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
A photographic portrait of Edwina in 1933
RIGHT: The 'new' hallway of the
New York style penthouse apartment
designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens
for The Mountbattens - finished in 1937
(decorated by Mrs Joshua Cosden
in collaboration with Victor Proetz)
at the top of the 'new' Brook House,
Park Lane, London
(photograph taken 1939)
Whilst Brook House was being re-built in January 1934, Edwina - accompanied by her cousin Marjorie Pratt (née Jenkins), Countess of Brecknock (1900-1989) left the UK for a holiday in South America and headed to Rio de Janeiro via Las Palmas and Pernambuco, Brazil. Then they head to Chile and onto La Paz in Bolivia, and then to the Inca ruins at Macchu Pichu. After four months away, Edwina and Marjorie went the own ways and separated at Miama, Florida, USA and Edwina returned to join Mountbatten at Villa Medina, in Malta.
In July 1934, she headed to Singapore, via Amsterdam and Athens. In November 1934, she set sail to Canada onboard the RMS 'Empress of Britain', then flew to New York, USA and then onto Shanghai and Tahiti. By February 1935, she was touring New Zealand and Australia and in April 1935 was onboard the first commercial passenger aeroplane to London from Sydney, Australia, joining the route at Brisbane (with a wallaby!) to end her travels in Malta - where she was once again united with her husband.
Edwina and Mountbatten - being part of the 'close set' of Prince Edward 'David', The Prince of Wales, subsequently King Edward VIII (1894(1936)1972) and later The Duke of Windsor, were some of the first to know about The Prince's relationship with Mrs Wallis Simpson (née Warfield) (1896-1986), who had 'succeeded' Mrs Freda Dudley Ward (née Birkin) (1894-1983) and Thelma, Viscountess Furness (née Morgan) (1904-1970) as his mistress. On 20th January 1936, the news that King George V (1865(1910-1936) had died after a long illness rocked the Empire and of course The Prince of Wales succeeded to the Throne, taking the regnal name of 'King Edward VIII'. The Mountbattens were amongst the selected group of carefully selected guests that 'accepted' (but not liked) Mrs Simpson in the life of The King, but knew that decisions would have to be made eventually by The King. The lack of closeness was mutual, Mrs Simpson was never 'a fan' of The Mountbattens - perhaps she saw a lot of herself in him - and she was jealous of Edwina's wealth, charm and 'English rose' beauty. Edwina's sister Mary said later that Edwina "knew of the disapproval of the other Royals at the time" and that she "may have had rather an admiration for her [Mrs Simpson] - ... but no more."
In August 1936, The King (travelling in a private capacity as 'The Duke of Lancaster' - chartered the luxury yacht 'Nahlin', owned by the wealthy horse breeder Annie, Lady Yule (1874-1950) for a private holiday on the Adriatic Sea. It was Mrs Simpson's presence on this holiday, that brought the King's relationship with the married Mrs Simpson to note with informal photographs of the couple onboard together (which were not published in the UK) but became front-page news in the American newspapers. Mountbatten and Edwina were amongst the guests on the cruise which included The Rt Hon. (Sir) Alfred Duff Cooper, MP, later 1st Viscount Norwich (1890-1954) - who at the time was Secretary of State for War, accompanied by his wife the society beauty and political hostess - The Lady Diana Duff Cooper (née Manners) (1892-1986); and Hugh Molyneux, 7th Earl of Sefton (1898-1972) - a former lover of Edwina who was a lifelong friend of The King, and whose younger brother had served alongside Mountbatten on HMS Lion and was killed at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.
Mrs Wallis Simpson (later The Duchess of Windsor) onboard the luxury yacht 'Nahlin'
Cousin 'David' - King Edward VIII abdicated on 10th December 1936. Mountbatten joined The King and his 3 Royal Brothers to lunch with The King at his private home - Fort Belvedere in the last few hours of his short reign. Edwina wrote in her diary - "A day of gloom... very tragic." and "everyone completely sunk except the King who remains calm and cheerful."
Guests of King Edward VIII - cousin 'David'
& Mrs Simpson at Balmoral Castle, Scotland -
Mountbatten (second from the left)
and Edwina (first from the right) share a joke
The new reign of King George VI (1896(1936-1952) meant that The Mountbattens were privately viewed with suspicion by the new King and Queen. However, despite her own personal lack of enthusiasm - Edwina did her duty and supported her husband - who was in an invidious position. The Mountbattens put on a brave face and in the early days of the new reign, they spent time with the the new King and Queen and their children. During this time Edwina had also been doing her best to support her own sister - whose marriage was coming to an end, and of course Edwina's worries were about Mary's delicate mental health.
Edwina with 'Sabi' -
the lion she brought back from Africa
In December 1936, Mary finally had enough of her husband's infidelities and left him and moved into Brook House and prepared for divorce. Meanwhile, Edwina - accompanied by Mountbatten's sister-in-law 'Nada', Marchioness of Milford Haven, formerly Countess Nadejda Mikhailovna de Torby (1896-1963) went on more travels and headed for Africa and toured Uganda, Kenya and the Belgian Congo. In April 1937, she brought back a three month old lion cub (whose mother had been shot for attacking a human) called 'Sabi' (after the river in the Transvaal), which came to Adsdean to join the other numerous animals she brought back from her other travels.