Mountbatten - the birth of a dynasty...
Mountbatten’s father - Prince Louis of Battenberg, later 1st Marquess of Milford Haven (1854-1921) became more and more a target of 'anti-German hysteria during World War I but despite his long and dedicated service in the British Royal Navy, his appointment as First Sea Lord was seen by the British public as one step too far and he was ultimately forced to resign. In his resignation letter Prince Louis said - “I have lately been driven to the painful conclusion that at this juncture, my birth and parentage have the effect of impairing in some respect my usefulness at the Board of Admiralty.” When King George V (1865(1910-1936) read his cousin’s resignation letter he was clearly upset to read that the lineage of such a close relation and friend was in question, and that perhaps the same questions would be said about the Royal House itself, after all the King was himself a member of the House of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha (as a grandson of Prince Albert, The Prince Consort (1819-1861), the husband of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901).
In April 1917, questions were publicly asked of The Rt Hon. David Lloyd George, later 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor (1863-1945) the then Prime Minister, at how he could serve a King and expect to defeat Germany when The King, The Queen and most of the British Royal Family were of German extraction. The King decided that to avert a crisis of confidence in the Monarchy itself, action should be taken and was finally convinced to abandon all titles held under the German Crown and to change German titles and House names to Anglicised versions. As a result, a proclamation (see below) was issued on 17th July 1917 by King George V (1864(1910-1936) stating the the Royal Family would be known as The House of Windsor and declared that members of the Royal Family and extended family would cease to use their inherited German styles and titles.
A portrait of Louis, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven,
(Prince Louis of Battenberg) by Philip de László
King George V
The heraldic badge of
"The House of Windsor"
The extract from
the London Gazette confirming
the creation of the
"House of Windsor"
At the King’s request, in July 1917 Mountbatten’s father - Prince Louis renounced his title of a Prince of Battenberg and his style of Serene Highness for himself and his descendants and adopted the Anglicised version of Battenberg - Mountbatten as his own family’s surname. On 7th November 1917, Mountbatten’s father was subsequently created Marquess of Milford Haven, Earl of Medina & Viscount Alderney within the Peerage of the United Kingdom. The new Marquess of Milford Haven was proud of his German princely title, status and name and saw his 'demotion' to being a Peer of the Realm as a “break with one’s past” and was more worried about the effect it would have on his children. He chose to break the news to his sons personally - Prince George (his eldest son) who was to be styled Earl of Medina was serving on HMS New Zealand, and Mountbatten who was to be styled Lord Louis Mountbatten (as a younger son of a Marquess) was serving on HMS Lion.
Mountbatten’s father wrote to his own daughter Princess Louise (Lady Louise Mountbatten) later Queen of Sweden on 6th June 1917 - “my beloved Louise, I have very serious news of far-reaching effects on us all to tell you. George Rex telegraphed to me last week he wished to see me as soon as possible. I took the next steamer and was closeted with him for a long time. The upshot of a long statement about his being attacked as being half-German and surrounding himself by relatives with German names and that he must ask us Holsteins, Tecks and Battenbergs to give up using in England our German titles and to assume English surnames… It has been suggested that we should turn our name into English, viz: Battenhill or Mountbatten. We incline to the latter as a better sound… Of course we are at his mercy. We only are allowed to use our German title as the Sovereign has always recognised it, but he can refuse this recognition any moment. If so we are plain Mister, which would be impossible… For you, my dear children we feel deeply… It is a terrible upheaval and break with one’s past - another consequence of this awful war. Mama is splendid and is determined to give up her own title and rank which is quite her own and not due to marriage with me, and to call herself by my name and title only… Newspaper comment will be unpleasant, but unavoidable. Whether the republicans will be satisfied remains to be seen. I fear the Throne here is beginning to shake also… All this is terrible. I shall miss my old and laboriously write a new fancy name.”