Author Archives: Scott

Royal News: Tuesday 28 March 2017

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Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma

Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, was a member of the extended British Royal Family and a distinguished Naval officer. A great-grandson of Queen Victoria (and the last great-grandson to be born during her lifetime), he was born a Prince of Battenberg but grew up fiercely British. In addition to his naval career, he also served as the last Viceroy and first Governor-General of India. Mountbatten also played a very prominent role in the lives of his nephew, The Duke of Edinburgh, and grand-nephew, The Prince of Wales.

Prince Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas of Battenberg was born on June 25, 1900 at Frogmore House, the youngest child of Prince Louis (Ludwig) of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine. He was christened at Frogmore on July 17, with Queen Victoria and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia among his godparents. Louis – known almost from birth as “Dickie” – had three elder siblings:

Through both of his parents, he was closely related to numerous other royal families of Europe. His mother’s younger sister was Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia, and in his childhood, Dickie was close to her children. At a very young age, he began a “lifelong love affair” with one of them – Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna – and kept a framed photo of her by his bed for his entire life.

At the age of 10, Dickie was enrolled at the Lockers Park School in Hertfordshire, and then at 13 entered the Royal Naval College, Osborne. Destined for a naval career, he received his first posting in July 1916, as a midshipman on HMS Lion. After studying for two terms at Christ’s College, Cambridge, Louis was posted to HMS Renown, accompanying The Prince of Wales on a tour of Australia. The following year, on HMS Repulse, he again accompanied his cousin on a tour of India and Japan. It was during this trip that he became engaged to his future wife.

Dickie first met Edwina Ashley in October 1920, when both attended a ball at Claridge’s in London, hosted by Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt III. Edwina was the daughter of Wilfrid Ashley, 1st Baron Mount Temple (a grandson of the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury) and Amalia Cassel (daughter of Sir Ernest Cassel). The two soon found themselves invited to the same house parties and shooting weekends, and a romance began. Both were guests of the Duke of Sutherland at Dunrobin Castle in Scotland in September 1921, when Louis received word that his father had died. When Edwina’s grandfather died just ten days later, the two grew very close in their shared grief. Several months later, Edwina went to visit Dickie while he was in India with the Prince of Wales. It was there, at a Valentine’s Day Ball held at the Viceregal Lodge in Delhi, that Dickie proposed.

Louis and Edwina were married on July 18, 1922, at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster. The wedding was a lavish affair, attended by The King and Queen and other members of the British Royal Family and other royal houses of Europe. The bridal party included the Prince of Wales, who served as Best Man, and Dickie’s four nieces – Princesses Margarita, Theodora, Cecilie and Sophie of Greece. Following a honeymoon which took them to Canada and The United States, Dickie and Edwina settled at Brook House in London – one of several properties Edwina had inherited from her grandfather. They went on to have two daughters:

Admiral Lord Mountbatten receiving the Japanese surrender at Singapore, September 1945. source: Wikipedia.

Dickie was posted to several other boats before being given his first command – HMS Daring – in 1934. This was followed by commands of HMS Wishart (1934-1936), HMS Kelly (1939-1941) and HMS Illustrious (1941). From 1941-1943, he served as Chief of Combined Operations, and then from 1943-1946 as Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command. In that role, in September 1945 Mountbatten received the Japanese surrender in Singapore.

On August 27, 1946, he was created Viscount Mountbatten of Burma by King George VI. The following February, Prime Minister Clement Atlee appointed him Viceroy of India, and tasked him with overseeing India’s independence from Britain. Following independence in August 1947, Mountbatten served for the next ten months as the country’s first Governor-General. During that time, on October 28, 1947, he was created Earl Mountbatten of Burma and Baron Romsey. As Mountbatten had no sons, the Letters Patent creating both the Viscountcy and the Earldom were written to allow the titles to pass to his daughters and their male heirs. Had this not been done, the titles would have ended upon Mountbatten’s death. Instead, they passed to his elder daughter, Patricia, 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma.

Following his time in India, Mountbatten returned to military service in 1949, serving as Commander of the 1st Squadron of the Mediterranean Fleet. From 1950-1952, he served as Fourth Sea Lord, and then from 1952-1954 as Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet. Finally, in April 1955, nearly forty-one years after his father had been forced to relinquish the role due to anti-German sentiment, Mountbatten was made First Sea Lord – the head of the British Royal Navy. The following year, he reached the rank of Admiral of the Fleet. Dickie served as First Sea Lord until October 1959, when he became Chief of the Defence Staff, serving until his retirement in July 1965. During this time, he also served as Chairman of the NATO Military Committee from 1960-1961.

Earl Mountbatten of Burma, in uniform as Colonel of the Life Guards, with Gold Stick in Hand (1973). Source: Wikipedia, photo: by Allan warren – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28983433

Upon retiring, he was granted several honorary appointments. He was made Colonel of the Life Guards, Gold Stick in Waiting, and Life Colonel Commandant of the Royal Marines. The Queen also appointed him Governor of the Isle of Wight. In 1974, he became the first Lord Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight.

Lord Mountbatten was killed on August 27, 1979 when his boat was blown up by the Provisional IRA on Donegal Bay, in County Sligo, Ireland. He had been staying at his summer home, Classiebawn Castle, in County Sligo, Ireland, with much of his family. Mountbatten, his grandson Nicholas, his son-in-law’s mother, The Dowager Baroness Brabourne, and a young crew member, Paul Maxwell, all died as a result of the blast. Mountbatten’s daughter Patricia, her husband John, and their son Timothy were all critically injured, but survived.

A ceremonial funeral was held at Westminster Abbey on September 5, 1979, attended by most of the British Royal Family and many other European royals. He is buried at Romsey Abbey.

Earl Mountbatten’s tomb at Romsey Abbey. Source: Wikipedia, photo by JohnArmagh

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Royal News: Sunday 26 March 2017

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Nadejda Mikhailovna de Torby, Marchioness of Milford Haven

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

Nadejda Mikhailovna de Torby, Marchioness of Milford Haven

Countess Nadejda Mikhailovna de Torby was the wife of Prince George of Battenberg (later George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven). She was born in Cannes on March 28, 1896, the second daughter of Grand Duke Mikhail Mikhailovich of Russia and Countess Sophie von Merenberg. As her parents’ marriage was morganatic, her father was stripped of his position at the Imperial Court and banished from Russia for the rest of his life. The morganatic marriage also meant that none of Mikhail’s styles or titles passed to his wife or their children. However, shortly after they married, Sophie’s uncle – Adolphe, Grand Duke of Luxembourg – created Sophie Countess de Torby, a title which also passed down to Nadejda and her two siblings:

Nadejda (left), with her brother, sister and father. source: Wikipedia

By the time she was four, Nadejda’s family had settled in England, but also spent part of the year at their villa in Cannes. The family became prominent members of British society, and developed friendships with several members of the British Royal Family. It was through these friendships that Nadejda met her future husband, Prince George of Battenberg.

George was the eldest son of Prince Louis of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine (later the 1st Marquess and Marchioness of Milford Haven). His siblings included Princess Andreas of Greece, Queen Louise of Sweden and Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Nadejda and George married at the Russian Embassy in London on November 15, 1916. They settled at Lynden Manor in Bray, Berkshire, and had two children:

When King George V asked his German relatives to relinquish their German titles in 1917, Nadejda and her husband became simply Mr. and Mrs. George Mountbatten. Several months later, when George’s father was created Marquess of Milford Haven, George assumed his father’s subsidiary title, Earl of Medina. It would only be another 4 years when George’s father died, and he and Nadejda became the 2nd Marquess and Marchioness of Milford Haven. In later years, Nadejda and her husband helped to raise George’s nephew, Prince Philippos of Greece (now The Duke of Edinburgh).

1934 saw Nadejda drawn into the international spotlight during the contentious custody trial of Gloria Vanderbilt. Nadejda was a close friend with the child’s mother – Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt – and became part of the story when a former maid of Mrs. Vanderbilt suggested during testimony that her employer and the Marchioness were lovers. After publicly denouncing the allegations as “malicious, terrible lies”, Nadejda considered traveling to New York to testify on her friend’s behalf, but was talked out of making the trip by King George V and Queen Mary.

However, one relative who did travel to testify in Mrs. Vanderbilt’s defense was Gottfried, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, who was married to Princess Margarita of Greece and Denmark, a niece of Nadejda’s husband. Gottfried had briefly been engaged to Mrs. Vanderbilt in the late 1920s, and was called to testify on her behalf after scandalous allegations were made in court testimony about their prior relationship.

And here’s another interesting tidbit of information relating to Mrs. Vanderbilt. Her twin sister, Thelma, Viscountess Furness, was the mistress of The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII / Duke of Windsor) in the early 1930s. It was Thelma who introduced the Prince to her good friend, Wallis Simpson. The rest, as they say, is history!

Four years later, Nadejda was widowed when her husband succumbed to bone marrow cancer in 1938. Nada was very close to her sister-in-law, Edwina, and the two often traveled together around the world.

Nada (center) with her son David and his fiancée, Romaine Pierce SImpson, photographed in October 1949. source: Zimbio

The Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven died in Cannes on January 22, 1963. She is buried beside her husband in the Bray Cemetery in Bray, Berkshire.

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Royal News: Thursday 23 March 2017

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George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven

George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven was born on December 6, 1892, at The New Palace in Darmstadt. At the time of his birth, he was HSH Prince George Louis Victor Henry Serge of Battenberg, the third child and elder son of Prince Ludwig (Louis) of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine. George had three younger siblings:

George with his mother, Victoria.

A remarkably intelligent and clever child, George had his own workshop at his father’s Heiligenberg Castle by the age of ten, and was soon designing and building precise working models of steam engines. He enjoyed complex math problems “for relaxation” and was recognized by his superiors at Dartmouth Naval College for being perhaps the most clever cadet the college had ever seen. During his time in the Royal Navy, he devised a system to provide air conditioning in his cabin, and invented a device which would brew his morning tea, triggered by an alarm clock.

Wedding portrait of George and Nadejda.

On November 15, 1916 at the Russian Embassy in London, George married Countess Nadejda Mikhailovna de Torby. Nadjeda was born in Cannes on March 28, 1896, the younger daughter of Grand Duke Mikhail Mikhailovich of Russia and Countess Sophie von Merenberg. Following their wedding, George and Nadejda settled at Lynden Manor, in Bray, Berkshire, and had two children:

The following year, in 1917, King George V of the United Kingdom asked his relatives to relinquish their German royal titles. On July 14, 1917, the Battenbergs gave up their titles and styles, and took on the surname Mountbatten. George, having previously been created a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, became Sir George Mountbatten. Four months later, on November 7, 1917, his father was created Marquess of Milford Haven, and George assumed the courtesy title Earl of Medina. Four years later, in 1921, George succeeded his father as 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven.

In the late 1920s, having lost most of his inheritance to German inflation – and having a wife with very expensive tastes – George left the Royal Navy for a career in business. He worked for a brokerage house before moving to the British Sperry Gyroscope Company where he became chairman. He also served as director for several large companies, including Electrolux and Marks & Spencer.

In 1930, George became instrumental in the upbringing of his nephew, Prince Philip of Greece. Philip’s mother suffered a breakdown that year, and his father was more-or-less separated from the family, living with a mistress on the French Riviera. George became Philip’s primary guardian, serving as a surrogate father and arranging for, and financing, Philip’s education.

In 1934, George and Nadejda were brought into the international spotlight during the custody battle for the young Gloria Vanderbilt in New York City. Allegations had been raised that Nadejda and Gloria’s mother – Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt – had been lovers. Nadejda traveled to New York to testify in the case, decrying the allegations as “malicious, terrible lies.”

In December 1937, George suffered a fall and broke his femur. A month later, when it didn’t appear to be healing, further examination found that he was suffering from bone marrow cancer. Fearing that the diagnosis would cause him to decline quite quickly, the doctors chose to withhold it from him, in agreement with the family. He lingered for several months, finally losing his battle on April 8, 1938. He is buried at the Bray Cemetery. By the time of his death, George had accumulated a large collection of erotic art, which he left – on permanent loan – to the British Library. The library’s index describes the collection as “prospectuses and catalogues of erotic and obscene books, pictures and instruments, dating from 1889 to 1929. 81 parts. Collected by George Mountbatten.”

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Royal News: Tuesday 21 March 2017

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Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark

by Scott Mehl

Sophie of Greece and Denmark in 1955, with her daughter Friederike. Photo source: Daily Mail

Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark, Princess of Hesse, Princess of Hanover

Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark was the third daughter of Prince Andreas of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. Known in the family as “Tiny”, she was born on March 25, 1915 at Mon Repos on the isle of Corfu, Greece. She had four siblings:

Because of the unstable political situation in Greece, Sophie spent several years living in Switzerland, and later settled in France in the early 1920s. However, the family was soon pulled apart. Her mother suffered a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized in 1930, and her father had basically given up on his marriage and spent most of his time with a mistress on the French Riviera. So it was no surprise when Sophie, at just 16 years old, became engaged to be married. She would be the first of the sisters to marry, but the others followed within the following year. On December 15, 1930 at Schloss Friedrichshof in Kronberg, Sophie married Prince Christoph of Hesse, in both Orthodox and Lutheran ceremonies. He was the son of Prince Friedrich Karl of Hesse and Princess Margarete of Prussia. Sophie and Christoph were second cousins once removed through their mutual descent from Queen Victoria. They had five children:

  • Princess Christina of Hesse (1933) – married (1) Prince Andrej of Yugoslavia, had issue; (2) Robert van Eyck, had issue
  • Princess Dorothea of Hesse (1934) – married Prince Friedrich Karl of Windisch-Grätz, had issue
  • Prince Karl of Hesse (1937) – married Countess Yvonne Szapáry von Muraszombath, Széchysziget and Szapár, had issue
  • Prince Rainer of Hesse (1939) – unmarried
  • Princess Clarissa of Hesse (1944) – married Jean-Claude Derrin (div), had issue

Sophie and Christoph lived in Berlin, where he worked in an insurance company, as well as serving as a reserve officer in the Luftwaffe. At the outbreak of World War II, Christoph entered active service, serving as a navigator in a bomb squadron, and later transferred to a fighter squadron in Tunisia and Sicily. In October 1943, Hitler recalled all the German princes from active service. Christoph was en route back to Germany when his plane crashed on October 7 and he was killed.

Sophie, meanwhile, had been living with her mother-in-law at Schloss Friedrichshof, with her five children. She was also raising the four children of her brother-in-law, Prince Philip of Hesse, who had been imprisoned in 1943. Forced to leave Friedrichshof when the American troops arrived, Sophie and her family moved to Schloss Wolfsgarten, the family home of the former Grand Dukes of Hesse and by Rhine.

Sophie married a second time on April 23, 1946, in Salem, Baden. Her husband was Prince Georg Wilhelm of Hanover, the son of Ernst August III, Duke of Brunswick and Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia. Sophie and Georg Wilhelm were second cousins. This marriage is the only known case where the British sovereign withheld permission to marry, under the Royal Marriages Act of 1772. Although Germany and Britain were at war, the groom’s father still requested consent from King George VI. The King wished to let them know that it would be inappropriate to give his consent due to the war, but the British government would not allow it. Therefore, the request went unanswered, meaning that the marriage was not recognized under British law. Sophie and Georg had three children:

Throughout her life, Sophie was very close with her brother, The Duke of Edinburgh. Although not invited to Philip’s wedding because of her German ties, Sophie and her husband paid a private visit shortly after the wedding, spending time with Philip and Elizabeth at Birkhall. Six years later, Sophie and her surviving sisters, and their families, were all in attendance for Elizabeth’s coronation. The families visited often, and Sophie was a regular guest at the Windsor Royal Horse Show each year, as well as most private family events. In 1964, she was named as one of the godparents for Philip’s youngest son, Prince Edward. In 1994, Sophie and Philip traveled to Jerusalem, where their mother was posthumously honored as Righteous Among the Nations for her efforts to help Jewish families during the war.

Sophie and Philip in Jerusalem, 1994.

In her later years, Sophie lived in Schliersee, near Munich, with her husband. She also regularly visited Princess Margaret of Hesse and by Rhine (the wife of Prince Ludwig) who was among her closest friends. In the summer of 2001, with her health failing, Sophie moved to a nursing home in Munich, where she later died on November 24, 2001. She was buried in the cemetery in Schliersee, and a memorial service was held two months later at Schloss Wolfsgarten, attended by The Duke of Edinburgh.

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Princess Cecilie of Greece, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine

Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark was born at Tatoi Palace on June 22, 1911. She was the third daughter of Prince Andreas of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. Cecilie had four siblings:

Cecilie with her husband and two sons, c1933. photo: personal collection

On February 2, 1931, in Darmstadt, Cecilie married her first cousin once removed, Georg Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine. He was the son of Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine and Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich. Cecilie and Georg Donatus (known as Don) had three children:

Cecilie’s life came to a tragic end on November 16, 1937. A very pregnant Cecilie, her husband, their two sons, and her mother-in-law, were traveling by plane to London to attend the wedding of Don’s brother, Prince Ludwig and Margaret Geddes four days later. Facing bad weather, the plane was unable to land in Brussels as scheduled, and was instead diverted to Ostend. While attempting to land, the plane clipped a chimney on a factory near the airport, and the plane crashed leaving no survivors.

Having received the news, a private wedding ceremony was hastily arranged for Ludwig and Margaret the following day. They then traveled to Belgium to accompany the bodies back to Darmstadt. A funeral was held a few days later, attended by all of Cecilie’s family. Cecilie and her family were all buried in the burial ground next to the New Mausoleum in the Rosenhöhe.

Ludwig and Margaret adopted Cecilie and Don’s only surviving child, Princess Johanna. Sadly, less than two years later, Johanna contracted meningitis and died. She was buried alongside the rest of her family.

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Royal News: Thursday 16 March 2017

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