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European Kingdoms

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House of Hessen-Battenberg
AD 1888 - 1917

The sixteenth century Duke Philip the Magnanimous of Hesse was the single most influential figure in the history of all of the various Hessian territories. Following his death, his powerful duchy was divided into several region - Hessen-Kassel, Hessen-Marburg, Hessen-Rheinfels, and Hessen-Darmstadt, one each for his four sons. This division was to ensure that all four Ydulfing sons had lands of their own but all it did in reality was weaken his once-powerful duchy. Each of the rulers of these divisions continued to hold the title of landgraf ('landgrave' in English).

Over the course of the next three hundred years, and in line with the practice in the many other German states, Hesse continued to fragment itself by handing out pockets of its territory to various offspring. The House of Hessen-Battenberg was created in just this fashion, yet another junior branch of the family with no political power. Alexander, son of Grand Duke Ludwig II of Hessen-Darmstadt, concluded a morganatic marriage in 1851 with Julia Hauke, a lady-in-waiting to his sister, Princess Marie of Hesse and the Rhine (later married to the czar of Russia and converted to the Russian Orthodox church as Maria Alexandrovna). Thereafter know as Princess Julia of Battenberg (countess between 1851-1858), her marriage was a subject of considerable scandal. For this act Alexander was effectively barred from acceding to Darmstadt's title. As the daughter of John Maurice Hauke, a high ranking officer of German origin in the army of Congress Poland, Julia was not considered worthy of the lineage of Hesse, so this special title was created for her and her descendants.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Coercion, Capital, and European States, Charles Tilly, 1992, from Historisches Lexikon der deutschen Länder (Historical Dictionary of German States), Gerhard Köbler, 1995, from Das frühere Kurhessen - Ein Geschichtsbild, Otto Bähr, from Geschichte des Landes Hessen, Karl Ernst Demandt, from Kurfürstentum (Kassel Lexikon), Ewald Grothe, from Kurhessens Ministerialvorstände der Verfassungszeit 1831-1866, Harald Höffner, from Die Kurhessen im Feldzuge von 1814: Ein Beitrag zur hessischen Kriegsgeschichte, Carl Renouard, from Die Kurhessische Verfassung von 1831 im Rahmen des deutschen Konstitutionalismus, Christian Starck, from Louis and Victoria: The Family History of the Mountbattens, Richard Hough (Second Edition, 1984), and from External Links: Euratlas, and Historical Atlas of Germany, and Landgraves of Hessen (in German).)

1851 - 1888

Alexander of Hesse

Son of Ludwig II of Hessen-Darmstadt. m Julia Hauke. Died 1888.

1851

Immediately after their scandalous morganatic marriage in Breslau, Alexander and Julia are allowed to settle in Hessen-Darmstadt, although their marriage is not recognised as being dynastic. Julia is granted the title 'countess von Battenberg' after the small town with its ruined castle in the northern part of the duchy. The family do not reside here, and visits seem to be rare. Prince Louis Alexander is born about six months after the couple's initial elopement.

1866

Prussia fights the Austro-Prussian War against Austria, essentially as a decider to see which of the two powers will be dominant in Central Europe. As an officer who has been serving in the Austrian army, Alexander of Hesse holds a senior position in Hessen-Darmstadt's much smaller army during the war. Prussia gains the newly-created kingdom of Italy as an ally in the south and several minor German states in the north. Austria and its southern German allies are crushed in just seven weeks (giving the conflict its alternative title of the Seven Weeks' War), and Prussia is now unquestionably dominant.

Bismark oversees the seizure of four of Austria's northern German allies, the kingdom of Hanover, the electorate of Hessen-Kassel, and the duchy of Nassau-Weilburg, along with the free city of Frankfurt. Prussia also subsumes Schleswig and Holstein, although the former has technically been Prussian since 1864, and forces Saxe-Lauenberg into personal union (annexation in all but name, which turns into fact in 1876). Many of these gains ensure that Prussian territories in the east and west are now connected through the Rhineland and Westphalia.

Austro-Prussian War 1866
Austria's slow-moving forces were outpaced by Prussia's fully modern army during the Austro-Prussian War, which decided the power balance in Central Europe, as shown in this oil by Georg Bleibtreu

The new, Prussian-dominated North German Confederation gains members in Anhalt-Dessau, Bremen, Brunswick, Hamburg, Lippe-Detmold, Lübeck, Mecklenburg-Schwerin Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Strelitz Neustrelitz, Oldenburg, Reuss, Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, the kingdom of Saxony, Schaumburg-Lippe Bückeburg, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt Rudolstadt, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen Sondershausen, and Waldeck-Pyrmont Arolsen. Furthermore, Prince Karl Eitel Frederick of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen is invited to rule the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia.

In Hessen-Kassel, Frederick William is made a prisoner in Stettin. The electors continue to hold their title as Hereditary Heirs, but no real power. Hessen-Darmstadt is the only surviving Hessian state from this point forwards, although it also loses its northern urban district of Biedenkopf, on the River Lahn. Hessen-Kassel is combined with Hessen-Homburg and renamed Hessen-Nassau. Both territories remain part of Prussia until the divided Germanies are formed at the close of the Second World War.

1868

Alexander's son, Prince Louis Alexander, is aged fourteen when, influenced by Princess Alice, wife of his cousin, Prince Louis/Ludwig of Hesse (the later Grand Duke Ludwig IV), and daughter of Queen Victoria of Great Britain, he joins the Royal Navy. In doing so he also becomes a naturalised British subject.

1888 - 1917

Prince Louis Alexander

Son. Became Louis Alexander of Milford Haven (1917).

Prince Alexander

Brother. Prince of Bulgaria (1879-1886). Died 1893.

1914

Admiral Prince Louis Alexander steps down as First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy as anti-German sentiment in Great Britain reaches fever pitch. The situation is exacerbated by opposing elements within the Royal Navy and government, and the lack of any concrete government support for Louis makes the decision to step down an easy one.

1917

At the request of George V of Great Britain, Prince Louis Alexander alters the family name from Battenberg to the Anglicised Mountbatten, and the German title of Hessen-Battenberg is relinquished in favour of the English title of marquess of Milford Haven. Prince Louis also gains the titles earl of Medina and viscount Alderney.

Mountbatten Marquesses of Milford Haven & Earls of Burma
AD 1917 - Present Day

The First World War wrought great changes on German society as a whole, and also on the Hessen-Battenbergs. The serving prince, Louis Alexander, was resident in Britain at the time the war started, still serving with the Royal Navy. By 1917 the armies on the Western Front seemed to have fought each other to a standstill. Anti-German sentiment in Britain was strong, with shops and people bearing German names being attacked even though many of the targets were born-and-bred Englishman of one or more generations' standing. The king, himself bearing the German family name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, was advised that the time had come to sever all links with his European enemy. On 17 July 1917, George V made the proclamation that the name would change to Windsor, one of the monarch's main residences to the west of London, and all German titles throughout the family would be exchanged for British peerages.

As a naturalised British subject Admiral Prince Louis of Hessen-Battenberg had to do the same, Anglicising the family name from Battenberg to Mountbatten. In place of his German princely title he became the marquess of Milford Haven, while his younger brother, Louis Francis, later became Earl Mountbatten of Burma. With two major titles in the family, seniority remained with the marquesses of Milford Haven (shown below in black text), while the earls of Burma are shown in green text on a shaded background, and other siblings are shown in light grey on a shaded background. Prince Louis also gained the titles earl of Medina (which was handed to his son, George Mountbatten) and viscount Alderney.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Prince Louis of Battenberg: Admiral of the Fleet, Mark Kerr (Longmans, Green and Co, 1934), and from External Links: The London Gazette Issue 30374, 9 November 1917, and The Guardian.)

1917 - 1921

Louis Alexander Mountbatten

Altered Hessen-Battenberg to Mountbatten. First Sea Lord.

1903

Alice Mountbatten

Dau. m Andrew of Greece, brother of Constantine I (1913-1922).

1919

On 1 January 1919, Louis officially retires from the Royal Navy, having been forced into taking gardening leave for the duration of the war. Despite assurances that he would be asked to return to his post after the war, this turns out not to be true.

FeatureBack in his ancestral lands, Hesse is proclaimed a republic after the fall of the German empire, and is recreated as a constituent part of the new federal Germany. The grand dukes maintain their status and title as hereditary dukes of Hesse but with no power or position in the new state. Unfortunately, Louis' financial investments in Russia are seized by the Bolsheviks and his relatives by marriage, the Romanovs, have already been murdered (see feature link). His personal property in Hesse becomes worthless as the mark collapses amid massive political instability in Germany. Louis and his wife are forced to sell their home in Kent and Louis' service medals to make ends meet.

Lord Louis Mountbatten and Prince Charles
Probably the most well-known of the Mountbattens of twentieth century Britain was Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma (left), an influential figure in the life of his great-nephew, Prince Philip, and also of the young Prince Charles (right) and the royal family in general until his murder in 1979

1921 - 1938

George Mountbatten

Son of Louis Alexander. 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven.

1938 - 1970

David Mountbatten

Son. Born 1919. 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven.

1946 - 1979

Louis Francis Mountbatten

Brother of Louis. 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Viceroy of India.

1947 - 1948

The post of viceroy (sub-king, or commander in the king's name) of India is downgraded to that of governor-general of India on the eve of independence. Following the handover by Britain, native governor-generals are appointed by their respective governments, but two British governor-generals also hold office for Britain to oversee the handover to native control. Lord Louis Mountbatten is the first of these.

1947

Prince Philip

Son of Alice. Of Greece & Denmark. m Elizabeth II of Britain.

1970 - Present

George Ivar Louis Mountbatten

Son of David. Born 1963. 4th Marquess of Milford Haven.

1979

Lord Mountbatten is killed when a bomb planted by the IRA explodes on his leisure boat in Mullaghmore, County Sligo in Ireland on 27 August 1979. Also killed is one of his twin grandsons, Nicholas (aged fourteen, the son of Patricia Edwina Victoria Mountbatten and her husband, Lord Brabourne - they are both injured in the attack but survive), and Paul Maxwell (aged fifteen), a local employed as a boat boy. Another passenger, the eighty-two year-old Baroness Brabourne, dies the day after the attack. The bombing is followed only hours later by the massacre of seventeen British soldiers near Warren Point close to the border with the Irish Republic (reports later confirmed that eighteen soldiers die).

1979 - 2017

Countess Patricia Edwina Victoria

Dau of Louis Francis. 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma.

2017 - Present

Norton Louis Philip Knatchbull

Son. Born 1947. 3rd Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

Henry David Louis Mountbatten

Son of George. Born 1991. Heir to the title.

Nicholas Louis Chs Norton Knatchbull

Son of Norton. Born 1981. Heir to the title.