The Battenbergs

This family finds its origin in the morganatic marriage of Prince Alexander of Hesse (1823-88), second younger brother of Grand Duke Ludwig III of Hesse and by Rhine.  This prince accompanied his sister Marie to St. Petersburg in 1841, where she was to wed the future Czar Alexander II; he entered the Russian army, and later met and fell in love with Julie von Hauke (1825-95), whom he married in 1851.  A few days later she was created countess of Battenberg and, on Dec 26, 1858, she and her posterity were created prince/ss of Battenberg.

Two of the couple's children eventually settled in Britain.  The first was Ludwig Alexander or Louis Alexander (1854-1921), in whose family Queen Victoria took an interest when she visited her daughter in Darmstadt in 1863.  Ludwig Alexander, with the help of Victoria's son Prince Alfred, moved to Britain in September 1868 at the age of 14, and in 1869 he entered the Royal Navy as a cadet, beginning a long career that ended in October 1914, when anti-German feelings forced him to resign as first sea lord of the Admiralty.  He was sworn of the Privy Council on Nov, 5.

A certificate of naturalization (B321) was issued to him on 18 January 1909 (HO 144/594/B16148; see also HO 144/870/159961).  (His biographies note that he took an oath of allegiance to the Qurrn on Oct. 14, 1868 before a public notary in Gosport.) He was styled in Britain "Serene Highness" (e.g., London Gazette 28749, p. 6075: "Admiral H.S.H. Prince Louis of Battenberg, G.C.B., G.C.V.O., K.C.M.G.").  By royal warrant of July 14, 1917 he received permission to relinquish the style of Serene Highness and Prince (both Hessian, not British styles), and to change his name to that of Mountbatten.  By letters patent dated July 16, 1917 he was created marquess of Milford Haven. 

Prince Louis Alexander had four children: Victoria (1885-1969) who married Prince Andrew of Greece in 1903, Louise (1883-1965), George (1892-1938) and Louis (1900-79). 

Prince Henry Maurice (1858-96), younger brother of Louis Alexander, was a cavalry lieutenant in the Saxon army from 1877 to 1882 and in the Prussian army 1882 to 1885.  He met Queen Victoria's daughter Princess Beatrice in Darmstadt, where she was attending the wedding of her niece, Victoria Alice of Hesse, with Louis Alexander, in 1884.  Princess Beatrice overcame her mother's reluctance and was allowed to marry him on July 23, 1885.  He was naturalized by private Act of Parliament (48 & 49 Vict. c.1) shortly before the wedding, and took the oath of allegiance before the House of Lords July 31, 1885 and was naturalized by private act 48 & 49 Vict cap. 1 (1885).  He was made lieutenant-colonel in the army 1887, governor of the Isle of Wight and Carisbrooke Castle in 1889, colonel in the army 1893, PC in 1894. He died at sea after catching a fever in the expedition against the Ashantis.

Prince Henry of Battenberg (1858-96) and Princess Beatrice had four children:

  • Alexander Albert (Nov 23, 1886-Feb 23, 1960) who was created marquess of Carisbrooke in 1917
  • Victoria (Oct 24, 1887-Apr 15, 1969) who was styled Royal Highness in 1906 and married Alfonso XIII, king of Spain
  • Leopold (May 21, 1889-Apr 22, 1922)
  • Maurice (Oct 3, 1891-Oct 27, 1914)
On July 14, 1917 Alexander and Leopold received Royal Warrants giving them permission to relinquish the style of Highness (granted to them by the warrant of Dec. 13, 1886) and Prince, and change the name of Battenberg to Mountbatten.  By royal warrant dated September 11, 1917 Leopold received the precedence of a younger son of a marquess.  By letters patent dated July 18, 1917, Alexander Albert was created marquess of Carisbrooke.

At the time of Ena's marriage to Alfonso XIII of  Spain, the following appeared in the Times(Apr 12, 1906, p. 8):
Supplementing the formal acknowledgment of the Protestant Reformation. Society's petition against the marriage of Princess Ena to the King of Spain, sent through, the Home Secretary to his Majesty the King, the following official reply has now been received at the society's office :—
Whitehall, 5th April, 1906.
Sir,—I am directed by the Secretary of State to inform you that he has laid before his Majesty the petition of the executive committee of the Protestant Reformation Society respecting the marriage of her Royal Highness Princess Ena of Battenberg.
I am to point out that the prohibition of Royal marriages  without the consent of the Sovereign which is contained in the Act 12 Geo. III., c. 11, does not apply to "the issue of Princesses who have married or may hereafter many into foreign families."
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
This is the first time, we believe, that an official intimation has been given that the King's assent is not necessary to this marriage contract.

As a matter of fact, few Battenbergs/Mountbattens have received royal consents for their marriages.

The Tecks

Francis Paul Charles Louis Alexander of Teck (1837-1900) was a son of Prince Alexander of Wurttemberg, first cousin of king Wilhelm I of Wurttemberg, by his morganatic marriage to.  His mother was created countess of Hohenberg in 1835 at the time of the marriage.  The issue of the marriage was created prince/ss of Teck in 1863, and Francis (the only son of the marriage) was created duke of Teck on Sep 16, 1871 with the style of "Highness". 

The 1st duke of Teck, Franz Paul Karl Ludwig (1837-1900), was the son of duke Alexander of Wurttemberg, first cousin of king Wilhelm I of Wurttemberg, by a morganatic marriage to Claudine Rhédey von Kis-Rhéde contracted in Vienna where Alexander was serving  in the Austrian army.  Franz, styled count of Hohenstein, was created prince of Teck (along with his mother and siblings) in Wurttemberg on Dec 1, 1863 with the style of Serene Highness (Durchlaucht).  He was serving in the Austrian army since 1854 when he was discovered by the Prince of Wales and proposed as a suitor for the otherwise unmarriable Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, daughter of the 1st duke of Cambridge and the last unmarried Hanoverian in Great britain.  They married on June 12, 1866.  He resigned his Austrian commission in 1866.  He was created duke of Teck by the king of Wurttemberg on Sept. 16, 1871. 

He was naturalized on Nov 15, 1882 (see file HO 144/106/A22260); colonel in the British army 1882, promoted major-general 1892; hon. GCB 1866, GCVO 1897.  Also general a la suite, Wurttemberg dragoon regiment.  According to the ODNB, the duke "lacked employment but found distractions in gardening, feuding over questions of precedence, and arranging the jewels on his wife's dresses".

They had four children:

  • Princess Mary of Teck (1867-1953), married in 1893 to the duke of York, later king George V
  • Prince Adolphus, 2nd duke of Teck (1868-1927), granted Highness in 1911, cr. in 1917 marquess of Cambridge
    • George (1895-1981)
    • Mary (1897-1987)
    • Augusta (1899-1969)
    • Frederick (1907-40)
  • Prince Francis (1870-1910)
  • Prince Alexander of Teck (1874-1957), cr. in 1917 earl of Athlone, m. in 1904 the daughter of the 1st duke of Albany
    • May (1906-94), m. 1931 Sir Henry Abel  Smith
    • Rupert (1907-28)
    • Maurice (1910-1910)
These children were styled "Serene Highness" in Great Britain (see for example the London Gazette, issue 27161, Feb 2, 1900, p. 1/773, notice from the Lord Chamberlain's office describing the funeral of the 1st duke of Teck: "Their Serene Highnesses The Princes Adolphus, Francis, and Alexander, of Teck, were unavoidably absent, bing on Active Service in South Africa"; ibid., issue 28316, p. 5/9413 : "To be Knights Grand Cross [of the RVO]: ... Major His Serene Highness Prince Francis of Teck, K.C.V.O., D.S.O., Reserve of Officers."; ibid., suppl. to issue 28427, p. 1/7537, announcing court mourning for "Major His late Serene Highness The Prince Francis of Teck, G.C.V.O., D.S.O., Brother-in-Law of His Majesty the King".) 

Their children were in turn also styled "Serene Highness" (see for example the London Gazette supplement to issue 28535, 27 September 1911, ceremonial of the coronation, page 17: "His Serene Highness Prince George of Teck" who was page to the duke of Argyll).  Curiously, none of the children seem to have received a Royal Warrant to permit them to relinquish their styles of Serene Highness and Prince/ss, even though George at least was of age in 1917.

In the Hof- und Staatshandbuch des Königreiches Württemberg, the 1st duke of Teck is styled "Seine Durchlaucht," with the note: "führt seit 1887 mit Königliche Genehmigung das von Ihrer Majestät der Königin von Großbritannien und Irland ihm verliehene Prädikat "Highness" (Hoheit)". His son the 2nd duke of Teck is styled "Hoheit (Großbritannische Verleihung)" from the 1912 edition.

By Royal Warrant of June 9, 1911, Adolphus, 2nd duke of Teck, was made a "Highness" in Great Britain (he already had that style in Wurttemberg).  By Royal Warrant of July 14, 1917, Adolphus and Alexander received permission to relinquish their styles of "Highness" and "Serene Highness" respectively, their titles of Prince, and replace their name "of Teck" with that of Cambridge (note that the "Highness" of Adolphus was a British grant while the "Serene Highness" of Alexander was a Wurttemberg grant). By letters patent of November 7, 1917 they were created marquess of Cambridge and earl of Athlone respectively.

The Change of Name of 1917

At the same time that George V decided to change the house name to Windsor and to relinquish all German titles, in late May 1917, he also decided that all members of the extended Royal family should do the same. 

Prince Louis Alexander and Prince Henry of Battenberg both had titles of prince and Serene Highness in Hesse.  These titles were never formally authorized for use in the United Kingdom, but they were systematically used in official documents (letters patent, warrants, consent to marriage, Gazette announcements, court circular, army and navy list, etc).  The duke of Teck held titles of duke and Serene Highness in Wurttemberg, neither formally authorized, and additionally (by warrant of 1911) a title of Highness in the UK. 

There are two files (HO 144/22945 and LCO 2/7300) on this question in the National Archives.  The first petition submitted was by Prince Louis Alexander: it was sent on June 20 and received by the Home Office on June 25, 1917 and asked only for a change of name to "Mountbatten", with no mention of his German titles (it also contained an error in his titles: he had inadvertently promoted himself to GCMG!).  A corrected petition, drafted by Buckingham Palace, was received on July 18, begging "to relinquish for himself and his issue the use of the styles, dignities, titles and attributes of "Serene Highness" and of "Prince", and all other states, degrees, dignities, titles, honours or appellations in the Grand Duchy of Hesse or German Empire to him or to them heretofore belonging, and the designation "of Battenberg"."  Similarly worded petitions were received the same day from the College of Arms for Prince Leopold, Prince Alexander and the duke of Teck.  But the duke of Teck had taken upon himself to cross out  the word "relinquish" and replace it with "set aside"; the change was reversed upon orders from Buckingham Palace. Prince Alexander of Teck's petition was received August 1.   The warrants for change of name were sent to the College of Arms on November 6, and gazetted on November 10 along with the letters patent creating the peerages (marquess of Cambridge, marquess of Carisbrooke, marquess of Milford Haven, earl of Athlone).

Concerning those letters patent, there was something of an irregularity in their issue.  The marquess of Milford Haven, who wanted to take his seat on July 25, was able to retrieve the letters patent unstamped to obtain admittance to the House of Lords.  There seemed to be a dispute over the payment of the substantial stamping fees, which the newly created peers did not want to pay.  The king decided ultimately to pay the costs himself and the patents were stamped in November.

In a letter to Garter on June 27 (LCO 2/7300), Sir Claud Schuster, the cleck of the Crown in Chancery, makes the following observation:
There is, of course, no precedent, so far as I am aware, for the renunciation in England of titles conferred by a foreign Sovereign, and I suppose that properly such a renunciation ought to take place according to the laws of the State according to the laws of which the titles were granted.   

The Gleichens

"Count Gleichen and his sisters" are the four children of Prince Viktor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1833-1891) who married on Jan 26, 1861 Laura Seymour (1833-1912), of the marquesses of Hertford, created countess von Gleichen in Gotha two days before the marriage:
  • Feodora (1861-1922)
  • Albert Edward Wilfred, count Gleichen (1863-1937), married to Sylvia Gay Edwardes
  • Victoria Alice Leopoldina Ada Laura (1868-1951), widow of Percy Wilfred Machell
  • Helena Emly (1873-1947)
Prince Viktor was a nephew of Queen Victoria through his mother Feodora of Leiningen, half-sister of the Queen.  He entered the Royal Navy in 1848 and served until 1866.  His wife was the daughter of Admiral Sir George Seymour under whom he had served.  The marriage was considered morganatic according to the house laws of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, and around November 1861 he took the style of count Gleichen.  But on Dec. 15, 1885 the Times announced that "we are requested to announce that Count and Countess Gleichen, by gracious permission of the Queen, have resumed the name and title of Serene Highnesses Prince and Princess Victor of Hohenlohe Langenburg, and that their children will retain their present name and title of Counts and Countesses of Gleichen." (Cf. an analogous decision for Princess Edward of Saxe-Weimar, daughter of a duke).  In 1887 he was given the rank of admiral on the retired list.  After retiring from the Navy he turned to sculpture, as would later his eldest child Feodora.

By warrant of June 11, 1913 count Gleichen was given precedence "next to and immediately before marquesses of England", his wife before marchionesses of England, and his sisters were given precedence "next to and immediately before the daughters of Dukes of England".  On this occasion it was discovered that he had never obtained a royal licence to use his Gotha title in the United Kingdom, but the Home Office decided that it was "unnecessary to procure any further authority for the use of the title" since it had been officially recognized in the Army List and in the Gazette, and the title was used in the warrant.

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François Velde

Last modified: Jun 25, 2007