EDWINA, THE COUNTESS MOUNTBATTEN OF BURMA
The Hon. Dame Edwina Cynthia Annette MOUNTBATTEN (née ASHLEY), CI, GBE, DCVO, The Countess Mountbatten of Burma - was born on 28th November 1901 at her family home of Broadlands, Romsey in Hampshire – the eldest daughter of Colonel Wilfrid William Ashley, 1st Lord Mount Temple (1867-1939), a former MP and who was Minister of Transport 1924-1929, and Miss Amalia Mary Maud Cassel (1879-1911). Her pedigree was exceptional – with a wealth of ancestors, who themselves had made their own mark in the pages of British history. Her maternal grandfather was The Rt Hon. Sir Ernest Cassel, GCB, GCMG, GCVO (1852-1921), the Jewish merchant banker and friend of HM King Edward VII (1841(1901-1910), who himself was Edwina’s godfather.
Edwina was brought up on the Broadlands estate, but it was not an easy childhood. Her mother was ill and her father a busy Member of Parliament, it was clear that Edwina would develop into a wilful and difficult child, which only intensified upon the death of her mother from consumption. She was sent to boarding school at Eastbourne on the Sussex coast, and although she enjoyed herself, her Jewish ancestry and impending wealth became the reason for resentment from her contemporaries. She returned to Broadlands in 1918 and was soon dispatched by her step-mother (Muriel Emily Forbes-Sempill (née Spencer) d.1954) to a finishing school in Aldeburgh, Suffolk and after a year, it was agreed in the family that she would live with her wealthy Cassel grandfather.
Cassel was famous for his lavish parties, and Edwina became his hostess – she was in her element and she became renowned in society. Inevitably at one of these society parties – Edwina met her future husband, the young Mountbatten, son of Admiral of the Fleet The Most Hon. The 1st Marquess of Milford Haven, GCB, GCVO, KCMG, PC, ADC(P) (1854-1921) and HGDH Princess Victoria of Hesse & By The Rhine, VA (1863-1950). Shortly afterward, Mountbatten introduced Edwina to his parents. Lord Milford Haven said to his son at the time –
“Edwina is the most charming and remarkable girl of this generation I have met. She’s got intelligence, character, everything. If you decide to marry her, you have my whole-hearted approval.”
The Rt Hon. Sir Ernest Cassel
Her paternal family were from the great political dynasty which included two former Prime Ministers: The Rt Hon. William Lamb, FRS, 2nd Viscount Melbourne (1779-1848) - the famous “Lord M” and favourite of HM Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) ; The Rt Hon. Sir Henry Temple, KG, GCB, MP, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865) - the great “gun boat” diplomat. Edwina’s great-grandfather was the great social reformer and philanthropist Sir Anthony Ashley-Cooper, Bt., KG, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (1801-1885).
Cassel’s “Brook House” Mansion, Park Lane, London - later inherited by Edwina
Edwina, The Countess Mountbatten of Burma (in Coronation Robes)
The Arms of Wilfrid Ashley,
The 1st Lord Mount Temple
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EDWINA’S POLITICAL FAMILY