Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Churchill Series – June 7, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

At the outbreak of WW I Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty, the same office to which he would again be appointed on September 3, 1939, the day Britain again went to war with Germany.

In August 1914 the man serving as First Sea Lord was Prince Louis of Battenberg. The Prince had emigrated from Germany to England in 1868 when, then age 14, he entered the British navy and became a British subject. In the June 5 post I promised to say something about Churchill’s relationship with the Prince.

The short of it is that they got on very well. But within a few months of the start of the war Churchill was forced to accept the Prince’s resignation. This was primarily because the Prince quickly became the lightening rod for the intense anti-German feeling that swept England with the outbreak of the war.

I find it hard to understand why Prince Louis became such a lightening rod for anti-German sentiment. After all, King George V was the grandson of a German prince, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who married Queen Victoria. The British royal family at that time retained Albert’s surname. The King and the Kaiser were first cousins.

The Royal Navy which Prince Louis had helped develop as he moved up through the ranks holding positions which included Admiral of the Home Fleet and Second Sea Lord was universally considered by Britons to be well prepared for the conflict. In fact, on the eve of war the Prince had worked with Churchill to place the Navy at its battle stations, a move for which he was praised while Churchill was hailed in the press as a hero.

But all of that was short lived. Within a few weeks concerns were raised about the Prince’s loyalty. They were absolutely unfounded, but rumors and falsehoods flew and within a few months Prime Minister Asquith told Churchill he had lost confidence in the Prince. On October 29, 1914, the Prince turned in his forced resignation.

There's more to be said about the Prince and Churchill
Martin Gilbert, The Challenge of War: 1914-1916. (Vol. III of "Winston S. Churchill") Use the index to locate material mentioned in this post.


Anonymous said...

I'm probably going to steal your punch line,but the Battenbergs were forced to change their name to Mountbatten.(I recall not being able to remember the German for "mountain" and my mother told me this.)And,as you know his son became First Sea Lord and his grandson Prince consort;Lord Louis and Prince Phillip