Prince Alexander who was a member of the Hessian royal family and a nephew of Tsar Alexander II. He served in the Russian army against the Turks (1877-78). He was appointed soverign prince of Bulgaria in 1879. Prince Alexander wanted to marry Princess Victoria of Prussia, but her brother Prince Wilhelm objected, in part because of his non-royal orgins and in part because of the unstable Bulgarian throne. Bismarck also objected, but for political reasosn--he was intent on maintaining friedly relations with the Russians. Prince Alexander was forced to abdicate largely because he objected to Bulgaria's democratic constitution and attempted to institute arbitrary royal authority. They had two children.
The younger sons of the reigning family of many small German states are generally lost to history. This did not prove tobe the case with Alexander. This was in large measure to the fact that his sister Marie mairred the Tsarvitch who became Alexander II. He purued a successful military career in Russia before running afoul of the Tsar over his Polish wife. Standing up to the Tsar ruined his future in Russia. Family connections provided close relations with the Bitish royal family. One of his sons persued a storied naval career as did a grandson--Lord Louis Montbatten of Burma. Another son, Henry, actually mairred into the British royal family.
Julia Hauke was a Polish countess who charmed the young Prince Alexander, runing his future in Russia. He had to forgo his dynastic claims, but the Countess and Prince Alexander mairred and lived a quiet life in Hesse.
Alexander had four brothers and sisters:
Princess Marie von Battenberg was born in 1852.
The eldest son of Prince Alexander of Battenberg was thorougly German, but spoke excellent English even as a child. The royal families of Britian and Hesse were constant visitors to each other's court. This was especially the case when Princess Alice, Queen Victoria's Granddaughter, mairred Louis IV. Louis was a serious, studious boy. He had one surprising interest and that was to become a sailor. Hessians had always been soldiers and of course had no navy. A German navy did not yet exist. His father disapproved of the idea.
Louis insisted and so at the age of 14 left Hesse for England in 1868. He was supported by Queen Victoria's son Prince Alfred who had pursued a naval career. Louis with his foreign accent had a hard time in cadet school, but made a very successful naval career--even being appointed second it command of Dreadnought, the most powerful ship of its day, and later Forst Sea Lord. Louis, mairred Princess Victoria Alberta of Hesse in 1884. She was the daughter of Louis IV of Hesse and Princess Alice. During World War I, Louis had to resign from the navy because of anti-German sentiment. Louis was Lord Mountbatten's father. A brother, Henry, actually mairred into he British royal family.
Alexander or Sandro as he was known in the family was born in 1857.
Henry mairred Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria's youngest daughter in 1885, liking the Battenbergs to the English royal family. This was particularly true as a year earlier his older brother Louis had maried Princess Victoria Alberta of Hesse--a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria. The mairrage was criticised both in England and in German court circles. The mairrage ended tragically. Princess Beatrice was devastated by her husband's death in 1896. He participated as a volunteer in the Ashanti Expeditionary Force to Sierra Leone where he contracted malaria. The Prince died at sea returning home.
Francis Joseph, Prince of Battenberg, was born in 1861.
We know nothing about Prince Alexander's childhood at this time.
HBC has no information on Alexander's boyhood clothing. We have not yet succeded in finding a photograph of the young Alexander.
As a nephew of Tsar Nicholas II, he served in the Russian Army. He saw action against the Turks in the Risso-Turkish War of 1877-78.
Bulgaria as a new state was brought into existence largely by Russian miliatry action in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. Russian and the Ottomans fought a series of Balkan Wars. In each the Russians gained ground. Yhe Ottoman Empire would have collpased early in the 19th century, had the major European powers not differed on how to carve it up. Concerned about the Russian succeeses, Britain and France intervened in the Crimean War to support Turkey. The last Russo-Turkish War occurred in 1877-78. It was also the most important one. Tsarist Russia in 1877 came to the aid of its fellow Christian Orthodox ally Serbia as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bulgaria in local rebellions against Ottoman rule. The Russians attacked diretly through Bulgaria toward Turkey and gained considerable success. After completing the Siege of Pleven, the Russians advance into Thrace, taking Adrianople (now Edirne, Turkey) in January 1878. The Ottomans conceded and in March 1878 agree to the Treaty of San Stefano with Russia. This treaty liberated Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro from Ottoman rule. It granted autonomy to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and created a Bulgaria (much larger than modern Bulgaria) under Russian protection. The great powers, especially Britain and Austria-Hungary, were concerned with the massive Russian gains confirmed by the treaty. Here the British were coflicted. Public opinion had been aroused against Ottoman atrocities against Christians in the Balkans, yet Queen Victorian was stongly anti-Russian and many officials were concerned about the Russians moving south toward Suez. The great powers this compelled Russia to accept more limited gains under the Treaty of Berlin (July
1878). Russia's gains from the war were sharply reduced.
The First Grand National Assembly (the Bulgarian Parliament) in 1879 elected the German prince Alexander of Battenberg as prince of Bulgaria. The great powers at the Congress of Berlin had insisted on a monarchy. While accepting a monarchy, the Bulgarians wrote the very democratic Turnovo Constitution giving great power to the National Assembly. Russian influence had been important in Prince Alexander's selection. The Prince had had participated in the Liberation War (Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78), which earned him some initial respect in both Bulgaria and Russia. The Great Powers were fearful that Bulgaria might beconme a Russian pawn, but were placated with the choice of a German prince. Tsar Alexander II was willing to accept Prince Alexander as he was a nephew. The Prince at the time was a very inexperienced young man, a 22-year old dragoon lieutenant was had dreams of turning Bulgaria into a powerful state under his autocratic control. The new Bulgarian constitution was at odds with the young Alexander's concept of royal power. A lawyer of his father's court warned him, "With this law, Your Majesty, it will be impossible or at least very hard for you to rule." Prince Alexander objected to the Principality's democratic constitution and attempted to expand royal authority. He tied to ammend the Turnovo Constitution and allied himself with conservative forces in the Natioanl Assembly willing to support such changes. The result was political instability. The Government changed 10 times during the 7 years that Alexander ruled Bulgaria.
Frustrated by the intricacies of Bulgarian politics, Prince Alexander staged a royal coup on April 27, 1881, annoncing, "In the past 2 years I allowed every possible attempt to be made for the construction and the proper development of the state, but unfortunately my hopes were thwarted." He immediately suspended the Turnovo Constitution and invested himself with absolute powers. Alexander oversaw the introduction of some valuable reforms to Buulgaria. The new principality had languished under centuries of Ottoman rule and was one of the most backward areas of Russia. Alexander sought to introduce European standards to governmernt, the economy, culture and the army. Liberals with justification accused him of oposing the popular will and democratic rule. Prince Alexander was eventually forced to restore the constitution.
Prince Alexander had come to power largely because of the support of the Great Powers, especially Russia. He thus followed Europdean power politics very closely. His relative, Tsar Alexander II, had played an important role in his selection. Tsar Alexander II's wife was Princess Marie of Hesse-Darmstadt, Prince Alexander's aunt. The Tsar's support was very important in Bulgarian politics as many Bulgarians for ehnic and religious reasons, as well as Russian military support in defeating the Turks, identified with the Russians. Tsar Alexander II was, however, assasinated in 1881. His son Alexander III had very different attitudes toward Prince Alexander. He comes to truly detest him. [Ludwig, p. 560.] The new Tsar wanted a subservient Bulgaria. Prince Alexander is a conroversial figure. Some historians dismiss him as incompetent. Others describe him as insisting on true Bulgarian independence. This the new Russian Tsar could not countenance and withdrew Russian support. Prince Alexander strongly pushed for the acquisition of of neigboring territory populated by Bulgarians.
Some of the Bulgarian populated areas controlled by the Ottomans (Eastern Rumelia or southern Bulgaria) were united with the Principality after a popular insurection against the Ottoman Turks in 1885. Tsar Allexander III objected as did the other Great Powers as it violated the Congress of Berlin accords. Serbia which declared war, instigated in part by Austria. The Bulgarian Army, however, defeated the Serbians.
Dealing with Tsar Alexander III and the Russians was a critical matter for any Bulgarian leader. Here Prince Alkexander failed. In one of the many ironies of history, the Tsar who refused to grant a constitution to his people, help oust the Bulgarian Prince who objected to a democratic consitution. It is unclear if Prince Alexander could have resolved his differences with the Tsar short of becoming a subservient figure head minarch. Tsar Alexander III in the spring of 1886 began an international campaign to oust Prince Alexander. Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck who had played such an imprtant role in the Congress of Berlin offered no support, he was intent on maintaining Prussia's treaty with the Russians. As a result of Prince Alexander's quarles with the Russians, pro-Russian elements staged a coup, arrested Alexander, and sent him to Russia. A counter-coup brought the prince back to Sofia. However, the Russian Czar's opposition eventually forced Alexander at gunpoint to abdicate on August 9, 1886. He completed hed his statement of abdication with "God help Bulgaria!"
Prince Alexander had wanted to marry a Princess Victoria of Prussia. This was one of the most discussed relationships in Europe and the most prestigious figures in Europe exerted their influence for and against the marriage. Princess Victoria's mother, the Crown Princess Victoria as well as Queen Victoria herself was for the marriage. Princess Victoria's brother Prince Wilhelm and his wife Donna objected, in part because of his non-royal orgins and in part because of the unstable Bulgarian throne. Chancellor Bismarck also objected, but for politicl reasons. Because of Russian displeasure with Prince Alexander he did not want any complications with the Prussian-Russian alliance. As it turned out another German prince was chosen to replace him.
After abdication, Prince Alexander became an officer in the Austrian Army.
Alexander finally married Johanna Loisinger (1865-1951) in 1889. Loisinger was an opera singer, quite a difference from the Prussian princess that Alexander had hoped to marry. His mother was shocked and the two never saw each other again. [Vickers, p. 30.]
They had two children: Assén von Hartenau, Count of Hartenau (1890- ) and Zwétana von Hartenau, Countess of Hartenau (1893- ).
Prince Alexander died a young man at age 36 in 1893.
The Battenberg in Britain was seen as a Teutonic by the increasingly anti-German British public during World War I. Anti-German feelings had reached hysterical levels by 1916. People did not play music by German composers like Beetoven and Wagner, considering it un patriotic. Dachshunds might be kicked on the streets. People with German names were reviled. German shops were vandalized. Even the royal family, as the House of Saxe-Coburg, did not escape criticism. As a result, King George V in 1917 decided to change the name of the Royal House to Windsor. He also asked his relatives who were British but known by German names and titles to relinquish use of them. As the tiular head of the
House of Battenberg, Lord Louis, Mounbatten's father adopted the name Mountbatten, much more English sounding, and was raised to the peerage as the Marquess of Milford Haven, Earl of Medina and Viscount Alderney. As a result of the anti-German hysteria, however, his career was essentilly ruined.
Heald, Tim. Philip: A Portrait of the Duke of Edinburgh (William Morrow and Company, Inc.: New York, 1991).
Lalkov, Milcho. Rulers of Bulgaria (Kibea Publishing Company: Sofia, Bulgaria).
Ludwig, Emil. Bismarck: The Story of a Fighter (Little, Brown, and Company, 1927).
Vickers, Hugo. Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece (St. Martin's Press: New York, 2000), 477p.
Ziegler, Philip. Mountbatten (New York: Knopf: 1985).
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