A debate on who has been Filey’s most famous visitor is one that could run on and on. In one decade (1860s) The Royal Crescent Hotel hosted visitors of the calibre of the Archbishop of York, the two time Liberal Prime Minister Lord John Russell and His Grace the Duke of St Albans. Even away from the town’s premier hotel, we find the Bradford-born composer Frederick Delius at number 5 The Crescent and the Yorkshire and England cricket captain F.S. Jackson next door at number 6. We could add to that already illustrious list: Charlotte Bronte, J.R.R. Tolkien and even Leopold II, King of the Belgians.
However, when it comes to Filey’s most famous visiting family, it is fairly certain that it is the Battenberg’s. They holidayed for a month at 36 The Crescent in 1900. History now remembers them as the Mountbatten’s, following a change of name during World War One as a response to rising anti-German sentiment (the Royal family similarly transformed themselves from Saxe-Coburg to Windsor in 1917).
The head of the family was Prince Louis of Battenberg. Despite being born in Austria, at the age of fourteen Battenburgh enrolled in the Royal Navy. In a career spanning four decades he rose through the ranks to become, in 1912, First Sea Lord, the professional head of the British naval service. With the Great War looming he readied the navy for the conflict and his decision to keep the fleet together after summer manoeuvres in 1914 was crucial. It meant that the Grand Fleet was poised at its Scapa Flow base, ready to enforce the blockade on Germany that would play a major part in the eventual victory. Despite his long service, and his marriage into the British Royal Family (more of that in the next paragraph), anti-German feeling, fuelled by a vitriolic campaign by sections of the British press, forced his resignation in late 1914. As previously mentioned, he also changed the family name to the British sounding Mountbatten. By the time of his death in 1921 a grateful nation had bestowed him with a lengthy list of titles: Admiral of the Fleet Louis Alexander Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven, GCB, GCVO, KCMG, PC.
Prince Louis married Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, in 1884. They had four children and the entire family came to Filey in 1900 for their summer holiday.
The eldest daughter was Princess Alice of Battenberg. She would marry into the Greek Royal Family and became the mother of Prince Phillip and therefore would be the mother-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II.
The second daughter was Lady Louise Alexandra Marie Irene Mountbatten. During the Great War she served in a Red Cross hospital in France and in peacetime worked to improve conditions for slum children in London. She was to become Queen of Sweden as the wife of King Gustaf VI Adolf.
The first son, George, served in the Royal Navy for virtually his entire life, ending his career as Captain George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, GCVO. He married the beautiful Countess Nadejda de Torby, a member of the Russian Imperial family and great-granddaughter of the poet Aleksandr Pushkin. Nadejda became embroiled in allegations of an affair with her friend Gloria Vanderbilt (upon whom the character of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was supposedly based upon).
The youngest of the family was Louis. Destined to become Admiral of the Fleet Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma. In a stellar career Louis was, Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command (1943–1946), the last Viceroy of India (1947) and the first governor-general of independent India (1947–1948). He later became First Sea Lord, Chief of Defence Staff and Chairman of NATO. He was murdered by the IRA by a bomb planted on his boat in County Sligo in 1979.
If this wasn’t enough, probably as a result of the visit, in 1910 the brother of Princess Victoria, the Grand Duke, and his wife the Duchess of Hesse, arrived at The Crescent Hotel for a month’s holiday. The Grand Duke was the German born grandson of Queen Victoria. During World War I, the Grand Duke served in the German Army as an officer and was stationed at Kaiser Wilhelm’s headquarters. Incidentally, one of the Grand Duke’s sisters was Princess Alexandra, who married the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II. The Tsarina was infamously executed, along with her husband and children, by Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1918.