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A marquess is a nobleman of high hereditary rank in various European peerages and in those of some of their former colonies. Marquess (from the French marquis, march). This is a reference to the Marches (borders) between Wales, England and Scotland.

The German language equivalent is Markgraf (margrave). A woman with the rank of a marquess or the wife (or widow) of a marquess is a marchioness or marquise. The children’s titles are the same as those of a duke’s children (Lord and Lady). These titles are also used to translate equivalent Asian styles, as in Imperial China and Imperial Japan.

A marquess is addressed as ‘Lord followed by thier first name.

United Kingdom

In Great Britain, and historically in Ireland, the correct spelling of the aristocratic title of this rank is marquess (although on the European mainland and in Canada, the French spelling of marquis is used in English).

In Scotland, the French spelling is also sometimes used. In Great Britain and historically in Ireland, the title ranks below a Duke and above an Earl.

The theoretical distinction between a marquess and other titles has, since the Middle Ages, faded into obscurity. In times past, the distinction between a count and a marquess was that the land of a marquess, called a march, was on the border of the country, while a count’s land, called a county, often was not.

As a result of this, a marquess was trusted to defend and fortify against potentially hostile neighbors and was thus more important and ranked higher than a count. As mentioned the title is ranked below that of a duke, which was often, for a time, was largely restricted to the royal family.

The rank of marquess was a relatively late introduction to the British peerage: no marcher lords had the rank of Marquess, though some were Earls. On the evening of the Coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838, the Prime Minister Lord Melbourne explained to her why (from her journals):

I spoke to [Lord Melbourne] about the numbers of Peers present at the Coronation, & he said it was quite unprecedented. I observed that there were very few Viscounts, to which he replied “There are very few Viscounts,” that they were an old sort of title & not really English; that they came from Vice-Comites; that Dukes & Barons were the only real English titles; – that Marquises were likewise not English, & that people were mere made Marquises, when it was not wished that they should be made Dukes.

One of the most well known Marquees was the form Prince Louis of Battenberg who became Lord Louis Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Milford-Haven.

Louis Alexander of Battenberg was born in Graz, Styria, on May 24, 1854, the eldest son of Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine by his morganatic marriage to Countess Julia von Hauke. Because of his morganatic parentage, Louis did not inherit his father’s rank in the Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine; and, from birth, his style of Illustrious Highness and title of Count of Battenberg instead derived from the rank given to his mother at the time of her marriage.

On December 26, 1858, he automatically became His Serene Highness Prince Louis of Battenberg when his mother was elevated to Princess of Battenberg with the style of Serene Highness, by decree of her husband’s brother, Ludwig III, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine.

On April 30, 1884 at Darmstadt in the presence of Queen Victoria, Prince Louis married her granddaughter, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine.

HSH Prince Louis of Battenberg

His wife was the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria’s second daughter Princess Alice and Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine. Through the Hesse family, Prince and Princess Louis of Battenberg were first cousins once removed. They had known each other since childhood, and invariably spoke English to each other. As wedding presents Louis received the British Order of the Bath and the Star and Chain of the Hessian Order of Louis.

After a naval career lasting more than forty years, in 1912 he was appointed First Sea Lord, the professional head of the British naval service. With the First World War looming, he took steps to ready the British fleet for combat, but his background as a German prince forced his retirement once the war began.

During the war, persistent rumours that the British Royal Family must be pro-German, given their dynastic origins and many German relatives, prompted the King to abandon his subsidiary German dynastic titles and adopt an English surname.

At the behest of the King, Louis relinquished the title Prince of Battenberg in the Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine, along with the style of Serene Highness, on July 14, 1917. At the same time, Louis anglicised his family name, changing it from “Battenberg” to “Mountbatten”, having considered but rejected “Battenhill” as an alternative.

Lord Louis Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven, First Sea Lord

On November 7, King George V created him Marquess of Milford Haven, Earl of Medina, and Viscount Alderney in the peerage of the United Kingdom. He was offered a Dukedom by George V, but declined as he could not afford the lavish lifestyle expected of a Duke.

Louis’s wife ceased to use her own title of Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine and became known as the Marchioness of Milford Haven. His three younger children ceased to use their princely titles and assumed courtesy titles as children of a British marquess; his eldest daughter, Princess Alice, had married into the Greek Royal Family in 1903, and never had occasion to use the surname Mountbatten. However, her only son, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, adopted the name when he became a British subject in 1947.

While the transition in names and titles was being effected, Louis spent some time at the home of his eldest son, George. After anglicising his surname to Mountbatten and becoming Marquess of Milford Haven, Louis wrote in his son’s guestbook, “Arrived Prince Hyde, Departed Lord Jekyll”.

The Marquees of Milford Haven was the maternal grandfather of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Queen Elizabeth II and the great-grandfather of King Charles III.