Heritage

Who Is Prince Philip's Uncle, Lord Mountbatten?

From his royal connection and unorthodox marriage up to his tragic death.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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Here's the true story of the man who mentored the Duke of Edinburgh.

THE MOUNTBATTEN CONNECTION TO THE ROYAL FAMILY

As with many royal relatives, Louis Mountbatten was related to both Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth. A great-grandson of Queen Victoria, he was both a distant cousin of the Queen's and Prince Philip's uncle. Philip's mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, was Louis's sister. Philip also lived with the Mountbattens for several years following his mother's institutionalization.

A COMPLICATED MARRIAGE


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Lord Louis Mountbatten and his wife Lady Edwina in London, 1941.

Louis and Edwina Mountbatten had a rather unorthodox marriage. Certainly, Edwina could not be tamed, but by 1931 the couple had reportedly "cut a deal," according to the Washington Post: "They would stay together with separate beds and, to some extent, separate lives. But they would remain loving, mutually supportive chums. Above all, they would be discreet."

Both Mountbattens had affairs; Louis wasn't just sitting at home sulking. He once reportedly said, "Edwina and I spent all our married lives getting into other people's beds."

The couple did have two daughters together: Patricia Knatchbull, who later became the 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma, and Lady Pamela Hicks, mother of designers Ashley Hicks and India Hicks. (Knatchbull passed away earlier this year.)

THE LAST VICEROY OF INDIA

In many ways, Mountbatten represents the beginning of the end of the British Empire. He served as the final Viceroy of India, arriving in New Delhi in March of 1947 with the intention of ending British rule in the country. He was quickly successful. Per his obituary in the New York Times, "Independence for India and Pakistan came on Aug. 15, 1997, only 195 days after Lord Mountbatten's arrival." The transition was less than smooth, but he eventually became India's first Governor General, a position he held until June 1948 when he returned to Great Britain.

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TRAGIC DEATH

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Queen Elizabeth II at Lord Mountbatten’s funeral in 1979.

In August of 1979, Lord Mountbatten was killed at age 79 in a terrorist attack by the Irish Republican Army. His fishing boat, named Shadow V, was blown up off the coast of the Republic of Ireland by a bomb that had been smuggled aboard. His teenage grandson Nicky Knatchbull was also killed in the blast, as was Paul Maxwell, a teenage boathand. Another passenger, the Dowager Lady Brabourne, died the next day.

According to the New York Times, a witness described the explosion this way: “The boat was there one minute and the next minute it was like a lot of matchsticks floating on the water.”

The IRA took responsibility for the explosion calling it "an execution" and published a statement promising to continue the "noble struggle to drive the British intruders out of our native land."

Thomas McMahon, a skilled bombmaker for the IRA, was the only person convicted of the murder. He was sentenced to life in prison but was released in 1998 under a peace deal known as the Good Friday Agreement.

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Uncle Dickie's murder rocked the royal family. At the time, a spokesperson for Buckingham Palace shared that Queen Elizabeth was "deeply shocked" by the news.

MENTORSHIP OF PRINCE CHARLES


Prince Charles with Lord Mountbatten in July 1979.

Lord Mountbatten was a mentor to young Prince Charles, a close relationship that continued throughout their lives. At one point, Prince Charles even said, “I admire him almost more than anybody else I know,” and he was often referred to as an "honorary grandfather" to the Queen and Prince Philip's children.

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In 2015, Prince Charles made a controversial visit to the spot where Mountbatten was killed. "It’s been a long time," he said. “I never thought it would happen.”

He gave a moving speech to mark the occasion. “I could not imagine how we would come to terms with the anguish of such a deep loss since, for me, Lord Mountbatten represented the grandfather I never had," he said.

"We need no longer be victims of our difficult history with each other," he continued, referencing the troubled relationship between Ireland and Great Britain. "Without glossing over the pain of the past, we can, I believe, integrate our history and memory in order to reap their subtle harvest of possibility. Imagination, after all, is the mother of possibility. Let us, then, endeavor to become the subjects of our history and not its prisoners."

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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