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Private, Until Told Otherwise…

Lord Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten (June 25, 1900 – August 27, 1979) had always been at the centre of important historical events. Lord Mountbatten – India’s last Viceroy, a maternal uncle of late Prince Philip and second cousin of once removed Queen Elizabeth II – was close to King Edward VIII (June 23, 1894 – May 28, 1972). Edward VIII had become the first English Monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne in December 1936 after the British Government, public, and the Church of England condemned his decision to marry American divorcée Wallis Warfield Simpson. On the other hand, Lady Edwina Mountbatten was a good friend of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (November 14, 1889 – May 27, 1964), the first Prime Minister of India. Hence, there is a possibility that Lord Mountbatten had a ready access to secret pieces of information about the Royal Family, Partition of the Indian Subcontinent and various other important issues.

The University of Southampton had purchased legal papers, letters and personal diaries of Lord and Lady Mountbatten from the British Royal Family in 2011 for GBP 4 million, and “saved them for the nation”. However, the Government of Britain did not allow the University to declassify some of those documents.

Lord Mountbatten

Andrew Lownie, the author of ‘The Mountbattens: Their Lives & Loves‘, has urged the University authorities, as well as the Government, to classify all those documents. He made the request after receiving an order from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in this regard in 2018. Lownie recently informed the press that the Government appealed against the ICO’s order. He blasted the Government for spending a huge amount of money to prevent the declassification, stating: “What is in this couple’s personal diaries and letters which is so sensational? All sorts of claims are made about endangering National Security and International Relations. But Edwina was never a ‘public servant’ and her husband’s public career only became significant during the Second World War and when he became Viceroy.

Andrew Lownie

The historian believes that Mountbatten’s official papers, which have repeatedly been weeded and the correspondence with the Royal Family sent to the Royal Archives, might contain top secret information about the Royal Family. “It is perhaps the references to the Royals which provide the answer. What perhaps might the diaries and letters say about the abdication, the Duke of Windsor, and the Royals’ lovers and mistresses?” asked Lownie. Another controversial issue is Lady Mountbatten’s intimate relationship with Nehru, and Lownie is of the opinion that Lord Mountbatten might have disclosed various information about this relationship in his diaries!

Lady Edwina Mountbatten with Nehru at a reception given for him by the Indian High Commissioner in London at Kensington Palace Gardens

Interestingly, Lord Mountbatten, himself, is in favour of Lownie! Robert Lacey, a Historian and a Consultant to the Netflix series ‘The Crown‘, stressed that when he had asked Lord Mountbatten about the contents of his diaries, the latter replied: “Well, I can’t tell you the full details of this, but they will be available after my death.” According to Lacey, Mountbatten diaries would seemingly benefit the Irish History. It may be noted that Lacey, who also wants the diaries to be declassified, has donated funds to Lownie, whose fight to declassify the diaries has already cost him GBP 250,000 in legal bills.

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