New Delhi: A new book on Louis Mountbatten and Edwina Mountbatten provides a ‘scandalous’ account of their private lives. The Mountbattens: Their Lives & Loves authored by British historian Andrew Lownie, talks about Lord Mountbatten’s alleged paedophilia, his gay flings, the couple’s open marriage with a stream of extra-marital affairs, the royal family’s displeasure with the Mountbattens’ private lives and public spectacles about their tussle with the press.
Based on several sources such as interviews, news articles and a dossier on the Mountbattens by the US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the book comes just ahead of the 40th anniversary of Lord Mountbatten’s assassination at the hands of the IRA.
ThePrint looks at some of the claims made by the new book on the Mountbattens.
Was Dickie Mountbatten a paedophile?
Since the release of the book, global press has hotly debated the possibility of Lord Mountbatten being a paedophile.
Mountbatten, who was referred to as Dickie by his close ones, seems to have allegedly been a serial offender when it came to child sexual abuse.
While his paedophilia has been previously reported, this account by Lownie lists several sources to back its claim.
The book cites a 1987 article in the New Zealand’s tabloid Truth, which drew the testimony of Mountbatten’s then driver, Norman Nield. Back then, Mountbatten was the Admiral of the Royal Navy.
Nield reveals that he was ordered to “take young boys to Admiral’s official residence” in Dickie’s Hummer, and was paid 5 pounds per week for his silence. According to Nield, the Admiral used “brandy and lemonade” to seduce children and the boys ranged from the ages of eight to twelve.
Another published article by Irish writer Robin Bryans talks about Mountbatten being a part of an “old-boy networks that held orgies”. It also talked about his interest in “first year public school boys”, who must have been “10 to 14” year olds.
Lownie writes that while these accounts were denied by the Mountbatten family, more revelations have emerged since.
Two people, who have recently written under the pseudonyms “Sean” and “Amal” reveal how, in 1977, they were driven from Kincora Boys School in Belfast, Northern Ireland to Classiebawn Castle. At the castle, Dickie would have oral sex with them. They mention that several boys from their school were “summoned” by Dickie.
Amal wrote that Dickie would express his liking for “dark-skinned” boys, “especially Sri Lankans”.
Lownie’s book also spends a substantial time talking about Dickie’s several gay flings. The most prominent among his gay lovers were Labour MP Tom Driberg and playwright Noel Coward.
Lownie cites FBI files to reveal that during Mountbatten’s stay in Malta, he used to regularly visit the “Red House in Rabat” — “an upmarket gay brothel used by naval officers”.
From 1965 until his death, Dickie was “Regimental Colonel of the Lifeguards”, which was allegedly a source of young men.
An open marriage and Edwina’s stream of high-profile affairs
Soon after Edwina and Dickie were married in 1922, the former began to have extra-marital affairs. According to Lownie, Dickie nevertheless continued to be in denial for a long time.
But in early-1930s, a divorce petition of Marjorie Hall Simpson mentioned Edwina to be cheating with her husband Henry Anthony Simpson. The Henry-Marjorie divorce had already attracted a lot of press attention but now Edwina was being referred to as the “other woman”.
Though Marjorie was paid off, this forced Dickie to confront his wife. According to Lownie, they agreed to have an open marriage and Edwina would continue to support her husband’s professional endeavours.
From here on, Edwina went on to have a string of affairs.
Lownie cites Edwina’s daughter Pamela Hicks, having said that on one occasion when Edwina returned home, she was told, “Mr Larry Gray is in the drawing room, Mr Sandford is in the library, Mr Ted Phillips is in the boudoir, Señor Portago (is) in the anteroom and I don’t know what to do with Mr Molyneux.”
But the affair that drew the most public attention and got the Buckingham Palace involved, was with African American Paul Robeson.
When The People reported this affair, Buckingham Palace ignored it, but put pressure on the the Mountbattens to sue the publication. Though the Mountbattens won the case and The People apologised, it had become a major public spectacle.
Once Dickie and Edwina had agreed to enter an open marriage, the former also went on to have several extra-marital relationships.
He had his first affair with Yola Letellier in 1931 and she would go on to become his lifelong mistress. Yola was the third wife of Henri Letellier, the owner of the famous French daily, Le Journal.
But when Edwina found out about Dickie’s affair, she was furious. According to Lownie, she felt that she was allowed lovers, but not her husband. However, she would eventually became friends with Yola.
After Edwina’s death in 1960, Mountbatten would have a stream of girlfriends.
According to his daughter Patricia, “they tended to be youngish, very pretty — rather Victorian figures really.” Most of his girlfriends were wives of men who had worked with him. His valet Bill Evans is cited as saying that Dickie had “set dates” for each of them.
Another prominent Dickie’s relationship was with the actress Shirley MacLaine. They met in 1960s.
According to Evans, “She was a very bright cookie. She often acted as Dickie’s hostess and could hold court with anyone from heads of state…the affair went on for many years. She was No 1 for a long time.”
Mountbatten was also a client of Madame Claude, the high-profile French brothel keeper. According to American writer William Stadiem, Dickie “met his girls” only on a jet “circling the skies above Paris.”
A scandal often tells us more about the time than the people in question. The very idea of what is considered a scandal reveals the prevalent socio-cultural norms of the time. In that sense, Lownie’s account reveals not only the intricacies of the Mountbattens’ relationship, but also how power was used to commit sexual offences with children or how interracial and homosexual relations were looked down upon.