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Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma

Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (June 25, 1900August 27, 1979) was a British admiral and statesman and an uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. He was the last Viceroy and first Governor-General of independent India, and First Sea Lord, as was his father, Prince Louis of Battenberg.

His full style was: Admiral of the Fleet The Right Honourable Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, 1st Viscount Mountbatten of Burma, 1st Baron Romsey, KG, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, DSO, PC, FRS.

Viceroy Mountbatten of India (1947)
Viceroy Mountbatten of India (1947)


He was born in Windsor Castle, in England, as His Serene Highness Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas, Prince of Battenberg, although his German styles and titles were dropped in 1917. He was the second son of Prince Louis of Battenberg and a great-grandson of Queen Victoria.

Mountbatten's father is said to have had a youthful affair with the actress Lillie Langtry and to have been the father of Jeanne Marie Langtry Malcolm.1).

Louis Battenberg was First Sea Lord at the outbreak of World War I but extreme anti-German feelings obliged him to resign. In 1917 when the Royal Family stopped using their Germanic names and titles he became Louis Mountbatten, Marquess of Milford Haven. His second son took the courtesy title Lord Louis and was known by that title informally until his death.


Mountbatten served in the navy during the First World War, and in the Second World War he commanded the 5th destroyer flotilla. His ship, the destroyer, HMS Kelly, was famous for many daring exploits. In early May of 1940, Mountbatten led a British convoy in through the fog to evacuate the Allied forces participating in the Namsos Expedition ( see Namsos in April 1940). His ship was sunk during the Crete Campaign. In 1940 he invented the Mountbatten Pink naval camouflage pigment.

Mountbatten was a favourite of Winston Churchill and in 1941 he replaced Roger Keyes as Chief of Combined Operations. He personally pushed through the disastrous Dieppe Raid (August 19, 1942) which led to the deaths of thousands of Canadian troops; a defeat Mountbatten tried to blame squarely on their commanding officer but which was largely the result of his botched planning. Field Marshal Montgomery felt the campaign misconceived from the start.

In late 1942, Mountbatten proposed Project Habbakuk to Churchill; the ice supercarrier project was never completed. In October 1943, Churchill appointed Mountbatten the Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia Theatre, a post he held until South East Asia Command (SEAC) was disbanded in 1946. During his time as Supreme Allied Commander of the South-East Asia Theatre his command oversaw the recapture of Burma from the Japanese by General William Slim. His diplomatic handling of General "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, his deputy - and also the officer commanding the American China Burma India Theater - and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Chinese Nationalist forces, was as gifted as that of General Eisenhower with General Mongomery and Winston Churchill.

His experience in the region led to his being appointed Viceroy of India after the war. In his position as Viceroy, Mountbatten oversaw the granting of independence to both India and Pakistan. He was familiarly known to British people as "Lord Louis", and was given the title "Earl Mountbatten of Burma" in recognition of his service in the Far East.

After India, he served in the Mediterranean Fleet and as a staff officer in the Admiralty.

He took great personal pride and pleasure in serving as First Sea Lord and later as Chief of the Defence Staff for six years (1959 -1965), which he also took as reparation for the slur on his father who was forced to resign as First Sea Lord in 1914 after being falsely accused of pro-German sympathy.

Marriage and descendants

Mountbatten - known to friends and family as "Dickie" - was a strong influence in the upbringing of his great-nephew, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. He was married on July 18, 1922 to Hon. Edwina Cynthia Annette Ashley , daughter of Wilfred Ashley , 1st Baron Mount Temple. Lady Mountbatten reportedly had affairs with Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and American actor-singer Paul Robeson. Mountbatten also indulged in affairs, yet he and Edwina remained devoted to each other until her death on February 21, 1960 in Jesselton, North Borneo. They had two children: Patricia Mountbatten, 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma (born February 14, 1924), and Lady Pamela Carmen Louise (born April 19, 1929).

Since Mountbatten had no sons, when he was created Viscount on August 23, 1946, then Earl and Baron on October 28, 1947, the Letters Patent were drafted such that the titles would pass to the female line. This was to recognise his wartime service, and the regard he was held by the British Royal Family, as well as to atone for the disservice done to his father. Thus, on his death, the titles passed to Patricia.


On August 27, 1979, while holidaying as usual in his summer home in Sligo in the Republic of Ireland he was killed by a bomb planted in his boat in Donegal Bay. The Provisional IRA admitted responsibility for the bomb. Other victims of the assassination were:

  • The Lady Brabourne: his elder daughter's mother-in-law (aged 82).
  • The Hon. Nicholas Timothy Charles Knatchbull: (18 November 1964-27 August 1979), the son of John Ulick Knatchbull, 7th Baron Brabourne, (1924-) and his wife Patricia Mountbatten (Countess Mountbatten of Burma) (b. 1924), twin brother of Timothy Knatchbull.
  • Paul Maxwell: a local boy working as a crew member (aged 15).

The killing of Mountbatten, and the accompanying murder of eighteen soldiers the same day in a bombing in Northern Ireland led to public outrage in Ireland. The President of Ireland, Patrick Hillery, and the Taoiseach (prime minister) Jack Lynch both attended a memorial service for Lord Mountbatten in St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. On November 23, 1979, Thomas McMahon was sentenced to life in prison for the assassination.


1It is often assumed (on the basis of Mountbatten's acknowledgement) that Louis Battenberg was the father of Jeanne-Marie. It appears that he paid support money for her in some regard - or Lillie was paid off at any rate. A recent biography of Lillie suggested that the father was really one Arthur Jones and that it was simply more profitable to blame Louis. In any case, given her mother's promiscuity it is difficult to be certain who Jeanne-Marie's father was.

Further reading

  • Mountbatten: the official biography, by Philip Ziegler (Collins, 1985)
  • Eminent Churchillians, by Andrew Roberts (Phoenix Press, 1994). The author states that it "makes the case for the impeachment of the last Viceroy of India, on the grounds that his cheating over the India-Pakistan frontier and his headlong rush towards partition led to around one million deaths in Punjab and the North-West Frontier in 1947-48".

Last updated: 05-16-2005 15:09:30