Lord Louis Mountbatten, Dickie, the bisexual 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, died on August 27, 1979. The Provisional IRA killed the royal favourite by placing a bomb on his fishing boat.
No one exercised as much influence over the British royal family during the twentieth century as their beloved Uncle Dickie. Although only a minor German royal, Prince Louis of Battenberg was also a great-grandson of Queen Victoria and related to most of the royal houses of Europe.
As Lord Louis Mountbatten, he engineered the marriage of his penniless nephew Prince Philip of Greece to Princess Elizabeth, the future British queen. Afterwards, he acted as mentor to Philip’s son and his godson Prince Charles. Charles’ son Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, and his two sons, Prince George Alexander Louis and Prince Louis Arthur Charles are all named in Dickie’s honour. Also, male-line descendants of Queen Elizabeth II without royal styles — or those with, but in temporary need of a surname — now go by Mountbatten-Windsor.
Dickie started out in life as a prince of Battenberg. However, during WWI, George V changed the British royal family’s name from the German ‘Saxe-Coburg and Gotha’ to Windsor. British relatives of the royals with German surnames followed suit and Dickie became officially Lord Louis Mountbatten.
At 14, Dickie had enrolled in the Royal Naval College. In a remarkably frank letter home to his mother, he told her about homosexual activity among the boys.
Too swinish for words
“People here are becoming too swinish for words.
“It is awfully difficult not to get contaminated by them when you have them talking filth. Or almost worse still, hinting at nasty things during meals, and when we are in bed…
“Some people in the other dormitory have even begun to do filthy things, I have heard.”
Was his disapproval genuine or was he was sounding out his mother for her opinion?
Hard to tell.
Mountbatten proved a hard worker but also exceedingly willing to use his royal connections to his own advantage. That would never change.
Posted as a midshipman on a battlercruiser in 1916, he continued his naval career after the war. In 1920, he accompanied Edward, Prince of Wales, on a royal tour of Australia.
Then, in 1922, he married. Newspapers described his wife as ‘the richest girl in the world’. Edwina Ashley’s wealth far outstripped Dickie’s navy pay and small family income.
She also became bored with her husband away at sea for long periods of time. Lady Edwina Mountbatten began to take sexual pleasure where she could find it — discretion be damned.
One of her daughters later described her mother as a man-eater and wrote of a succession of ‘uncles’ throughout her childhood.
“When my father first heard that she had taken a lover, he was devastated.
“But eventually, using their reserves of deep mutual affection, my parents managed to negotiate a way through this crisis.”
Dickie and Edwina agreed on an open marriage.
Mountbatten later said, “Edwina and I spent all our married lives getting into other people’s beds.”
But rumours of Edwina’s affair with West Indian cabaret singer, Leslie ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson, made the press.
Hutch was for a time, the highest-paid star in the country, and possessed of a voracious sexual appetite. The bisexual entertainer previously enjoyed flings with composer Cole Porter and popular Welsh entertainer Ivor Novello.
Over 50 years, he fathered eight children by seven different mothers.
Prick like a tree trunk
Edwina’s affair with a black man caused Dickie much anguish. A newspaper alleged later that he drunkenly poured out his heart to Hutch’s bandleader.
“I am lonely and sad and drunk… Hutch has a prick like a tree trunk, and he’s f_cking my wife right now.”
The Mountbattens sued a newspaper that printed rumours of the affair and moved on, protected by their wealth and titles. However, Hutch’s career never recovered. The royals and other former patrons no longer attended his performances and newspapers refused to print ads for his shows.
What did F. Scott Fitzgerald write of Tom and Daisy in The Great Gatsby?
“They were careless people… they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
Lord Louis Mountbatten also undertook affairs with women himself. He and Edwina often made friends with the other’s paramours.
But it seems Dickie managed to keep some of his sex life secret, at least until after his death.
Shit a corkscrew
Mountbatten’s ascendancy through the navy saw him appointed Supreme Allied Commander of the South East Asia Command during the Second World. However, although a diligent worker, royal favour and a good relationship with English press barons also played a role in his promotions.
His biographer wrote, “His vanity though child-like, was monstrous, his ambition unbridled… He sought to rewrite history with cavalier indifference to the facts to magnify his own achievements.”
A British Field Marshall summed up Mountbatten more bluntly — and to his face.
“You are so crooked, Dickie, that if you swallowed a nail, you would shit a corkscrew.”
Appointed Viceroy of India in 1947, Mountbatten oversaw the transition of British India to independence. The same year, he was created Earl Mountbatten of Burma.
Stories of bisexuality only emerged after the Earl’s death.
The driver assigned to Mountbatten in Malta in 1948 alleged that he used to drive Dickie to the Red House, an upmarket gay brothel on the island. In The Mountbattens, Their Lives and Loves, historian Andrew Lownie revealed that the FBI kept files on the husband’s alleged gay affairs. Lownie also interviewed several men who claimed to have had relationships with the 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma.
Among his most famous alleged lovers, Labour MP Tom Driberg and playwright Noel Coward.
But Dickie usually preferred tall, slim, young men in uniform — making his choice of career either a lucky coincidence or a cunning choice.
Mountbatten’s legacy was also tarnished by allegations of pedophilia. However, the evidence seems slight — sensationalised newspaper articles and claims dismissed by the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry. The inquiry uncovered substantial sexual abuse of children in Northern Ireland over a seventy-year period until 1995 but nothing to incriminate Mountbatten.
Always liked to make a splash!
Edwina died in her sleep in Malaysia of unknown causes in 1960 and was buried at sea.
The Queen Mother with her renowned sensitivity and empathy commented, “Dear Edwina, she always liked to make a splash.” 😲
Mountbatten died in the explosion on his fishing boat in 1979.
Sinn Féin vice-president Gerry Adams said later that any death was unfortunate, but…
“What the IRA did to him is what Mountbatten had been doing all his life to other people; with his war record, I don’t think he could have objected to dying in what was clearly a war situation.”
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