Prince Philip's close relative Lord Mountbatten plays a key role in The Crown, the Netflix series about Queen Elizabeth's reign. Portrayed by English actor Greg Wise in seasons one and two, and Game of Thrones alum, Charles Dance in seasons three and four, Uncle Dickie, as he's affectionately known to the royals, serves as Prince Charles's mentor, helping him to navigate his role within the family.
But the television series doesn't tell the whole story. Here's what Lord Mountbatten was really like.
The Mountbatten Connection to the Royal Family
As with many members of the royal family, Louis Mountbatten was related to both Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth. A great-grandson of Queen Victoria, he was a distant cousin of the Queen's as well as 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
In a particularly tender scene in the first episode of season two of The Crown, Elizabeth II speaks candidly with Uncle Dickie about her marital woes. “You married a wild spirit—we both did," he says, referring to his wife Lady Edwina Ashley Mountbatten, whom he married on July 18, 1922. "Trying to tame them is no use."
"Of course I considered ending it," he continues. "Then I imagined how thin, how poor life would be. I realized, when you really adore someone, as fully and as hopelessly as I think you and I do, you put up with anything."
The second chapter of The Crown centers around infidelity—rumors followed many of the couples featured on the show—but in reality Louis and Edwina Mountbatten had a rather unorthodox marriage. Certainly, Edwina could not be tamed, to use the language of the show, 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, and Louis is thought by some historians to have been bisexual. He once reportedly said, "Edwina and I spent all our married lives getting into other people's beds."
The couple did eventually 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.
Lady Pamela Hicks has even commented on her parents' unusual marital arrangements. "They each had one real lover," she said about her parents in her podcast, referencing Colonel Harold “Bunny” Phillips, her mother's companion, and a french woman, with whom her father had an affair for several decades. "My sister and I my mother's lover and my father's lover, we adored them both..." saying that they loved their parents' lovers "very nearly" as much as their parents.
In a 2022 legal proceeding, Arthur Smyth is alleging that he was abused twice by Mountbatten, when he was 11 years old. “Central to the case are our client’s allegations of abuse by the late Lord Louis Mountbatten," said Smyth's solicitor, Kevin Winters of KRW Law, per the Irish Times.
“Understandably many abuse survivors for reasons of obvious sensitivity choose to remain anonymous. Arthur’s decision to reveal his identity must be set against this backdrop. It is borne out of anger at systemic state cover-up on abuse at these institutions. He alleges to have been abused twice as an 11-year-old by the deceased royal. It’s the first time that someone has stepped forward to take allegations against Lord Mountbatten into a court. That decision hasn’t been taken lightly. He understands only too well that it will be a deeply unpopular case with many people coming as it does within weeks of the passing of the Queen.”
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, 1947, 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.
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.
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. It's likely the events will play out in a future season of The Crown.
A modern tribute
Prince William named his third son, who was born on April 23, 2018, Louis, likely in tribute to the late Lord Louis Mountbatten. More on the royal baby's names, right here.
Mentorship of Prince Charles
In penultimate episode of The Crown's second season, we see Lord Mountbatten become 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.
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."
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