(1900–1979) British political leader
Lord Louis Mountbatten was the youngest son of Prince Louis of Battenburg and Princess Victoria of Hesse. His mother, a granddaughter of Great Britain’s Queen Victoria, was the daughter of Queen Victoria’s second daughter, Princess Alice, who, in turn, had married
Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse. The Battenberg family was descended through morganatic marriage from the grand duke of Hesse and by Rhine. Lord Mountbatten was born on June 25, 1900, at Frogmore House, Windsor, England. His family included his sisters Princess Alice, the mother of Philip, duke of Edinburgh; Queen Louise of Sweden; and a brother, George Mountbatten, later the second marquess of Milford Haven.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Mountbatten entered the navy in 1913 and saw service on the Lion and the Elizabeth during World War I. His father was first sea lord at the outbreak of conflict, but because of his German ancestry was forced to resign. AntiGerman feeling grew during the course of the war, and this led King George V to relinquish all German names and titles. Accordingly the royal family name became Windsor, and Battenburg became Mountbatten.
In the interwar years, Lord Louis continued his career in the navy. He married Edwina Cynthia Ashley in 1922. Although Mountbatten’s marriage lasted until the death of his wife in 1960 and appeared a close one, there remained claims of adultery and sensational affairs on both parts throughout the course of the marriage.
A captain at the start of World War II, Mountbatten commanded destroyers, losing the destroyer Kelly
in battle off Crete in 1940. During these early years of conflict he saw action in the North Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Western Approaches. He became a commodore in 1941 and rose to become, in a relatively short period, chief of combined operations. In this post he took on a key role in planning for the Allied invasion of continental Europe. His appointment as supreme allied commander, South East Asia Command, in 1943 gave him the rank of acting admiral. Consequently he was instrumental in Allied operations to drive the Japanese from Burma, and in 1945 he accepted the Japanese surrender in Malaya. His command required diplomatic skills to balance the different Allied commanders in this theatre of operations.
Mountbatten’s distinguished wartime service was awarded with nobility, becoming first Viscount Mountbatten of Burma in 1946 and then Earl Mountbatten of Burma and Baron Romsey in 1947. In the same year Mountbatten was appointed viceroy of India, and after partition he remained as governor-general until 1948. This meant overseeing the Indian and Pakistan drive to independence, and in this process he became a close friend of the Indian National Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru. Apparently this close relationship did not extend to Pakistan’s Muslim League leader
Mohammed Ali Jinnah. The partition of India was not an easy affair, and much violence and death came as a result. Some critics held Mountbatten responsible for these difficulties because he rushed partition and independence without proper security arrangements being in place.
After India, Mountbatten remained in the navy and performed a number of critical duties. He became first sea lord in 1955 and served in the important post of chief of defense staff from 1959 to 1965.
Mountbatten was assassinated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army on August 27, 1979, while on vacation in County Sligo in the Republic of Ireland. A bomb was planted on his boat. The explosion killed his eldest daughter’s mother-in-law, the Dowager Baroness Brabourne; his elder daughter’s fourth son, Nicholas Knatchbull; and Paul Maxwell, a crew member.
The murder was widely condemned by both the president and the prime minister of Ireland. Mountbatten was buried in Romsey Abbey. The investigation that followed led to the arrest and conviction of Thomas McMahon in 1979 for the murders; although given a life sentence, he was released from prison following the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.