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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Remembering Lord Mountbatten

Perhaps, one of the most influential figures in the British royal court during his lifetime, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Earl of Burma, was the maternal uncle of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Known privately as Dickie to the royal family, Lord Mountbatten was considered by the Prince of Wales as his dear grandpapa. Mountbatten directly descended from Queen Victoria’s second daughter, Princess Alice, who married the Grand Duke of Hesse-Cassel, Louis IV.

Lord Louis Mountbatten, maternal uncle of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh
and Prince Charles's mentor whom he referred as his honorary grandfather.

He was born His Serene Highness, Prince Louis of Battenberg, the youngest child of Prince Louis of Battenberg, and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine (eldest child of Princess Alice). He married a wealthy British aristocrat, Edwina Ashley, and had two daughters, Patricia and Pamela.

His connection to the most powerful royal houses in Europe, made him to flaunt in pride. Aside from being the great grandson of Queen Victoria, he had other royal connections to boast. His older sister, Princess Alice of Battenberg, married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, son of King George I of Greece. His other sister, Louise, married King Adolf VI of Sweden. His maternal aunt, Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine became Empress Alexandra of Russia (wife of Emperor Nicolas II of Russia). 

His father and namesake, Prince Louis of Battenberg, was a German Prince. He and his wife, Princess Victoria, moved to England. Battenberg then served in the British Royal Navy. He was the first Sea Lord of England during the outbreak of World War I. However, England was fighting against Germany and English detested everything about Germans. Almost every German living in England was suspected as a spy and despite his devotion to England and achievement in the royal navy, Prince Louis was not exempted from this angst.

His wife’s first cousin, King George V, determined to save his Kingdom from the rant of his volatile subjects, advised Battenberg to resign from his post. Louis was also forced to relinquish his Princely title. The King made him an English nobleman. He was given the title, Marquess of Milford-Haven. The final humiliation came when Louis was advised to anglicize his name, so he obliged and changed Battenberg to Mountbatten. He retired from the naval service and settled quietly in Kensington Palace for the rest of his life.

Except for Princess Alice, who by then married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, Louis, his brother, George, and sister, Louise, took the status of being children of a British nobleman, thereby assuming the courtesy title of Lord and Lady. So the youngest Louis became Lord Louis Mountbatten

Lord Louis Mountbatten was not disheartened by the turn of events, instead, he made his way up to the top of the royal service and became a decorated war hero and naval officer. His influence in the lives of the British royal family became even more strong when King George VI ascended the British throne.

Deeply shy, nervous and reluctant with his role as monarch, the King would often rely on the brilliant advises of his distant cousin. Louis Mountbatten excelled in every service he held. He was assigned a Viceroy of India and was made Earl of Burma. He also served as a Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Southeast Asia Command during World War II and just like his father, Louis became the First Sea Lord of England. He had reached the highest rank in the British royal navy by becoming an Admiral of the Fleet.

Despite all these achievements, the Earl of Burma seemed looking for something greater. May it be his ambitious streak to grip hard on the throne or his concern over the future of his dear nephew, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, who, at the age of 10, had no home of his own, history would prove that Lord Mountbatten played a significant role in molding the future of the British throne.

Smart and brilliant, Lord Mountbatten would do anything to lift his family from obscurity. He considered having a royal status a ticket to greatness, privilege and honor. He belonged to the old seat of royalists who considered royal marriages must be kept only within the upper class.

When his nephew, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, became homeless at the age of 10, he offered to bring him to England. By 1931, Philip’s parents separated and his mother suffered a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized in Switzerland. All his sisters had married German princes and Lord Louis thought his nephew deserved a better place in this world, having been born to the exalted blue-blooded family of Europe.

Prince Philip eventually moved to England and studied in English schools designed for children of aristocrats. At the behest of his uncle, Philip attended a naval school and became a naval officer. He became a sub-lieutenant during World War II and started corresponding with his cousin, Princess Elizabeth. But all throughout this time, Philip was not yet a British subject. He also remained a Prince of Greece and Denmark.

By 1940s the handsome Greek prince knew where his destiny would lead him. His relationship to the future Queen of England became closer and, according to some accounts, his uncle actively worked on the possible marriage, bombarding his nephew with advises how to conduct a royal affair

In 1946, when it becoming clear that the relationship is edging towards marriage, Lord Mountbatten moved forward to work on Philip’s British citizenship (although in sentiments this was not the case because as a direct descendant of Princess Sophia of Hanover whose son became King George I of England, Prince Philip, just like the rest of European royals descended from Sophia, automatically became a British subject at birth through The Act of Settlement).

Philip became a naturalized British subject in 1947 several months before the royal wedding. Philip reduced to a status of a commoner when he was advised to give up his Greek royal title and his claim to the Greek throne. He adopted his maternal grandfather’s surname, Mountbatten and he was known as Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. The royal wedding took place on November 20, 1947 at Westminster Abbey. The Duke of Edinburgh was able to take back his royal status in 1953 when the Queen made him Prince of the United Kingdom.

When the couple’s first child, Prince Charles, was born, Lord Mountbatten became more than an adviser, he was determined to oversee the upbringing of the boy and his training as a future king. His constant guidance earned him a special place in Charles’s heart. The Prince of Wales considered Lord Mountbatten as his dear grandfather.

It was Lord Mountbatten who advised Charles to marry within the royal circle and his phrase, “Love is not an option for the man who would be King of England”, was initially took by Charles devotedly. It was suspected also that Lord Mountbatten was the one who discouraged Charles to pursue a romance with Camilla Shand in 1971 because of her commoner status, so Charles broke up with Camilla and she married Andrew Parker Bowles instead. 

Determined to keep the name within the family, Mountbatten arranged Charles to marry his granddaughter, Amanda Knatchbull. Charles agreed. But before the arrangement could take place, a fatal accident happened.

In August 1979, everything would change. Lord Mountbatten, his daughter, Patricia Knatchbull, two grandsons, Patricia's husband, Lord Brabourne and Brabourne's mother, were aboard Mountbatten's fishing boat to go Lobster-potting and Tuna fishing in the sea side of County Sligo in Ireland when it exploded. Lord Mountbatten, his grandson, Nicholas and Baroness Brabourne died from the explosion.The Irish Republican Army claimed the responsibility of planting the bomb.

His death sent a terrible blow to Prince Charles who considered Lord Mountbatten his closest supporter and dearest grand papa he never had. As a royal, Charles was trained to restrain emotion in public. But during the church service where he read a passage from the bible, the Prince of Wales's voice faltered and he almost broke in tears. He was visibly forlorn and unimaginably emotional all throughout the service.

The Prince of Wales followed the wish of his great uncle and proposed marriage to Amanda Knatchbull sometimes in 1979 but Amanda flatly refused the proposal. A year later in July 1980, Prince Charles met Lady Diana Spencer in a country house party organized by their friends. Six months later they got engaged and married on July 29, 1981 at St. Paul's Cathedral, London and the rest is history.

Nearly 40 years after losing Lord Mountbatten to a fatal explosion, the Prince of Wales still fondly remembered the man he considered one of the most influential figures in his growing up years.

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