On July 22, personal diaries and letters of Lord and Lady Mountbatten that are available in the Broadland Archive were released digitally. The letter was published online four days after an early day motion signed by 22 British MPs was tabled in the House of Commons that called for the publication of the documents without any further delay and obfuscation.
These documents would possibly shed light on the relationship between Edwina Mountbatten and former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the royal family, how fair the India-Pakistan partition was, and what Mountbatten thought of Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammad Ali Jinnah. While documents till 1960 were released, 1947-48 diaries and letters were withheld.
Andrew Lownie, author of “The Mountbattens”, spent Rs 2 crore (£250,000) and raised another Rs 51 lakh (£50,000) through crowdfunding for the court case to get all the documents up to 1960 and the letters that the couple wrote to each other released.
As directed by the Cabinet Office, the University of Southampton, that as the diaries and letters of the Mountbattens as part of an archive they had bought, had closed off all 47 volumes of Lord Mountbatten’s diaries and all 36 volumes of Lady Mountbatten’s diaries, and their letters to each other.
It is believed that the diaries for 1947 and 1948 might reveal a lot about what Mountbatten thought of Jinnah, Gandhi, Nehru and the British officials like Cyril Radcliffe, who was the one who drew the boundary between India and Pakistan. These documents might have crucial information about how close they were to Nehru and how impartial or not they were over the partition. According to Lownie, “These are crucial questions if we are looking at Indian Independence and Partition and an important source for Indian historians.”
The relationship between Nehru and Edwina
There is no secret that there was an affair between Edwina, wife of Lord Mountbatten and the first Prime Minister of Independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru. In an article in Daily Mail, it was described how Mountbatten fell in love with Nehru and how her promiscuity took a toll on her children. According to Lady Mountbatten’s daughter Pamela, ‘She found in Panditji [Nehru] the companionship and equality of spirit and intellect that she craved. Each helped overcome loneliness in the other.’
The relationship found its way into the popular Netflix series The Crown, which is a historical drama that chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth from her younger days to her reign and gives a glimpse into the personal life of the royals. Lord Mountbatten was also the uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and husband to Queen Elizabeth. There are a few references to Lord Mountbatten and India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
In the first season’s first episode, during the wedding ceremony of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at first Winston Churchill appeared to be referring to Lord Mountbatten as the man who gave away India. In the same sequence, few other people too said the same. In the second season, Lord Mountbatten appeared to accept the affair his wife had with Jawaharlal Nehru to Queen Elizabeth.
Notably, Edwina was buried at sea by Lord Mountbatten in accordance with her wishes. At that time, Nehru had sent the Indian Navy frigate INS Trishul as an escort and had a wreath cast in her memory. Lady Pamela Hicks, daughter of Lady Mountbatten, also says that on her death in 1960, Edwina was buried at sea as per her wish. As her bereaved family steamed away from the scene after casting wreaths at the spot, the Indian frigate INS Trishul “quietly took our place and, on Panditji’s instructions, marigolds were scattered upon the waves”.