A first-tier tribunal (information rights) in the United Kingdom has turned down a plea to release the personal letters exchanged between India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the wife of the last Viceroy of India Lord Mountbatten between 1947 and 1960, reported The Times of India.
The plea was filed by a British author named Andrew Lownie. While hearing the matter, Judge Sophie Buckley noted that the letters are in possession of the Southampton University. She pointed out that the varsity is only ‘physically safeguarding the papers’ on behalf of Lord Brabourne.
The tribunal found that the Southampton University did not own the letters and that it had the option to purchase them for a sum of £100. Lownie, who spent a whopping £370,000 on legal fees, had also sought access to the personal diaries of Lord Mountbatten and his wife Edwina Mountbatten.
It must be mentioned that since November 2021, the varsity has released 35,000 papers related to Lord Mountbatten. About 150 passages were redacted by the Southampton University as they had direct references to the British Royal Family or had the potential to sour relations of the United Kingdom with both India and Pakistan.
While turning down the plea of the British author, the tribunal held that the redacted passages contain direct communication either with the Queen or contains personal information about the Royal household/Mountbatten family. Judge Sophie Buckle directed 2 redacted passages to be un-redacted, two passages to be partially un-redacted and the rest to remain unredacted.
Besides, two entries in Lord Mountbatten’s diaries (dated July 13 and August 6, 1947) and one entry in Edwina Mountbatten’s diary dated July 26, 1947, have been withheld for the same reason.
Southampton University, Lownie react to the tribunal ruling
‘I don’t think anything left is explosive. This was a great fight over nothing. “It’s a victory for other people that I got 35,000 pages released. I needed it for my book, which came out three years ago. I’ve done it for other scholars, and out of principle, and I have had to pay for it. It is of no personal use to me.” remarked Andrew Lownie.
While speaking about the matter, the British author informed that the withheld passages contained critical comments of Edwina Mountbatten about Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah. “Edwina’s published diary is replete with references to Jinnah being a psychopath. I don’t think ties with Pakistan are going to be affected,” he emphasized.
A spokesperson for the Southampton University welcomed the verdict and concluded that the tribunal upheld the varsity’s decisions in balancing legal obligations. The official added that the University had tried to make the Broadlands Archive public but within its limits.
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 Edwina 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 also found its way into the popular Netflix series ‘The Crown’, which is a historical drama that chronicles the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth 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 show.
In the first season’s first episode, during the wedding ceremony of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Winston Churchill appeared to be referring to Lord Mountbatten as the man who gave away India. In the same sequence, a 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.