Lord Mountbatten is a prominent presence in the new season of The Crown, which is now streaming on Netflix. Warning: There will be spoiler alerts in this story.
He’s also called Uncle Dickie, but his real name was Lord Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, or simply Lord Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten. The earlier season of the popular show showed that Mountbatten was especially close to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. In the newest season, he is forging a close relationship with Prince Charles, as mentor and father figure.
In the first episode of season 4, Lord Mountbatten meets a shocking end: He is blown up on a fishing boat by the Irish Republican Army (the IRA). But did this really happen? What was Lord Mountbatten’s real cause of death?
In real life as on Netflix, the story of “Uncle Dickie” was one of the Royal Family’s greatest traumas and tragedies as he was, indeed, murdered by the Irish Republican Army at age 79. The family has continued to honor the memory of “Uncle Dickie,” most recently in the choice of the name Louis for the third child of Prince William and his wife, Kate. What happened to Louis Mountbatten? Who was he? Why was he so close to the Royal Family?
Here’s what you need to know:
Lord Mountbatten Was a German Aristocrat Who Was Prince Philip’s Uncle
Lord Louis Mountbatten was a member of the German aristocracy. According to BBC, his parents were Prince Louis of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse. He could trace his lineage to the British Royal Family, however, as his great-grandmother was Queen Victoria.
He was the uncle of Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II. That made him the great uncle of Prince Charles, the prince of Wales. This gained him the trust of the Royal Family.
The family’s last name was too Germanic during World War I, so they took the surname Mountbatten instead of Battenberg. Mountbatten’s father “was first sea lord at the outbreak of World War One, but anti-German feeling forced his resignation,” BBC reports.
Uncle Dickie Was Murdered by the IRA on a Boat Off the Shore of Ireland
The story line in the Crown that shows Lord Mountbatten being murdered by the IRA is really true.
Louis Mountbatten was murdered by the Irish Republican Army in 1979. The British earl, one of his twin grandsons (14-year-old Nicholas) and a local boat boy named Paul Maxwell were all killed immediately in the attack. The IRA detonated “a 50-pound bomb hidden on his fishing vessel Shadow V. Mountbatten” as Mountbatten vacationed with his family, reports History.com.
“A bomb planted by the IRA exploded on their leisure boat in Mullaghmore, County Sligo, Ireland on 27 August 1979,” reported The Guardian. Another passenger, Baroness Brabourne, 82, died the day after the attack.” Eighteen British soldiers were soon killed in a separate attack.
The attack backfired, though, in that it inspired Margaret Thatcher’s government to take a tougher position against the IRA in the battles for Northern Ireland. The only attacker ever convicted was IRA member Thomas McMahon, who was given life in prison but released in 1998 under a Northern Ireland peace agreement, History.com reports, adding that McMahon said he was going to become a carpenter.
Mountbatten Was a Naval Leader & Viceroy of India
Mountbatten held many prominent titles in the British aristocracy.
Lord Louis Mountbatten was a naval leader, and he served as India’s last British viceroy. According to Brittanica, “his career involved extensive naval commands, the diplomatic negotiation of independence for India and Pakistan, and the highest military defense leaderships.”
“Uncle Dickie” joined the Royal Navy in 1913 and also served as aide-de-camp to the Prince of Wales in 1921, cementing his ties to the British Royal Family, Brittanica reports. He was active in the military during World War II, serving as supreme allied commander for Southeast Asia in the 1940s, and helping recapture Burma from the Japanese, according to Brittanica.
“He conducted the negotiations that led to independence for India and Pakistan later that year,” History.com reports.
It was Uncle Dickie who played matchmaker and introduced the young Princess Elizabeth to the dashing but exiled young royal from Greece, Philip. According to Hello Magazine, Elizabeth was only 13 when she first set eyes on Philip at Dartmouth Royal Naval College, where Uncle Dickie had invited the royals on a tour. Philip was five years older.
When Philip married Elizabeth, he had to renounce his Greek princedom and took the last name Mountbatten instead, demonstrating the continued closeness between the two men. Philip’s closeness to Mountbatten can partially be explained by the tumult in his childhood, which included his family’s dangerous escape in exile from Greece, his parents’ separation, and his mother’s mental health issues. His father was mostly absent during his formative years, leaving his mother’s family to raise him.
His principal guardian growing up was Georgie, second Marquess of Milford Haven, who was the older brother of Alice, Philip’s mother. Georgie’s brother was Louis Mountbatten, and he took over as surrogate father to Philip when Georgie died, reports The Telegraph.
Uncle Dickie Was Also Very Close to Prince Charles
Uncle Dickie’s close relationship with Prince Philip carried over to his son, and the crown prince, Charles. According to Hello Magazine, the two called each other “honorary grandfather” and “honorary grandson.” Thus, the close relationship depicted in The Crown is also true.
In fact, Louis Mountbatten also tried to set up Prince Charles with his granddaughter Amanda Knatchbull, but that match was not meant to be. According to Royal Central, Mountbatten advised Charles, “You have got to choose somebody very carefully, I think, who could fulfill this particular role…it has got be somebody very special” and suggested that Charles choose a woman without much of a past.
By the time Charles married Lady Diana, though, Mountbatten had already died.