There is no derth of rumours regarding India’s last Viceroy and first Governor General, Lord Mountbatten and his wife Edwina Mountbatten. While the extramarital affairs of Lady Edwina are well known and have been accepted by her children in their memoirs, not much is known about her Infamous husband.
But now, recently accessed confidential files from FBI shed new light on the personal life of the man who is held responsible for one of the most bloodied chapters of mankind’s history, the Partition of India.
The documents came to light during research for a biography of Lord Mountbatten and his wife Edwina by Andrew Lownie, a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and president of the Biographers’ Club.
The FBI files cover more than three decades. The first is dated February 1944, soon after Mountbatten became supreme allied commander of southeast Asia. Elizabeth de la Poer Beresford, Baroness Decies, when interviewed about another matter, had mentioned being an intimate of Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary and their ladies-in-waiting.
“She states that in these circles Lord Louis Mountbatten and his wife are considered persons of extremely low morals. She stated that Lord Louis Mountbatten was known to be a homosexual with a perversion for young boys. In Lady Decies’ opinion he is an unfit man to direct any sort of military operations because of this condition. She stated further that his wife Lady Mountbatten was considered equally erratic.”
In Lownie’s book, The Mountbattens: their Lives & Loves, Ron Perks, who was Mountbatten’s driver in Malta in 1948, breaks a silence of more than 70 years to say that one favoured destination, the Red House near Rabat, “was an upmarket gay brothel used by senior naval officers”, which he had not realised at the time. In the UK homosexual acts were illegal until 1967. After that the age of consent for homosexuals was 21 until long after Mountbatten’s death.
It was during the mid-1950s that Lady Edwina came under scrutiny because of her close friendship with Krishna Menon, the Indian defence minister, and numerous men involved with the civil rights movement. Her name was also involved in a rumored affair with none other than India’s first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru. At the same time, the FBI sent a report on Lord Mountbatten’s homosexuality to the Department of Justice.
Lownie also found evidence of a relationship between the young Louis Mountbatten and his private tutor. When he was 13 he spent several weeks in Dorset recovering from whooping cough and was taught by Frederic Lawrence Long, an unmarried man in his thirties, but their relationship lasted long after the summer of 1914.
Their correspondence was intense. In in 1916, Long wrote: “As you know there is only one Dick in the world for me & there never will be anyone before or anywhere near him in my affections. It is hardly necessary for me to add that I would give anything to wipe the floor with you. Goodbye my best beloved & dearest kid.”
Long officiated as a priest at Louis and Edwina’s wedding, but Mountbatten made no reference to him in letters to his family.