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 1960: Death

 

Edwina making a speech in North Borneo

 

The last photograph of Edwina before her death 

Edwina’s coffin (draped in the flag of the Order of St John) was taken to Government House, Singapore and arrived in the UK on 24th February 1960. Her coffin was then taken to Broadlands, and then to Romsey Abbey - where she lay until the morning of the funeral. Edwina’s death was a bitter blow to Mountbatten and he was overwhelmed with the numerous telegrams of condolence from Heads of State, politicians and Servicemen and women throughout the World. Her death affected many, even the Indian Parliament rose for 2 minutes silence. Nehru of course was bereft and inconsolable privately - almost as if a light of joy had been turned off forever, but publicly hid his grief.

After a brief service, her body was lowered into the sea just off the Portsmouth coast.  Edwina’s dearest friend - Nehru, the Prime Minister of India dispatched an Indian Naval warship to accompany HMS Wakeful on its solemn journey in a tribute to the last Vicereine of India, and of course his very close friend.  

Edwina arrived in Jesselton, North Borneo (now known as Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia) on 18th February 1960, and although not being well, she carried on with her usual dedication, fulfilling a heavy list of engagements.  As Superintendent-in-Chief of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade and President of the Save the Children Fund, Edwina's itinerary was nothing more than an ordeal, but she showed no sign of weakness.  She carried on regardless ensuring that no one would be 'let down' or even be aware that she was seriously ill.  

 

After 2 days, Edwina's heath deteriorated and a doctor was called, despite this she insisted on attending an evening reception but left the party early. The next morning (21st February 1960), Edwina, Countess Mountbatten of Burma was found dead - she was just 58yrs old.  

 

Edwina's coffin (draped in the flag of the Order of St John)

being taken home on her last journey home

 

A distraught Mountbatten leading his family

out of Romsey Abbey, behind Edwina's coffin

 

A short film by Pathé about Edwina's funeral at sea

On 25th February 1960, Edwina’s coffin was taken from Romsey Abbey to Portsmouth - for Edwina had asked to be buried at sea, which surprised many as she had never cared for the sea. Mountbatten was moved when Edwina’s coffin was piped aboard the British Naval frigate - HMS Wakeful, an honour never known to be afforded to any woman other than the reigning Sovereign.

 

Edwina's coffin is lowered into the sea from HMS Wakeful