LOUIS, 1st EARL MOUNTBATTEN OF BURMA
1962-1970: Retirement? Not a chance!
Mountbatten taking his final salute as Chief of the Defence Staff on the steps
of the Ministry of Defence - with the Service Chiefs behind him
Following the General Election in October 1964, the incoming Prime Minister - The Rt Hon. (Sir) Harold Wilson, later Lord Wilson of Rievaulx (1916-1995) had to decide whether to renew Mountbatten's appointment as Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) the following July. The Secretary of State for Defence - The Rt Hon. Denis Healey, later Lord Healey (1917-2015), interviewed the forty most senior officials in the Ministry of Defence, but only one - Major-General Sir Kenneth Strong (1900-1982), the Director-General of Intelligence at the Ministry (and also a personal friend of Mountbatten) recommended his friend's reappointment. Healey said - "when I told Dickie of my decision not to reappoint him, he slapped his thigh and roared with delight; but his eyes told a different story." On 15th July 1965, Mountbatten finally left the Ministry (having served fifty-two years on active duty) and officially retirement beaconed, although as an Admiral of the Fleet he would remain on the Active List forever.
Retirement - which Mountbatten only ever saw as a formality, brought further appointments from Colonel of the Life Guards, Life Colonel Commandant of HM Royal Marines, to the Governor of the Isle of Wight. He accepted the Presidency of various technological and scientific organisations such as the British Computer Society and in 1967, was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) and served on their Scientific Information Committee. Mountbatten also headed a Government sponsored Immigration Mission throughout the Commonwealth and a Home Office Enquiry into Prison security following the escape of KGB spy George Blake (1922-2020) from Wormwood Scrubs Prison.
At his 'farewell audience' as Chief of the Defence Staff with Queen Elizabeth II (1926(1952-2022) Mountbatten was awarded the Order of Merit (OM), which he called - "an absolutely wonderful gesture on her part". Like the Order of the Garter (KG) - which Mountbatten received in 1946, the honour of the Order of Merit is one of the few UK decorations which is in the personal gift of the Sovereign and does not require 'advice' from the Prime Minister. To date, Mountbatten was the last recipient of the Military Division of the Order of Merit.
ABOVE: Mountbatten in the uniform of
Colonel of the Life Guards
in his words "playing as a soldier"
RIGHT: Mountbatten in the
Quadrangle of Buckingham Palace
in 1972 in the uniform as
Colonel of the Life Guards
Mountbatten taking his final salute as
Chief of the Defence Staff on the steps
of the Ministry of Defence. Behind him (left to right) -
Field Marshal Sir Richard Hull, Mountbatten's successor
as Chief of the Defence Staff;
Admiral Sir David Luce, First Sea Lord
& Chief of the Naval Staff
and General Sir James Cassels,
Chief of the General Staff
A short film by Pathé about Mountbatten's retirement
from the role of Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS)
A short film by Pathé about Mountbatten's appointment
as Governor of the Isle of Wight
The insignia of the Order of Merit (Military Division)
Meanwhile, Mountbatten (having specifically refused to authorise any biography in his lifetime) was persuaded to make a television series about his life - called "The Life and Times of Lord Mountbatten" in 12 episodes which charted his life, with Mountbatten revisiting the locations which had become part of his extra-ordinary life. The series took two years to make, but was an instant success.
The biographical series was written by leading historian and TV script writer John Terraine (1921-2003), who faced the project with some trepidation due to Mountbatten's "curious mix of boastfulness and diffidence". Terraine won the British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA) Writers Award. The director - Peter Morley (1924-2016) who also directed the live broadcast of the State Funeral of The Rt Hon. Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), won the Royal Television Society (RTS) Silver Medal. To view episodes of "The Life and Times of Lord Mountbatten" - click HERE
A title screenshot from
the biographical TV series
"The Life And Times of Lord Mountbatten"
On the back of the success of the TV series, Mountbatten's personal popularity intensified and of course he had much more time on his hands to develop his public status and of course his legacy. He was respected throughout the Royal courts of Europe and became known as the 'shop-steward of Royalty' due to his status as 'honorary Uncle' to most of his royal relations. He also became known for becoming a 'match-maker' - engineering opportunities for romantic liaisons amongst his younger protégés.
An early candidate for Mountbatten's attention was King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden (b.1946), who in 1973 succeeded his grandfather - King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden (1882-1973), Mountbatten's brother-in-law. He dutifully arranged (unsuccessful) 'meetings' with The Lady Jane Wellesley (b.1951), the daughter of Brigadier Sir Arthur Valerian Wellesley, 8th Duke of Wellington (1915-2014), and with The Lady Leonora Grosvenor (b.1949), the daughter of Lt-Col. Robert Grosvenor, 5th Duke of Westminster (1910-1979), who subsequently married Patrick Anson, 5th Earl of Lichfield (1939-2005), more commonly known as the society photographer 'Patrick Lichfield'. In 1976, The King of Sweden would later marry Miss Silvia Sommerlath (b.1943), the daughter of a German businessman.
A brief film of Mountbatten
(who was accompanied by
Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales)
at the commemorations of the 100th anniversary
of the birth of Mohandas 'Mahatma' K. Gandhi
at the Royal Albert Hall, London in October 1969
LEFT: King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden
& Miss Silvia Sommerlath
following their wedding in June 1976
RIGHT: Baroness Marie-Christine
VON Reibnitz & Prince Michael of Kent,
youngest son of Prince George,
1st Duke of Kent
following their wedding
in June 1978 in Vienna, Austria
One of Mountbatten's match-making successes was with Prince Michael of Kent (b.1942), the youngest son of Mountbatten's cousin - Prince George, 1st Duke of Kent (1902-1942). He personally convinced Queen Elizabeth II (1926(1952-2022) to allow the Prince to marry Baroness Marie-Christine VON Reibnitz, Mrs Thomas Troubridge (b.1945) - a divorced Roman Catholic, having in Marie-Christine's words sometime later "orchestrated their romance". At the time, such a marriage meant that the Prince (who was then 15th in the line to the Throne) would be compelled to renounce his rights of succession to the Throne under the Act of Settlement 1701. Mountbatten also used his connections with the Roman Catholic Church at The Vatican, and in May 1978, Pope Paul VI (1897-1978) annulled her first marriage making her free to marry. Prince Michael and Marie-Christine were finally married (when she became styled 'Princess Michael of Kent', with the qualification of Royal Highness) in the Rathaus, Vienna, Austria in a civil ceremony on 30th June 1978 - which Mountbatten attended. Prince & Prince Michael of Kent's first child - Lord Frederick 'Freddy' Michael George David Louis Windsor was born on 6th April 1979, with 'Louis' in his names to honour Mountbatten - who as a god-father to the child. Mountbatten attended Lord Frederick's
christening on 11th July 1979 at The Chapel Royal, St James's Palace, London, just a month before he was murdered. In 2015, Prince Michael was re-instated to the succession to the Throne following the passing of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013.
The wedding of Prince Michael of Kent & Baroness Marie-Christine VON Reibnitz in June 1978 -
(left to right) Prince Edward, 2nd Duke of Kent; Princess Alexandra; Prince Michael of Kent;
Baroness Marie-Christine VON Reibnitz; (Sir) Angus Ogilvy; Princess Anne, later Princess Royal;
The Lady Helen Windsor (daughter of Prince Edward, 2nd Duke of Kent) and Mountbatten
Mountbatten with (centre) Lady Amanda Knatchbull
and (right) Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales,
later King Charles III whilst on holiday
in The Commonwealth of the Bahamas
The Lady Amanda Knatchbull -
(who Mountbatten hoped
would be a future wife
of Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales,
later King Charles III
Mountbatten and his great-nephew -
Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales,
later King Charles III (left)
Mountbatten's prime candidate for 'match-making' was his great-nephew - Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, now King Charles III (1948(2022- ). As Heir Apparent to the Throne, Prince Charles was another chance for Mountbatten to be a mentor and literally the 'the power behind the Throne' and over many years their relationship became so close that the Prince referred to Mountbatten as his 'honorary Grandfather'. Mountbatten took an interest into the love-life of the Prince and in 1974, Mountbatten wrote to the Prince - "in a case like yours, a man should sow his wild oats and have as many affairs as he can before settling down, but for a wife he should choose a suitable, attractive and sweet-natured girl before she has met anyone else she might fall for." Mountbatten suggested his own granddaughter - The Lady Amanda Knatchbull (b.1957) as a potential suitor for the Prince, knowing that any wife of the Prince would one day be Queen Consort and the Mountbatten name would further be entwined with the House of Windsor. 'Meetings' were arranged and the Prince subsequently sought advice from Amanda’s mother - Patricia (who was also his god-mother), but she counselled against him even suggesting marriage at this stage.
Following the Prince’s tour of India in 1980 (which originally Mountbatten had suggested he and Amanda accompany him), the Prince did indeed propose to Amanda. However the 1979 bomb at Mullaghmore where she lost her grandfather (Mountbatten), her grandmother (Doreen, the Dowager Lady Brabourne) and her brother (The Hon. Nicholas Knatchbull) made her contemplate the intense pressures of her life as a potential wife of The Prince of Wales, how her life would be so very different as a senior member of the Royal Family (a future Queen Consort) and she subsequently declined the Prince’s proposal. Patricia would say later that Amanda thought of the Prince like a brother and there was "no spark". Amanda subsequently married Charles Vincent Ellingworth (b.1957) in 1987.