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1979: A Royal Ceremonial Funeral


Mountbatten's coffin at Southampton (Eastleigh) Airport -

carried by an honour guard of the Royal Air Force


Mountbatten's coffin carried in procession

at Westminster Abbey, London

Mountbatten was granted the honour of a Royal Ceremonial Funeral (known as 'Operation Freeman') - held at Westminster Abbey, London, on 5th September 1979 which was televised globally. The news of the murder of this retired old sailor affected many, not just in the United Kingdom but throughout the World.  For the last few years of his life, Mountbatten had personally supervised the plans for his own funeral to the extent that he went into every minutia of the arrangements from whether his coffin would be lead-lined to the size of the cushions which would carry his numerous orders and decorations.  As Mountbatten held either rank or had some other personal connection with numerous corps in all three branches of HM Armed Forces, he took great pleasure in ensuring they were all involved.  He originally had asked to be buried with his parents at St Mildred's Church at Whippingham on the Isle of Wight, but subsequently changed his mind to Romsey Abbey.  The only thing Mountbatten could not plan was the date and the manner of his death.  The congregation in Westminster Abbey consisted of Royalty, Service personnel, politicians and statesmen from many nations and the ceremony itself was planned with full Naval precision by the one person who was probably upset that he would not see it - Mountbatten himself.


Mountbatten's funeral procession - his coffin on a gun carriage

going through the streets of London

The coffins of Mountbatten, The Dowager Lady Brabourne and young Nicholas Knatchbull were flown back to the UK arriving at Southampton (Eastleigh) Airport, before being taken to Broadlands by hearse.   Mountbatten's coffin was subsequently taken to Romsey Abbey, where members of the Broadlands staff had executed a day/night vigil for two days and then his coffin was taken to The Queen's Chapel at St James's Palace, London where over 25,000 people filed past to show their respects to Mountbatten.


Mountbatten's horse "Dolly"

in the funeral possession -

with his boots reversed in the saddle


Click ABOVE to view

the Order of Service

of Mountbatten's funeral

at Westminster Abbey


ABOVE: Mountbatten's coffin

leaving Westminster Abbey

BELOW: Mountbatten's

bicorn Admiral's hat

and sword on Mountbatten's coffin


The official pall bearers (who walked alongside Mountbatten's coffin) were - 

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Edward Ashmore (1919-2016) - First Sea Lord 1974-1977;

General Sir Robert Ford (1923-2015) - Adjutant-General 1978-1981;

Admiral John T. "Chick" Hayward (1908-1999) - USA Admiral who saw service in WWII in the Pacific; 

Admiral Robert L. Pereira (1923-1993) - Indian Chief of Naval Staff 1979-1982;


Lieutenant-General Sir John Richards (1927-2004) - Commandant-General HM Royal Marines 1977-1981; 

Marshal of the RAF Sir William Dickson (1898-1987) - the first Chief of the Defence Staff in 1959, being Mountbatten's predecessor; 

Général Alain de Boissieu (1915-2006) - Chief of Staff of the French Army 1971-1975, who was also the son-in-law of Général Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), the leader of Free France during WWII and President of France 1959-1969;

Rear-Admiral Chit Hlaing, formerly Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar (Burma) Navy



Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales,

later King Charles III reading the lesson

at Mountbatten's funeral in Westminster Abbey.

Members of the Royal Family sat before Mountbatten's coffin -

(left to right) Queen Elizabeth II;

Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh;

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother;

Captain Mark Phillips; Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon;

Prince Andrew (later The Duke of York)

and Prince Edward (later The Earl of Wessex)

"I can't think of a more wonderful

thanksgiving  for the life I have had

than that everyone should be

jolly at my funeral"


Admiral of the Fleet The Rt Hon. Lord Louis Mountbatten,

1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma



Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, later King Charles III (1948(2022-    ) read the lesson - from Psalm 107 - "They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;  These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.  For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof..."


ABOVE: Prince Charles,

The Prince of Wales,

later King Charles III

accompanied by

his grandmother (left) - 

Queen Elizabeth

The Queen Mother

looking sombre and composed

at Mountbatten's funeral

The Daily Mail's front page 

showing a picture of

Prince Charles,

The Prince of Wales,

later King Charles III

wiping a tear 



On the day of Mountbatten's funeral, there was a respectful 2 minutes silence held throughout Ireland, factories stopped working, buses and cars parked up and the Irish tricolour was flown as half-mast above the General Post Office (GPO) at O'Connell Street in Dublin - the scene of the Easter Rising in 1916, where the Republic of Ireland was born.  A Memorial Service was also held at St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, where John 'Jack' Lynch (1917-1999), the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) read the Lesson, and a Service of Thanksgiving was held at Belfast Cathedral, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Following the service in Westminster Abbey, Mountbatten's coffin was taken to Waterloo Station and then onto a special train for Romsey.  Mountbatten was subsequently laid to rest (at his own request) during a private family service at Romsey Abbey, Romsey, Hampshire - not far from his beloved home at Broadlands. 



Mountbatten's coffin arriving at Romsey Abbey

A BBC documentary from 2019

marking the 40th anniversary of Mountbatten's death

with personal recollections from those involved



Mountbatten left instructions in his will that his simple grave in Romsey Abbey should face south - the only tomb in Romsey Abbey which does.  This is so that he 'could look towards the sea', where Edwina was buried in 1960.  The day after Mountbatten's funeral, the family held the funeral of young Nicholas 'Nicky' Knatchbull and Doreen 'Dodo', The Dowager Lady Brabourne, at St John The Baptist Church in Mersham, Kent, close to The Brabourne's family home.  The funeral service was private and both Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021) and Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales (b.1948) attended as members of the family.  Patricia and John, 7th Lord Brabourne and young Timothy Knatchbull (Nicholas' twin brother) were clearly unable to attend due to being in hospital in Sligo as a result of the injuries they sustained in the explosion.  The service was led by The Most Rev & Rt Hon. Dr Donald Coggan, later Lord Coggan (1909-2000), Archbishop of Canterbury - who had baptised Nicholas, and was joined by The Rt Rev Richard Third (1927-2016), Bishop of Maidstone.


Members of the Mountbatten/Knatchbull families including (left to right front) Pamela & David,

and at the rear Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, later King Charles III 

& Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh attending the private funeral

for young Nicky Knatchbull and Doreen, Dowager Lady Brabourne

at St John The Baptist Church, Mersham, near Ashford, Kent in September 1979


(left to right) Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh

& Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, later King Charles III

in December 1979 leaving St Paul's Cathedral, London following a memorial service

to all those who were killed alongside Mountbatten at Mullaghmore in August 1979


Members of Mountbatten's

family on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral, London

in December 1979

following the memorial service to all those who were killed

alongside Mountbatten at Mullaghmore in August 1979 - 

(left to right) The Hon. Philip Knatchbull; Patricia;

Norton, Lord Romsey

(now 3rd Earl Mountbatten

of Burma);

John, 7th Lord Brabourne

& The Hon. Timothy Knatchbull

(the twin brother of Nicholas,

who was killed

with his grandfather

On 27th December 1979, a memorial service was held at St Paul's Cathedral, London in memory of all those who died in the explosion at Mullaghmore.  The service was attended by Mountbatten's family, including Patricia and John, 7th Lord Brabourne (who were still suffering from the injuries they sustained in the bomb attack).  Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, later King Charles III (1948(2022-    ) and Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021) also attended.  During the service, Prince Charles said - "It is a cruel and bitter irony that a man who had survived two World Wars, should be murdered the way he was..." and that "a man with such a passionate concern for the well-being of others should suddenly and mercilessly be blown to bits through the agency of some of the most cowardly minds imaginable.  What on earth was the point of such mindless cruelty."  In a passionate address, Prince Charles said of his great-Uncle - "he had that quality of real moral courage, of being able to tackle unpleasant tasks.  It is one of the reasons I adored him."

In January 1980, a coroner's inquest was held at Sligo Courthouse, presided by Dr. Desmond Moran, The Coroner for North Sligo.  The jury's verdict was that Mountbatten had died as a result of drowning - although he had sustained serious multiple blast injuries, he had been unconscious and unable to prevent himself from drowning; young Paul Maxwell had been killed instantly, as it appeared he was directly above the bomb; young Nicholas 'Nicky'  Knatchbull had sustained severe blast injuries (being almost above the bomb too) and had been unconscious and unable to prevent himself from drowning; and The Dowager Lady Brabourne had lesser blast injuries (as she had been at the other end of the boat and further away from the explosion), but she died of a cardiac arrest the following day whilst in intensive care in hospital.  Dr Doran said - "I hope that this savage act may unify civilised opinion on both islands to fully reject terrorist activity at all times and to serve for a peaceful settlement, however long it takes."     



The memorial overlooking Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo


LEFT: Paul Maxwell's family (left to right) 

Mary Hornsey (mother); Lisa McKean (sister)

& John Maxwell (father) in 2019

at the memorial overlooking

Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo

on the 40th anniversary

of the explosion in 1979

R (14).jpg


High above the beach on the windy open cliffs overlooking the sea at Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo, there is a small simple memorial to those who "lost their lives or who were touched by 'The Troubles'."  On the 40th anniversary of the explosion in 2019, a cross-community memorial prayer service was held and attended by local dignitaries, local residents and many who were either involved or affected by the events of 27th August 1979.  Paul Maxwell's family were present, and his mother said - "Whenever I laugh now, I laugh with sorrow in my eyes... It was just awful, the whole thing thinking that men had watched these young teenagers getting on a boat - they knew that, and quite intentionally they pressed that button and killed them - children!  We are supposed to love our children, not blow them up.  How can anyone do that?  It was beyond belief.  How can people be so ruthless as to do that? "

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