THE LADY PAMELA HICKS (née Mountbatten)
The Lady Pamela Hicks
The Lady Pamela Carmen Louise Hicks (née Mountbatten) was born on 19th April 1929 in the Ritz Hotel, Barcelona, Spain, the youngest daughter of Admiral of the Fleet The Rt Hon. Lord Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900-1979) and The Hon. Dame Edwina Ashley (1901-1960). Pamela’s middle name of 'Carmen' was to honour María del Carmen Saavedra y de Collado, 13th Marchioness of Villaviciosa (1897-1967), the wife of Hernando Fitz-James Stuart y Falcó, 18th Duke of Peñaranda de Duero (1882-1936); and 'Louise' to honour Mountbatten’s sister - The Lady Louise Mountbatten, formerly Princess Louise of Battenberg (1889-1965) - who later became Queen of Sweden.
She is a first cousin to Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021) and also a third cousin to Queen Elizabeth II (1926(1952-2022) and upon the death of The Queen, Pamela is now the oldest living descendant of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901). Prior to Pamela's birth, her parents had been on holiday in Algeciras and Morocco - where Edwina had ridden a donkey whilst heavily pregnant. Mountbatten subsequently returned to the Fleet at Gibraltar and Edwina drove 165 miles to Malaga, then caught 2 trains to Barcelona to meet Mountbatten there.
Pamela's birthplace - The Ritz Hotel, Barcelona, Spain
A photograph of baby Pamela
The birth of Pamela caused Edwina and Mountbatten some concern as a Doctor could not be found. In her book "Daughter of Empire: Life as a Mountbatten" Pamela wrote - "despite my father’s best efforts, the hotel could only find an ear, nose, and throat specialist to help them. In desperation my father telephoned his cousin [Queen Victoria Eugénie 'Ena' of Spain (1887-1969)] in Madrid. She was away, but her husband [King Alfonso XIII of Spain (1886-1941)] answered. 'We’re having a baby!' exclaimed my father. The King, a great womanizer, got the wrong end of the stick and replied, 'Oh, my dear Dickie, I won’t tell anyone.' 'Tell everyone!' implored my father. 'It’s my wife. Edwina’s having the baby.'
'Leave everything to me' said the King, and rang off. Within half an hour the Royal Guard had the hotel surrounded. In the meantime a doctor had been found and dispatched to the local hospital to secure the necessary equipment and an English nurse, who appeared 'like an angel' and administered chloroform to deaden the pain my mother was experiencing. Downstairs, the doctor had returned from the hospital with an ominously large bag, but he rushed with such steely determination towards the entrance of the hotel that he was promptly arrested by the Royal Guards."
Pamela’s arrival was five weeks early but full of excitement for all concerned, especially Edwina who recuperated in their suite at the Ritz for three weeks following the birth. Baby Pamela was laid in a crib made of a dog basket, an unusual start for a child born with such noble and Royal connections. Some weeks after Pamela’s birth, Edwina became very ill with an internal infection and it was thought that she had contracted septicaemia and that she might die. After a month of treatment (including a diet of raw liver) and nursing, Edwina eventually started to re-join social and charitable events and recovered.
Pamela was christened on 12th July 1929 at The Chapel Royal, St James's Palace and wore a christening robe of white satin trimmed with ermine. Members of the Royal Family which attended included Prince Edward 'David', The Prince of Wales, subsequently King Edward VIII (1894(1936)1972) and later The Duke of Windsor; Prince Henry 'Harry', 1st Duke of Gloucester (1900-1974); Princess Beatrice, formerly Princess Henry of Battenberg (1857-1944), Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll (1848-1939); and sisters - Princess Marie Louise 'Louie' (1872-1956) and Princess Helena Victoria 'Thora' (1870-1948). Her parents were King Alfonso XIII of Spain (1886-1941); Prince George, 1st Duke of Kent (1902-1942); María, Duchess of Peñaranda de Duero, 13th Marchioness of Villaviciosa (1897-1967) Marjorie, Countess of Brecknock (1900-1989) and 'Nada', Marchioness of Milford Haven, formerly Countess Nadejda Mikhailovna de Torby (1896-1963).
King Alfonso XIII of Spain
LEFT: A young Pamela
with her mother - Edwina
'Lady Louis Mountbatten'
Pamela was sent to Buckswood Grange boarding school in Crawley, Sussex (30 miles from London) and would return home for the school holidays but World War II loomed and difficult decisions had to be made in the event of the country being occupied by Nazi Germany. With the Mountbatten’s Royal connections and Edwina’s own Jewish ancestry, it was feared that The Mountbattens would be a genuine target for any invading enemy forces. Following the fall of France in 1940, it was decided that both Patricia and Pamela would be evacuated to the USA and they left via the SS Washington to stay with leading socialite Mrs Grace Vanderbilt (1870-1953), the wife of Brigadier-General Cornelius 'Neily' Vanderbilt III (1873-1942).
After World War II, Mountbatten was appointed Viceroy of India and on 22nd March 1947, Pamela arrived in India with her parents. This was an adventure of a lifetime, and Pamela accompanied her parents to Vice-regal engagements, dinners, parties and visits throughout India. She learnt Hindustani and also worked in the Allied Forces Canteen and in a free medical clinic and dispensary for the poor of Delhi. Pamela joined Mountbatten each morning at 6.30am for a morning ride - a time he could escape his official duties and the often fraught politics of India and spend quality time with his daughter.
On 15th August 1947, at the official ceremony of the raising of the new Indian flag following independence (and the end of the British Raj), due to the huge crowds Pamela was surrounded by people 'cut off' from her parents and the other officials and had to be rescued personally by the new Prime Minister of India - Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), who climbed through the crowds, with both of them literally walking on top of the people. Following Mountbatten being granted an Earldom on 28th October 1947, Pamela was accorded the courtesy title of 'The Lady Pamela Mountbatten'. She was to write in her diary - "Daddy has been created an Earl, so Mummy is a Countess and I have the courtesy title ‘Lady’ before my Christian name... Lovely!"
ABOVE: Mountbatten - Viceroy of India,
at his desk in The Viceroy's House
ABOVE RIGHT: The Vice-regal family -
Edwina, Mountbatten and Pamela,
in the grounds of The Viceroy's House
The Mountbattens leaving Government House
for the last time
in June 1948 in Imperial slendour -
(left to right) Pamela; Jawaharal Nehru,
the new Prime Minister of
the Dominion of India; & Edwina
ABOVE: Pamela wearing her father's
Royal Navy uniform reefer jacket
LEFT: The Mountbatten Family in uniform -
(left to right) Pamela, Edwina, Patricia
& Mountbatten in the gardens of Broadlands
Pamela (aged 17yrs) in the gardens of
The Viceroy's House, New Delhi, India -
the official residence of The Viceroy of India
Pamela at an open event led by
Mohandas 'Mahatma' K. Gandhi,
spiritual father of Indian independence
On 21st June 1948, Mountbatten handed over the office of Governor-General of the Dominion of India to the veteran Indian politician - Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari (1878-1972), the first Indian born to hold the office. The Mountbattens left Government House with all the pomp and pageantry one would expect. Mountbatten inspected a Guard of Honour and having formally taken his final salute, The Mountbattens left in the open State Landau carriage heading for the airport with thousands of ordinary Indians shouting their love and admiration for Mountbatten and Edwina along the route. Two days later The Mountbattens returned to the UK via RAF Northolt, and amongst the officials awaiting them was Mountbatten’s nephew - Prince Philip, 1st Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021) and The Rt Hon. (Sir) Clement Attlee, later 1st Earl Attlee (1883-1967), then the Prime Minister, who had originally sent Mountbatten to India.
Pamela - photo portrait by Sir Cecil Beaton