The Final Years
Edwina, Countess Mountbatten of Burma
in St John's Ambulance Brigade uniform
By 1957, Edwina saw a heart specialist and it was confirmed that her cardiac condition was poor and would only deteriorate if she continued to work as hard as she had, and that she should reduce her workload immediately. In 1958, Edwina suffered a minor stroke, which temporarily affected her face. Edwina told people that she had dental treatment and did not appear in public for weeks. Just when her health seemed to improve, Edwina contracted chicken-pox from one her grandchildren and sadly never regained her strength. She went to India in January 1959 for a complete rest, but despite all the warnings she continued to carry out her scheduled tours throughout Canada and the USA.
Mountbatten & Edwina
David Hicks & Lady Pamela Mountbatten
following their wedding
Following their return from India, Edwina was not happy. She loved India and its people and she was saddened at the continuing disharmony throughout the country. In addition, she no longer saw Nehru everyday - he was now Prime Minister of the Dominion of India, but they remained close, continually writing to each other. Mountbatten had also returned to the Royal Navy - a condition he imposed upon his appointment as Viceroy, and once again Edwina was faced with returning to Malta being a Naval Officer’s wife. Edwina subsequently arranged her life so that she could visit India (and of course her dear friend Nehru) and used her positions with the St John’s Ambulance Brigade and British Red Cross to ensure that any visit towards the Far East included a visit to New Dehli. As a result, Edwina’s timetable increased year by year and her workload became intense.
Edwina (left) with Nehru in New Dehli for the 10th anniversary celebrations
of the founding of the Republic of India
Edwina's health continued to be of concern and in June 1959 she wrote to Nehru that she was 'not so good' and complained of being breathless. Prior to her forthcoming tour of Malaya and Borneo, Edwina saw her doctor who advised her not to 'over do it' as her angina had got worse, however true to Edwina’s usual behaviour, not a word was mentioned about how tired she was, how the chest pains had started to get worse and how ill she actually felt.
On 16th November 1959, Edwina delivered a tribute speech at a dinner to celebrate Nehru’s 70th birthday. Nehru was to say that - “my birthdays are chasing me and I cannot escape them it seems… if anyone reminds me of my age I do not like it. But how to hide it? Everybody knows it!” Despite remaining in contact throughout their lives, this dinner would be the one of the last times they would meet.
The Mountbattens celebrated on 13th January 1960 the marriage of their youngest daughter - The Lady Pamela Mountbatten to the designer and interior decorator David Nightingale Hicks (1929-1998) at Romsey Abbey. Edwina put on a brave show for the wedding and it was commented how well she looked, however some of her family and friends begged her to cancel her forthcoming tour, but Edwina said - "I've simply got to go - I have to!"