Lord Louis Mountbatten’s Untimely Death Still Has Ripples Today – Oprah Mag

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  • Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed by members of the IRA during the period of conflict known as The Troubles, and his 1979 death sent shockwaves through the U.K.
  • He was a leader during World War II, and served as both India’s last viceroy and first governor-general. Mountbatten was praised for his military leadership and skills of diplomacy.
  • In The Crown, Mountbatten has been played by Charles Dance, and his death is depicted in season 4 of the show.

    The 30-year violent confrontation between the Irish Republican Army and Britain, known as The Troubles (1968 – 1998), had many casualties, but perhaps none were more public than Lord Louis Mountbatten’s death on August 27, 1979. Queen Victoria’s great grandson, and a distant cousin of Queen Elizabeth, he was a high-ranking member of the military and a well-regarded diplomat before his assassination, which the Provisional IRA called an “execution” and claimed to have facilitated.

    Mountbatten is a crucial figure in the history of 20th century England. He was a leader in the Royal Navy during World War II, and afterwards served as both India’s viceroy while it was still under British control and its governor-general when it was made independent. He held additional titles including lord lieutenant of the Isle of Wight and chief of the United Kingdom Defense Staff.

    His death was an inflection point in the conflict between Northern Ireland and England, which went on for decades in the late 20th century. Nationalist and religious motivations were at play with The Troubles, as those who wanted Northern Ireland to remain in the U.K. were largely Protestant, while those who wanted it to join the rest of Ireland were primarily Roman Catholic.

    Since he was assassinated, Mountbatten has been honored by Royal Family members including Prince Charles, who he was close with, and Prince William, who reportedly named his son Louis after him.

    “He was always an innovator, ahead of his time, always a tremendous enthusiast, and we were inspired by his example,” naval chief Admiral Sir Terence Lewin told the Washington Post in 1979. “Lord Mountbatten, more than any other of the war-time leaders, was the hero of my generation.”

    With The Crown’s 4th season premiering on November 15, here is what to know about Lord Mountbatten’s death, its ripple effects throughout England, and how it figures into the series’ storylines.

    Lord Mountbatten was killed by the Irish Republican Army in 1979.

    Mountbatten was on a boating vacation in Sligo, Ireland, with his family when members of the IRA claimed they planted and subsequently detonated a bomb on his fishing vessel, per History.com. He was the first member of the British Royal Family who was murdered by the IRA. In addition to Mountbatten, who was 79 at the time, his grandson, 14-year-old Nicholas Knatchbull, died, as did several others.

    Per Irish Central, Mountbatten had been an IRA target for a long time, and an assassination attempt in 1978 was called off because of weather. The IRA claimed almost immediately that they had committed the assassination by placing a large, remote control bomb on his boat. Their team managed to get past the patrolling guards in order to install explosives.

    According to the CBC, the goal of killing Mountbatten was likely to inspire the British public to demand that troops leave Northern Ireland. It had somewhat of the opposite impact, causing the government to more directly oppose the IRA, while ratcheting up the tension between the two powers.

    In addition to Lord Mountbatten and his family members, roughly 3,600 people died because of The Troubles. The unrest ended in April 1998 thanks to the Good Friday Agreement, a brokered peace deal that took two years of negotiation. It led to the creation of Northern Ireland’s devolved government system and was passed by a vote both in that country and Ireland.

    He was close with Prince Charles, serving as something of a mentor.

    the prince of wales and lord mountbatten, wearing full naval uniform, visited nepal in 1975 to attend the coronation of king birendra photo by anwar husseinwireimage

    Anwar HusseinGetty Images

    Despite their age difference of more than 48 years, Lord Mountbatten had a very tight relationship with his great-nephew, Prince Charles. Reportedly, Charles thought of Mountbatten as an “honorary grandfather.”

    Months after the passing of his confidant, Prince Charles spoke at a memorial service for Lord Mountbatten in London, talking about his leadership acumen and demeanor. The speech was given in front of 1,400 people, and televised around the world.

    “Although he could certainly be ruthless with people when the occasion demanded, his infectious enthusiasm, his sheer capacity for hard work, his wit made him an irresistible leader among men,” Charles said.

    Mountbatten was honored with a grand military funeral and continues to be celebrated by the Royal Family.

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    A 1979 Washington Post article described the scene at the Mountbatten funeral ceremony as “…the most solemn state occasion here since the death of Winston Churchill in 1965.” Per that same piece, tens of thousands took to the streets during the procession, and members of the military from six different countries traveled with Mountbatten’s coffin. The service was reportedly the biggest gathering of British royalty since King George VI died in 1952.

    The grief of the queen, Prince Philip, and Prince Charles was palpable as well.

    Season 4 of The Crown shows what happened to Mountbatten.

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    First featured in season 1 (portrayed by Greg Wise), and subsequently appearing in season 3 with Charles Dance in the role, Mountbatten has been an important supporting character on The Crown. Season 4 depicts his death.

    In an interview with The Irish Mirror, Josh O’Connor, who portrays Prince Charles, spoke about how the depiction of Mountbatten’s death affected him, likening the relationship between the two figures to a father and son.

    “There’s a scene where Charles is reading a letter he received from him after he died and there I am, sat on a plane, reading the letter and I didn’t just cry, I sobbed,” he said. “I was completely surprised at how strongly I felt. Some of the most beautiful characters I’ve played have been to do with father figures.”

    The Crown is not the only piece of media to delve into his assassination. Those interested can learn more from a 2019 documentary, The Day Mountbatten Died, directed by Sam Collyns and timed to the 40th anniversary of his passing.

    Timothy Knatchbull, who survived the bombing aboard the same vessel but lost his grandparents and twin brother, Nicholas, wrote a book about the event titled From a Clear Blue Sky: Surviving the Mountbatten Bomb.

    An inflection point in the history of Britain and Northern Ireland, the death of Lord Mountbatten is among the most significant political assassinations of the last 50 years.


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