What is the cost of keeping a secret? The UK government is paying 600,000 pounds (around $800,000) for the same purpose.
The secret: Diaries of Lord Mountbatten and his wife Lady Mountbatten, and some correspondence between the two.
The unreleased papers reportedly document the years from 1947 and 1948, including the diaries of Lord and Lady Mountbatten and some correspondence between the two.
The UK government is trying to bury these papers, especially from the Partition years, and paying that amount in a court battle against British author Andrew Lownie, out of fear that it could damage the reputation of the British royal family, and jeopardise the relationships between UK, Pakistan and India.
Mountbatten had overseen India’s partition. His diaries could reveal details that Britain is not comfortable sharing. They may have Mountbatten’s view of Nehru, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Mahatma Gandhi and Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the man who drew the boundary between India and Pakistan.
Mountbatten was the great-grandson of Queen Victoria. He was a royalist and like every proud royalist, he went on to serve the Royal Navy.
He commanded the Navy during World War II and held various positions in the British Raj. He also became the last viceroy of India.
It was in Delhi in 1922 that Mountbatten met a young woman, Edwina. They then decided to get married, which allegedly had many ups and downs.
It was claimed that the two had affair with other people.
The Mountbatten couple’s marriage was no secret by the way. So, what is that the British government is trying to hide?
One of Lady Mountbatten’s close friends was Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister.
In one of her letters to Nehru, to which WION has access, it was written, “I hate to see you driving away this morning. You left me with a strange sense of peace. Perhaps, I have brought you the same?”
“Life is a dreary business,” replied Nehru.
The Mountbatten papers are a treasure trove. There is history and reportedly a lot of scandals.
So, a few years back, when Lownie asked for unrestricted access to these papers, the government refused to oblige him.
But Lownie didn’t take no for an answer. He cited British’s Freedom of Information law and forced the government to release the Mountbatten papers, at least 99.8 per cent of them, while refusing to disclose the rest of them.
This couple had the habit of putting unfiltered thoughts to paper. Both maintained diaries, both poured their hearts out in letters.
This is what Lord Mountbatten wrote to his wife in 1942: “Edwina darlingest, I feel terribly having had to desert you twice during the most trying week of life. I am afraid, as I once told you before, you shouldn’t have married a sailor. I am not particularly fond of saying nice things and I can’t hope to compete with most of your other admirers. But this I felt that I must say that I thought you were really grand and very sweet & lovable.”
Mountbatten, a very influential member of the Royal family, was a maternal uncle of Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip.
He was like a father figure to the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, the two were very close. Mountbatten is believed to have played a very big role in Prince Charles’ personal life, be it his affair with the then-girlfriend Camila Parker Bowles or his marriage with Diana.
The Royal Family lovingly called Mountbatten “Uncle Dicky”. They knew about his habit of maintaining a dairy. They too had their documents.
But who in the family would have thought that Uncle Dicky’s diary would once day start draining public coffers? So far, the UK govt has spent $800,000 in protecting them, trying to hide Mountbatten’s thoughts from the world.
Right now, a trial is underway in London which will determine whether all of the private diaries and letters of the should be released to the public despite concerns by the UK cabinet office.
(The story is largely taken from WION).