The first episode of Netflix's The Crown Season 4 starts off not with great fanfare, but with a great tragedy. Lord Louis Mountbatten, played by Charles Dance, is assassinated by the Irish Republican Army while aboard his fishing boat in Mullaghmore, Ireland, on August 27, 1979. His unexpected and violent death consequently brings great pain to those he left behind, particularly Prince Charles (Josh O'Connor) and Prince Philip (Tobias Menzies).
The choice to begin the season with this moment in history shows just how much Mountbatten meant to royal family, and how his influence endured even after his death. But for those more unfamiliar with "Dickie," who was he exactly? Here's what you should know while you're watching The Crown.
Who was Lord Mountbatten in The Crown?
Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, was a close relative of the British royal family and a Royal Navy officer and statesman. He served as head of the British Armed Forces from 1959 until 1965.
How is Lord Mountbatten related to Prince Philip?
Lord Mountbatten was Prince Philip's uncle. His older sister, Princess Alice of Greece and Denmark, was Prince Philip's mother.
Estranged from his father at a young age, Prince Philip subsequently developed a close relationship with his uncle. Mountbatten even arranged the first meeting between Prince Philip and then-Princess Elizabeth in 1939, setting into motion their future engagement.
Their union is why Prince Philip also uses the name "Mountbatten." Before he married into the British royal family, Prince Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles and adopted the surname from his maternal grandparents. (You may remember this from Season One of The Crown.) The name Windsor-Mountbatten is still used by Prince Philip and the Queen's male-line descendents without titles.
What relation is Lord Mountbatten to Prince Charles?
Prince Charles is Lord Mountbatten's grand nephew. However, as The Crown often suggests, the two shared very close relationship — almost akin to that of father and son.
In both real life and in The Crown, Lord Mountbatten advised the young prince on his relationships and his future marriage. "In a case like yours, the man should sow his wild oats and have as many affairs as he can before settling down, but for a wife he should choose a suitable, attractive, and sweet-charactered girl before she has met anyone else she might fall for," he wrote in a real letter alluded to in Season Three. His advice, along with others in the royal family, effectively prevented Prince Charles from marrying Camilla Shand (later Parker Bowles) in the first place.
In Season Four, another letter from Dickie castigates Prince Charles for his continued affair with Camilla. "The choice of a woman was the issue around which the last Prince of Wales came to grief," he writes in reference to King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. "It is astonishing to me that forty years after the abdication, you are making so little attempt to conceal your infatuation for another man's wife. How could you contemplate such ruin and disappointment to yourself, to your family, to me?"
While those exact words remain fictional, they do encapsulate the real Mountbatten's sentiments. Shortly before his death, he did write to Charles regarding his ongoing affair and warned that he was "beginning on the downward slope which wrecked your Uncle David’s life and led to his disgraceful abdication and his futile life ever after." (King Edward VIII was always known to his close family as David, one of his given names.)
What did the The Crown get wrong about Mountbatten?
The Crown interestingly enough skips over yet another time Mountbatten entangled with Charles's love life. Before his death, Dickie attempted to set Charles up with his granddaughter, Amanda Knatchbull. According to royal biographer Jonathan Dimbleby, the prince reportedly did propose to Amanda in 1979 after Mountbatten's passing, but she refused.
And while The Crown only covers the immediate impact of Dickie's death, the respect and admiration that Prince Charles felt for his great uncle endures to this day. "Lord Mountbatten represented the grandfather I never had," he said in a 2015 speech in Mullaghmore.
Mountbatten's influence continues to live on. Another royal family member now bears his name in fact. Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, named their third son, Prince Louis of Cambridge, after this enduring figure.
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