Lord Louis Mountbatten was closely tied to the British Royal Family for his entire life. Born Prince Louis of Battenberg at Frogmore House at Windsor, he was a great-grandchild of Queen Victoria. Lord Mountbatten was murdered in 1979 but has remained a major figure in the royal story and his role in the development of the modern House of Windsor has been brought to a new audience through his portrayal in Netflix’s The Crown. However, he is now in the news for a more historic reason – his diaries are being kept private and confidential, in spite of being purchased to be a public resource.
Mountbatten’s role as confidante and matchmaker in the British Royal Family is well known. However, he also played a significant role in the British Navy during the Second World War, and was the last Viceroy of India who oversaw the transition from British rule to independence.
In 2010 the University of Southampton bought the Broadlands archives for £2.8m, with the promise of public access and preserving the documents for future generations. However, The Guardian has reported that the University and the Cabinet Office have required some of it kept under lock and key.
Biographer Andrew Lownie’s The Mountbattens: Their Lives and Loves (published in 2019) explores both Mountbatten and his wife Edwina. It was his research for this book that led him to the Broadlands collections, and he has been attempting to gain access to the diaries and documents from 1935 onwards. Despite filing several Freedom of Information requests and an order from the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2019 to release the materials, Lownie still has not gained full access.
Lownie has continued to fight for access long after his biography was published, and is currently attempting to raise £50,000 on Crowdjustice to pursue legal action and fight the appeal. He believes that given how much money and time has been spent (by both the University of Southampton and the Cabinet Office), there is a good likelihood that there is something notable in the private collections.