The 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma, godmother to The Prince of Wales and third cousin of The Queen, has died at the age of 93.
The Countess of Mountbatten of Burma was born on 14 February 1924 as the eldest of Louis Mountbatten, later the 1st Earl of Mountbatten of Burma and uncle to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Through her father, she was a great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She was educated in Malta, England and New York. She entered the Royal Naval Service and served at the supreme allied headquarters in Sri Lanka, where she met Lord Brabourne, who became her husband in 1946. Her bridesmaids were the then Princess Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, Lady Pamela, her younger sister, and Princess Alexandra of Kent. They went on to have eight children. Lord Brabourne died in 2005. They had been one of the few married couples in England who both held a peerage in their own right.
Her family was struck by tragedy in 1979 when her 79-year-old father, mother-in-law and her 14-year-old son Nicholas were killed off the coast of Sligo after the IRA detonated gelignite which had been hidden under the floorboards of their boat. The Countess was also on board, but she survived the blast along with her husband and their other son Timothy. An Irish schoolboy, who was helping out on the boat, was also killed. By special remainder, she subsequently succeeded her father as Countess Mountbatten of Burma.
In 2008, she recalled the tragedy in an interview with the Telegraph: “My own memory is of a vision of a ball exploding upwards and then of ‘coming to’ in the sea and wondering if I would be able to reach the surface before I passed out. I have very vague memories, now and again, of floating among the wood and debris, being pulled into a small rubber dinghy before totally losing consciousness for days.”
She was devasted at the loss of her son and said, “As anyone whose child dies will know only too well, this news utterly devastated me. In fact, I was so overwhelmed by grief for Nicky, who was just on the threshold of his life, that I began to feel guilty that I was not able to grieve for my father, whom I really adored, in the same way. But the world was mourning him, and there was a comfort in knowing that.”
Afterwards, she began to support two charities: the Child Bereavement Charity and Compassionate Friends.
When she was young, she and her sister Lady Pamela would often play with the future Queen and Princess Margaret. That relationship continued as they grew older and The Queen and Prince Philip often stayed at the Countess’s home in Mersham.
The Countess of Mountbatten Burma is succeeded in her titles by her eldest son, Norton Knatchbull, who is already the 8th Baron Brabourne since the death of his father. The family has already confirmed that arrangments for a funeral in London followed by a burial service in Mersham will be made and announced in due course.