The grandson of Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, has claimed that the widely-rumoured love affair between Mountbatten’s wife Edwina and India’s first Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru was a “platonic” one as Nehru was “impotent”.
Ashley Hicks, whose mother Pamela was Lord Mountbatten and Edwina’s younger daughter, told the Daily Telegraph that Prime Minister Nehru and Edwina had “intense” feelings for each other but couldn’t make more of the relationship.
“Prime Minister Nehru was my grandmother’s great friend – they had a platonic love affair. Nehru’s sister told me that it was impossible that he and my grandmother could have had sex because he was impotent – and had been for years. I think that is probably true, but they had this intense, romantic feeling for each other”, Mr Hicks said.
Nehru had married Kamala Kaul in 1916 and the couple gave birth to their only child – future Prime Minister Indira Gandhi – in 1917. Kamala died of tuberculosis in in 1936.
Nehru was subsequently linked not only to Edwina but a number of other prominent women, including fellow independence activist Padmaja Naidu.
Mr Hicks says that both Lord and Lady Mountbatten had deep affection for India where Lord Mountbatten had first visited in the 1920’s.
“My family has a long relationship with India and when my grandfather went there in 1921 with the Prince of Wales, my grandmother Edwinabought herself a ticket to Delhi, aged 20, which is fairly brave. The Prince of Wales even lent them his room to have a drink in so my grandfather could propose”, Mr Hicks says.
“They returned to India in March 1947, when Mountbatten became Viceroy. It was the great dramatic event of my mother’s life and she was unique among any Viceroy’s children in that she saw some Indian culture.
“They had Indian food in the Viceroy’s house for the first time and my grandmother insisted on at least half the guests at meals being Indian.”
That fateful and historic return to India by the Mountbattens is the subject of ‘Viceroy’s House’, a new film by the British Indian filmmaker Gurinder Chadha.
Set inside the eponymous, Edward Lutyens-designed monolith in New Delhi – referred to today as ‘Rashtrapathi Bhavan’ or President’s House – the film tells the story of the final tumultuous days and weeks leading up to the 1947 Partition of the sub-continent into India and Pakistan.
While the political machinations go on between Mountbatten and the British on the one hand and Nehru, Gandhi and the Indian Congress on the other upstairs, downstairs in the staff quarters, love blossoms between a Hindu and a Muslim as communal violence wracks the country.
‘Downton Abbey’ star Hugh Bonneville plays Lord Mountbatten while the American actress Gillian Anderson plays Edwina Mountbatten.
Whilst numerous filmmakers have explored the momentous events surrounding Partition and Mountbatten’s role in it before, Chadha – the director of ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ and ‘Bhaji on the Beach’ – takes a wholly different view.
Mountbatten has been routinely condemned for expediting the Partition, leading to the deaths of millions and creating the greatest mass migration in history as Muslims and Hindus moved between the two newly-created nations.
‘Viceroy’s House’ however, contends that Mountbatten’s hand had been forced by Winston Churchill and the British government which had already made plans – in cohorts with Muhammad Ali Jinnah – to bifurcate the continent so as to protect Britain’s interests after World War 2.
With the Soviet Union beating back to the Germans in Stalingrad in 1942 – which heralded the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany – Churchill and his War Cabinet had become anxious that the Soviet leader Stalin would expand his country’s influence south from Central Asia thereby threatening the West’s vital oil interests in the Persian Gulf.
According to ‘In the Shadow of the Great Game’, a book the former diplomat and assistant to Lord Mountbatten Narendra Singh Sarila, Britain and Jinnah entered into the pact during 1942.
The claims are based on documents made available to Mr Sarila in the 1970’s and 1980’s and that are now in the British archives.
Chadha says she drew extensively on the book – as well as Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre’s seminal book ‘Freedom at Midnight’ – to create the narrative for her film. She has also revealed that her decision to revise the received wisdom about Mountbatten arose following a conversation with Prince Charles, Mountbatten’s nephew, who had told her that his uncle had been “treated unfairly by history.”