Mountbatten: Britain’s Warlord by Alex Mitchell – $30 including postage within Australia
Lord Louis Mountbatten, touted as a hero by Britain’s Royal Family, was directly involved in war crimes that brought death and misery to millions. As self-proclaimed Emperor of India, he forced through Partition. Back in England, he headed a failed coup attempt against the elected Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and had shady dealings with Irish criminals and provocateurs.
My new book, based on decades of reporting on secret Britain, debunks the ruling-class myth to reveal the ruthless brutality of an imperialist power-seeker whose crimes were obscured by a stream of lies from London aided by his membership of the Royal Family.
Matchmaker between Elizabeth II and his nephew Philip, he was instrumental in creating their public relations machine. But that didn’t save him from the ignominy of his final years or his mysterious death off the Irish coast in 1979.
Published in Australia in paperback and e-book, Mountbatten: Britain’s Warlord is available worldwide through the publisher. Below are just some of the comments from early readers.
Tony Whitlam reviews the book
Lord Louis Mountbatten was undeniably a handsome fellow with matinee idol good looks, and the new book on his life by the distinguished journalist Alex Mitchell has a photo portrait of its subject in naval uniform on the front cover. However, no prospective reader should be misled by its ironic sub-title. Mountbatten was mercifully never let anywhere near making a significant decision on the conduct of WW2. As Supreme Commander in South East Asia, he was regarded as joke who was mainly known for his crisp uniforms and his absurd decision to move his headquarters from Delhi to Kandy. Fortunately, Mountbatten let real generals, such as Slim, deal with operational matters in that theatre of the war.
Alex Mitchell does not sprinkle stardust on the career of yet another “royal” relative of our hereditary monarch. Instead, he tells in fascinating detail the story of a consummate chancer who seized every opportunity for personal aggrandisement. Mitchell makes a case for attributing a good part of the blame for the tragedy of Partition in India to Mountbatten in his role as Viceroy. That is certainly a woeful legacy.
There have, of course, been lots of books about Mountbatten. Mitchell observes early on in this book that Mountbatten carefully controlled information given to his biographers and that he frequently invented stories about himself. (Mitchell does not bother repeating the old chestnut about the Tory canvassers calling at Broadlands being directed by the great man to go around the back of the house to the servants’ quarters if they were seeking Tory voters.) Mitchell makes the point that “almost every book about Mountbatten was written in a typeface known as Grovel and Lickspittle.” This book is definitely not in that category.
Mountbatten was just 17 when he acquired his family name during WW1. His father, also Prince Louis of Battenberg, reluctantly agreed to the request of King George V that he should renounce his German titles and adopt an Anglicised version of Battenberg. The father thought Mountbatten sounded better than Battenhill.
Mitchell does not dwell on Mountbatten’s climb up the greasy pole in the armed forces, but he covers well his shameless and disloyal conduct as he moved between patrons. Social success was aided by his wife’s fortune, but his family connexions were his trump card. Shortly before WW2 Mountbatten arranged for his nephew, Philip, to meet the Heiress Presumptive – Princess Elizabeth. Prior to their engagement in 1947 Philip renounced his Greek and Danish citizenship and, when he was naturalised, adopted his matrilineal family name of Mountbatten. The subsequent marriage linked that name to the Throne of the United Kingdom. Mountbatten and his heirs were thrilled when some members of the Royal Family started to use Mountbatten-Windsor as a family name.
After he was removed as Chief of the Defence Staff in 1965, Mountbatten involved himself in some disgraceful episodes in the UK and Ireland. Mitchell is very good on this latter period of his life after public service, particularly his delusionary participation in talks about a coup against Prime Minister Wilson hatched by the megalomaniacal Cecil King of newspaper fame.
The shenanigans involving Mountbatten that Mitchell lays out in specific terms were properly the concerns of the people of the United Kingdom and Ireland. However, after reading about the dubious carryings-on of this privileged great-grandson of Queen Victoria (who, it should be borne in mind, had 9 children), Australians might ponder the question: why on earth would we give her heirs a permanent role in the government of our country? Talk about buying a pig in a poke!
Antony Whitlam KC is a former judge
Professor Stuart Rees, founder of the Sydney Peace Prize: “A monumental achievement: historically significant, peppered with evidence, always engaging, a characteristically fast-moving critical judgement of Britain’s previously overrated warlord, Mountbatten. In forensic and often delightfully humorous detail, he has now been portrayed as simply another powerful representative of Britain’s’ pre and post war political, military, media-colluding, religious and royal establishment. A great read. A long overdue analysis.”
Lewis Chester, award-winning British investigative journalist: “Under the stimulus of Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee the flow of books idolising British royalty has reached avalanche proportions. However, republicans need not despair. Obscured, but not quite buried, beneath the weight of these candy-floss publications, is a modest volume, first published in Australia, entitled Mountbatten: Britain’s Warlord and written by the journalist Alex Mitchell. Louis “Dickie” Mountbatten, great-uncle to Prince Charles, the current heir to the British throne, was the one royal who achieved unalloyed national hero status prior to his assassination, apparently by the IRA. Mitchell’s slim work examines his exalted status, acquired through the Second World War years and the Partition of India, and leaves it all in tatters. This is not what the Platinum Jubilee was designed for of course, but it is perhaps its most useful by-product.”
Susie Carleton, arts, film and books activist and campaigner for the constitutional rights of First Nation Peoples: “If you harbour any residual doubt about the disreputable role of the royal family, its actions and ideals for governing, this book will do much to clarify. Saying as much about the royal family as about Mountbatten, Alex Mitchell’s exposé adds many more facts about the outrageous gains reaped ex officio by the royal family and its fabulous accumulated wealth which he demonstrates continues today. Britain’s Warlord is a terrific and informative read.”
Colleen Ryan, author and award-winning financial journalist: “Alex Mitchell has done it again! A great read, a romp through the life of Mountbatten with a decent swipe at the Royals and a strong analysis of British colonialism and wartime politics. Mountbatten’s associates in the underworld was news to me – but not to Alex who reported on it from London at the time. Mountbatten: Britain’s Warlord is well researched and a refreshing take on one of Britain’s ‘heroes’.”