Lady Louis Mountbatten

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The Mountbattens in the 1920s
Edwina Cynthia Annette Mountbatten, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, GBE, DCVO, CI, DStJ (28 November 1901 – 21 February 1960) was an English heiress, socialite, relief-worker, wife of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, and last Vicereine of India. She was Britain's richest and most publicised heiress and bisexual. She was born Edwina Cynthia Annette Ashley, daughter of Wilfred William Ashley, later 1st Baron Mount Temple, himself a grandson of the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. She was the favourite granddaughter of the Edwardian magnate Sir Ernest Cassel and the principal heir to his fortune.


The Mountbattens' non-traditional marriage, great wealth, and leftish politics seem to have elicited much speculation about their "decadent" escapades, despite the tender correspondence the couple maintained throughout their adult lives. Lady Mountbatten occasionally travelled with her husband's sister-in-law, Lady Milford Haven, whose bisexual liaisons are perhaps better documented than those attributed to Edwina. Along with Nancy Cunard, she was alleged to have been lovers with American actor Paul Robeson, although she successfully brought suit against a newspaper for printing the story since, she testified, she had never met the man. However, her real liaison had been with cabaret star Leslie Hutchinson. Their affair was to lead to his social ostracism and destroyed his professional career.

It was rumoured during Mountbatten's viceroyalty, and remains widely believed, that his wife had an affair with Jawaharlal Nehru, who became India's first prime minister during their stay in India, and that the pair may have resumed that connection on Nehru's subsequent visits to England. The allegation was made in Richard Hough's 1980 biography Mountbatten: Hero of Our Times. However, the affair is denied by the Mountbatten family, although other liaisons during the couple's open marriage have been admitted. Lord Mountbatten's son-in-law and former naval aide-de-camp, Lord Brabourne, citing the extensive, preserved correspondence between his mother-in-law and Nehru, was quoted on 12 February 2003 in the Indian news periodical The Pioneer to the effect that "Philip Ziegler and Janet Morgan [biographers, respectively, of Louis and of Edwina Mountbatten] are the only two people who have seen the letters apart from the two families, and neither of them thinks there was anything physical."

However, Alex von Tunzelmann in her book Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire allegedly claims that "Edwina in her letters to Lord Mountbatten has written that her relationship with Nehru was mostly platonic. Mostly, but not always".