Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Mountbattens

Last week Tom and I watched "Mountbatten:  the Last Viceroy of India," a 6-part series that aired years ago on Masterpiece Theater.  He was known as Dickie and she was Edwina.  (There's a name you don't see anymore).  They were rich, beautiful and smart.  His job was to get the British out of India post WWII after more than 200 years of colonial reign.  Churchill never spoke to him again after he took the job, because it meant the end of the precious British Empire.  Like Gandhi, Mountbatten wanted to keep India in one piece but soon realized that it would have to be partitioned so that the Muslims had their own country: east and west Pakistan.  All of this "change" created horrific violence throughout India and especially in the Punjab which now borders Pakistan.  Edwina, who was an experienced Red Cross worker, spent her time travelling from one refugee camp to another trying to relieve suffering.  They were a strong and powerful couple.  The series hinted at a spiritual love affair between Nehru and Edwina (with Dickie in the photo above).  

When the series was over I googled the Mountbattens together and separately and found out that these two sophisticated people were sexual acrobats.  Both of them bisexual. Their marriage was an "open" one and they each had countless affairs, some of them outrageous.  She was accused by a tabloid of having an affair with the black American singer Paul Robeson, who it turns out she had never met in her life, (she was really having an affair with a black nightclub singer, the details of which made me blush).  The Windsors (the king) forced the Mountbattens to sue for libel and through considerable lying and deceit (and because it wasn't Paul Robeson but someone else) they won the case and were not socially ostracized as they would have been if they had lost.

She died at age 59.  He died in his seventies, blown up in his sailboat in Ireland by the IRA.

So there you have it.  Learn history from Masterpiece Theater.  Learn the scuttlebutt on Google.  Education is so broadening.

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