Tag Archives: Edwina Mountbatten

Happy birthday Charlie Chaplin!

Today would have been Charlie Chaplin’s 129th birthday.  While best remembered as a slapstick comic actor from the era of silent film, he actually wrote, produced and directed most of the productions in which he starred.

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Chaplin with Edwina and Louis Mountbatten in Hollywood [MS62/MB/L1/138]

He is pictured with Louis and Edwina Mountbatten who were visiting Hollywood as part of their honeymoon in 1922.  Out of his trademark make up, he is almost unrecognisable.

louis and charlie MS62_MB2_L1_p40

Mountbatten (left) and Chaplin [MS62/MB/L1/174]

While the Mountbattens were in Hollywood, Chaplin made a short film: Nice and Friendly (1922) as a wedding gift.  Both Edwina and Louis star alongside Jackie Coogan; Lieutenant Frederick Neilson, British Embassy in Washington, DC, and ADC to Lieutenant Lord Louis Mountbatten and his wife; Colonel Robert Thompson, U.S. Navy and Mr and Mrs Stephen H.P.Pell.  Edwina stars as the owner of a pearl necklace which various crooks attempt to steal.


The film was shot in the gardens at Pickfair, the home of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, where Lord and Lady Louis Mountbatten and their party stayed whilst in Hollywood.  It is available to view on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBXq_CmNaRI.

The images come from a black and white photograph album of Lord and Lady Louis Mountbatten’s honeymoon tours of Spain, Germany and the USA, 4 August 1922 – 9 December 1922. [MB2/L1].  Also from their stay in Hollywood, there are photographs taken at Cecile B.De Mille’s film studio.


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)

‘The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere.’
(Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, in a broadcast on the death of Gandhi, 70 years ago.)

The assassination of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, known to many as Mahatma – “great soul” – on 30 January 1948, brought thousands to the streets of New Delhi in silent mourning. He had been shot at point blank range by a young Hindu, Nathuram Godse, who held Gandhi responsible for the partition of his country.  Gandhi had in fact been a passionate supporter of a united India, and believed it would be a serious error for the British to partition the country.  The mourners included Mountbatten, then Governor General, and his wife Edwina, both of whom subsequently attended Gandhi’s funeral.

Mountbatten’s “first meeting with Gandhi”, 31st March 1947 MB2/N14/8

Mountbatten’s “first meeting with Gandhi”, 31st March 1947 MB2/N14/8

This photo, from Mountbatten’s papers, dates from his first meeting with Gandhi, prior to Partition, on 31st March 1947.  As newly appointed Viceroy, Mountbatten embarked on a series of interviews with Indian leaders, details of which were recorded as soon as they were completed.  According to his biographer, Mountbatten was “fascinated and delighted” by Gandhi’s personality – and they met again on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd April at Viceroy’s House:

Gandhi’s first ever meal eaten at Viceroy’s House, 1 April 1947 MB2/N14/10

Gandhi’s first ever meal eaten at Viceroy’s House, 1 April 1947 MB2/N14/10

Mountbatten’s papers include conference papers, minutes of meetings and records of the interviews which took place over the following months, as well as his official correspondence as Viceroy.

On 2 June 1947, Lord Mountbatten’s plan for Partition was presented to the Indian leaders. Immediately afterwards, he had a meeting with Gandhi and, apprehensive of the disruption that his opposition might cause, was enormously relieved that he chose not to break his day of silence. To the Viceroy’s amazement, Gandhi wrote on the back of some envelopes:

“I am sorry I can’t speak. When I took the decision about the Monday silence I did reserve two exceptions, i.e. about speaking to high functionaries on urgent matters or attending upon sick people. But I know you don’t want me to break my silence.”

one of the envelopes on which Gandhi wrote notes at his meeting with Mountbatten, 2 June 1947 MB1/E193

One of the envelopes on which Gandhi wrote notes at his meeting with Mountbatten, 2 June 1947 MB1/E193

Independent India and Pakistan came into being on 14/15 August 1947.

The assassination of Gandhi in January 1948 tested the character of the new India. ‘The father of the Indian nation’, he had not invented the nationalist movement, but he had shaped it into a force that was wholly different from any other anti-colonial struggle faced by the British.  As his biographer notes, he remains “an international symbol and inspiration… a towering figure of the twentieth century.”


A new King and Queen are crowned

On 12 May 1937 the coronation took place of George VI and Queen Elizabeth as King and Queen at Westminster Abbey.

guest list of the royal family and of other royal and other representatives MS 62 MB1/A112

Front cover of guest list of the royal family and of other royal and representatives [MS 62 MB1/A112]

The King and Queen’s daughters, Princess Elizabeth and Margaret, attended the ceremony, together with the Dowager Queen Mary. Also invited were members of the extended royal family, members of the peerage and Members of Parliament. Lord and Lady Louis Mountbatten and Patricia Mountbatten were amongst those who attended, with Lord Louis Mountbatten riding in the processions behind the state coach to and from Westminster Abbey. The guest list further included royals and representatives or ambassadors from across the world, such as Prince and Princess Chichibu of Japan, monarchs of the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland, Yugoslavia, leading colonial administrators, princes from the Indian states. Invitations were issued to representatives of the trade unions and co-operative societies, such as Lizzie McCulloch, a factory worker from Glasgow, one of four people who received an invitation through the Industrial Welfare Society.

Official souvenir coronation programme [MS 62 MB1/A113]

Official souvenir coronation programme [MS 62 MB1/A113]

The coronation is probably the oldest ceremonial in the UK and the earliest preserved coronation ritual dates from the eighth century. All the principal rites of the present coronations — the recognition, the oath taken by the sovereign, the anointing, investiture and crowning — are to be found in the Saxon rituals. The recognition recalls the time when the monarch was presented to their bishops and peers and acknowledged as King by their acclamations. The anointing of the King, which is seen as a pivotal point of the ceremony, culminating in the crowning, represents the sacred as well as the civil office to which the monarch is admitted. Following the crowning by the monarch, for which the St Edward’s Crown is used, the King receives the homage of his spiritual and temporal peers. Once completed, this is followed by the Queen’s coronation, a shortened form of the ceremony, which also can be traced to Saxon times.

The King was arrayed in a robe of purple velvet and the Crown of State, instead of the St Edward’s Crown, for the state procession with the Queen from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace in the state coach.

State coach [MS 62 MB2/L21]

State coach [MS 62 MB2/L21]

Timed to leave Westminster Abby at 2.15pm, the route for this state procession in 1937 was considerably longer than that for George V in 1911. Bands were stationed along the route and detachments from the Royal Navy, Army and RAF and reserves, together with representatives from the Indian Army and Navy and contingents from the dominions, took part.

Royal Navy as part of coronation procession [MS 62 MB2/L19]

Royal Navy as part of coronation procession [MS 62 MB2/L19]

The streets of London along the procession route were thronged with people hoping to catch a glimpse of their new monarch. It was a time of great celebration and a day to remember for all those who watched, and the millions who listened to the new monarch make a radio address that evening.

General Strike of 1926

The General Strike of 1926 was called by the General Council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in an attempt to prevent wage reduction and increased working hours for coal miners in the north of England, Scotland and Wales.

The coal industry had suffered greatly since the end of the First World War with the strike being the latest in a series of industrial disputes. While the dispute initially began in mining areas, other industry workers soon joined the miners in a move of solidarity. One of the key trigger events came as print workers in Fleet Street refused to print an edition of the Daily Mail containing a leading article attacking strike action. This led to a breakdown in negotiations between TUC and the government and resulted in TUC’s decision to proceed with a general strike which began on 4 May 1926. It was to be the first (and only) general strike in British history with the closing not just of mines, but transport, newspapers, docks and power stations. In total, somewhere between 1.5 and 1.75 million workers took part in industrial action.

The first issue of The British Worker, 5 May 1926. The paper was published by TUC for the duration of the strike and was printed on the presses of the Daily Herald.

The first issue of The British Worker, 5 May 1926. The paper was published by TUC for the duration of the strike and was printed on the presses of the Daily Herald.

However, the government was prepared and took control of the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies (OMS) which had been set up the previous year to provide volunteers in the event of a general strike. In London, and elsewhere, efforts were made to ensure essential public services continued with a food depot set up in Hyde Park for volunteers and transport workers. Among those working at the depot were Jeanne Malcolm and Edwina Mountbatten, later Countess Mountbatten of Burma (pictured below). At the same time, Edwina’s father, Wilfrid Ashely, then Minister for Transport, was busy arranging contingency plans for transport services.

The government also ran an aggressive propaganda campaign which included the publication of The British Gazette, a highly patriotic newspaper which ran articles condemning the actions of the strikers while at the same time playing on growing fears of communism. As a result, the strikers failed to win over the middle classes with many instead volunteering as strike-breakers.

Photograph of Jeanne Malcolm and Edwina Mountbatten, Hyde Park canteen organisers during the General Strike of 1926 [MS 62 Broadlands Archives MB1/K190B]

Photograph of Jeanne Malcolm and Edwina Mountbatten, Hyde Park canteen organisers during the General Strike of 1926 [MS 62 Broadlands Archives MB1/K190B]

In a letter written by Henrietta Joseph, dated 18 May 1926, she discussed her experience of the strike:

“The strike was the most extraordinary experience I have ever known. There was not the horror and the anxiety of the war; but there was greater strangeness. One woke into a foreign world, where things were not done for us, one had to do one’s own arranging and fixing. Everyone was a pioneer. Life became an adventure. There were no newspapers. Letters were few and came seldom. Centuries of civilisation were swept away. As in the war, we all fraternised with one another. As days followed strange day, the resources of civilisation began to be foreshadowed rather than actually to appear as we got to know how things began. Gradually these young lords and varsity men became increasingly efficient at their jobs. The railways began to lose some of their amateurishness. One or two papers began to come out – almost life-like – in some cases there were 4 pages. The Times actually published a list of births, marriages and deaths. There was a side issue of an extra strike in Marylebone. The scavengers were out. No collecting of refuse. Then four varsity cricketers ran a dust cart of their own. On it was printed the legend ‘England collects the ashes’. Edwin was a special constable guarding our electric power station. (Amateurs ran the power stations.) We were all getting ‘into’ it. The world was starting again and doing its business in quite another way but doing it quite well. A millennium of sociability and brotherly love had begun. The universe was one big family party. Class distinctions were wiped out and then all of a sudden last Wednesday the general strike was called off. Gradually the world shook itself and came out of its dream. Now we are almost normal, it’s a matter of fact. We have passed through a great disaster, which politically and commercially we shall feel adversely for a long time, but it was a wonderful experience.”

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On 12 May 1926, after 9 days of action, the TUC announced their decision to call off the strike, having failed to significantly disrupt services. The miners eventually returned to work with their pay reduced and working hours extended. A year later, the government passed the Trade Disputes Act of 1927 making the type of sympathetic strike action that had created the General Strike illegal.