Lord Mountbatten pictured with his wife Edwina
Published: 25 July, 2012
by JOHN GULLIVER
I AM delighted that the correspondence between my colleague, Illtyd Harrington, literary editor of the New Journal, and Prince Philip, is flourishing.
It seems that whenever Illtyd writes about Prince Philip, whom he got to know from his days as a leading London politician in the 1970s, the man who walks behind the Queen reads his old friend’s views and, almost instinctively, feels the need to write to him.
Recently, Illtyd, wrote in the New Journal about Lord Mountbatten – a pivotal member of the Royal circle who was blown up by an IRA bomb – and that famous handshake by Martin McGuinness and the Queen during her recent visit to Belfast.
This week Illtyd received a letter from Prince Phillip commenting on that day of violence.
“As you say,” writes Prince Philip, “Lord Mountbatten was open-minded and willing to listen to every point of view.
“I wonder whether you have come across a book written by Tim Knatchbull, one of his grandsons, the twin of the one that was killed in the boat. It really is a detective story about the planner of the attack and their eventual meeting.
“It is comforting to think that something as simple as a Royal visit could have had such a comforting effect.
“The consequences rumble on.”
Intuitively, Prince Philip and Illtyd shared the same opinion of Lord Mountbatten whom Illtyd met accidentally from time to time in Malta in the early 1950s when he served as a senior aircraftsman as a conscript in the RAF, and Mountbatten was a top-ranking naval commander.
Once, Mountbatten noticed Illtyd and a fellow conscript and asked them to go swimming with them. Illtyd declined, and occasionally, met him after that.
Delighted at receiving a letter from his friend the Prince, Illtyd reminisced to me about the Prince and Lord Louis Mountbatten for whom my colleague had a great deal of respect.
He saw him as a free-thinking “outpost”, as it were, of the Royal family, a man who was not averse to thinking out of the box, a man who would never have countenanced a collision between the great powers during the Cold War.
Mountbatten and his wife, Edwina, never hid her more left than right views. They were a couple, as Illtyd wrote in the New Journal, who “kicked over the traces, and it is to them that the young Prince Philip went for comfort and company…”
The same week as Prince Philip’s letter to Illtyd comes a 10-page article – perhaps more than 15,000 words – in the current edition of the London Review of Books by the leftish academic Perry Anderson on the partition of India and the role played by Lord Mountbatten. Mountbatten does not emerge as sweet and reasonable, a man holding views that will help shape the world for the better.
Whose portrait is nearer to the truth – Illtyd’s or Perry Anderson? I bow to Illtyd’s – because he met Mountbatten and, to some extent, shared a similar world view. I feel Prince Philip, who, no doubt will avidly read Anderson’s article, will, at the end of it, think: Illtyd, you knew the real Lord Mountbatten.