The Death of Lord Louis Mountbatten Was Shocking, Tragic, and Scary

Prince Charles' mentor was assassinated by the IRA.

Admiral Louis Mountbatten
(Image credit: Bettmann)

Played by Charles Dance in seasons 3 and 4 of The CrownLord Louis Mountbatten was a key figure in Prince Charles' life. The two were very close, and Mountbatten counseled Charles about the future king's personal and professional life—Charles even decided to go into the military like his beloved great-uncle. Season 4 of The Crown is likely to cover the devastating events of 1979: Mountbatten was assassinated by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the decades-long ethno-nationalist conflict known as The Troubles.

Mountbatten often took his family on vacation to Sligo—not far away from the border with Northern Ireland—at Classiebawn Castle in Mullaghmore. His family were well-liked by the locals and were seen as a "benevolent" presence there. One of their favorite activities in Sligo was taking out their boat to fish and enjoy the quiet together. The hobby, sadly, became the site of tragedy.

One year previously, in 1978, an IRA sniper had planned to kill Mountbatten but was unable to because of bad weather. In 1979, the IRA instead planted a 50-pound, remote-controlled bomb underneath Mountbatten's family boat. When the family boarded the boat on August 27, the bomb was detonated using the remote control, killing Mountbatten and two of his teenage grandchildren, Nicholas and Paul Maxwell. The bomb also wounded Mountbatten's daughter, her husband, her husband's mother Baroness Brabourne (who later died from her injuries at the hospital), and another son who survived.

Louis Mountbatten [& Family]

Mountbatten with family.

(Image credit: Ralph Crane)

The IRA claimed responsibility for the bombing, calling it an "execution," and also took responsibility for two roadside bombs that went off the same day 18 hours later. The roadside bombs killed 18 British troops and one civilian in Northern Ireland (later known as the Warrenpoint ambush).

The Royal Family was, of course, completely devastated. (Mountbatten remains one of the most well-known individuals to die during the conflict.) At Mountbatten's funeral, Prince Charles, who must have been particularly heartbroken, did a reading. He spoke in front of the 2,000-member congregation, saying that Mountbatten was "a constantly active brain which was never allowed a moment’s rest...There was always a new challenge to be overcome, fresh projects to be set in motion, more opposition to be defeated—all of which were pursued with a relentless and almost irresistible single-mindedness of purpose.

"Although he could certainly be ruthless with people when the occasion demanded, his infectious enthusiasm, his sheer capacity for hard work, his wit made him an irresistible leader among men," Charles added.

Because seasons three and four of The Crown were filmed back-to-back, the show's portrayal of the death of Lord Mountbatten has already been filmed in Scotland (photos from the set can be found here). Charles Dance can be seen on set with his on-screen family, friends, and crew members, including the three actors playing the two boys and the female family friend who died, in a green boat that strongly resembles the 30-foot one that the real-life Lord Mountbatten was killed on. Also filming at the time were the actors playing the IRA members who planted the bomb, who can be seen watching the family get into the boat from their vehicle.

The scene was initially thought to be in season three, but the show's producers chose to keep the death of Mountbatten to the following season. This is a season that already promises to be devastating—it will likely cover not only the breakdown of Charles' marriage, but potentially the death of Princess Diana. If "Aberfan," the standout episode of season three, is any indication, The Crown seems set to approach these real-life tragedies with great sensitivity.

Katherine J. Igoe
Contributing Editor

Katherine’s a contributing syndications editor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle. In her role, she writes stories that are syndicated by MSN and other outlets. She’s been a full-time freelancer for over a decade and has had roles with Cosmopolitan (where she covered lifestyle, culture, and fashion SEO content) and Bustle (where she was their movies and culture writer). She has bylines in New York TimesParentsInStyle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Her work has also been syndicated by ELLEHarper’s BazaarSeventeenGood Housekeeping, and Women’s Health, among others. In addition to her stories reaching millions of readers, content she's written and edited has qualified for a Bell Ringer Award and received a Communicator Award. 

Katherine has a BA in English and art history from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in art business from the Sotheby's Institute of Art (with a focus on marketing/communications). She covers a wide breadth of topics: she's written about how to find the very best petite jeanshow sustainable travel has found its footing on Instagram, and what it's like to be a professional advice-giver in the modern world. Her personal essays have run the gamut from learning to dress as a queer woman to navigating food allergies as a mom. She also has deep knowledge of SEO/EATT, affiliate revenue, commerce, and social media; she regularly edits the work of other writers. She speaks at writing-related events and podcasts about freelancing and journalism, mentors students and other new writers, and consults on coursework. Currently, Katherine lives in Boston with her husband and two kids, and you can follow her on Instagram. If you're wondering about her last name, it’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.