Lord Louis Mountbatten ("Dickie" to his friends; full name: Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, wow) is an important historical figure. As depicted in The Crown, Lord Mountbatten was uncle to Prince Philip and, as great-uncle to Prince Charles, acted as a sort of mentor to the king-to-be. He even had an influence on Charles' relationship with Camilla Shand, although exactly how much influence is up for debate. As played by Greg Wise in seasons one and two and the inimitable Charles Dance in seasons 3 and 4 (whom you'll no doubt remember as Tywin from Game of Thrones and does just as impressive a job here), Lord Mountbatten's impact on the Royal Family was immense. So what do we know about the real Lord Mountbatten?
He was a military man.
Mountbatten was a German aristocrat who was the grandson of Queen Victoria. The family endured anti-German sentiment and so, in 1917, changed their name from Battenberg to Mountbatten to sound more British.
Like his father, Mountbatten was heavily involved in military service: He was educated at the Royal Naval College and joined the Royal Navy. He saw action in both World War I and World War II, the latter much more significantly. He was appointed the last viceroy of British India and ultimately was named chief of the defence staff before he ultimately retired in 1965.
He had a close relationship with Charles.
The two sent letters back and forth as the young Charles was growing up—some speculate Charles may have found it easier to confide in his great-uncle than his mother and father—and, since Charles also went into the military, the two were able to connect on their shared profession as well.
Most famously, Mountbatten counseled Charles on his love life and encouraged Charles that "sowing some wild oats" might be a good idea in his position. He also discouraged Charles away from Camilla in favor of someone who might not have a past. "I think it is disturbing for women to have experiences if they have to remain on a pedestal after marriage," he wrote to Charles, which seems...counterintuitive, now, but very well may have influenced Charles' later decision to court Diana.
During Charles' relationship with Camilla, he was sent overseas on assignment, which some speculate was really Mountbatten's effort to break up the couple, since he had such military influence. Either way, the separation did take its toll on the couple, and Camilla went on to marry Andrew Parker Bowles.
He plays a prominent role in season three.
Spoilers for The Crown. Mountbatten is presented as a kind of second father to Charles, as well as an integral part of the royal family. His relationship with Charles figures much more in season three than, say, Philip's relationship with Charles, which is for the most part glossed over. He's considered a member of the royal family's inner circle, in other words.
Like Philip, Mountbatten is concerns about the future of the royal family. This is most obvious in the latter half of the season, when he teams up with the Queen Mother to hatch a plan to split up Charles and Camilla, a woman he deems "unsuitable" (that part is true—he thought Camilla had had too many romantic entanglements, which, ugh, but there was probably no plot with the Queen Mother). Mountbatten is shown to be a guiding force in the breakup of Charles and Camilla, which foreshadows the devastation that's to come as Charles and Camilla come together again and again—during both of their marriages to other people, and after Charles' divorce from Princess Diana—although Charles never realizes onscreen that Mountbatten himself has as much influence as he does over Charles' relationship, instead blaming the royals as a whole.
We can expect season four to show Mountbatten's tragic death at the hands of the IRA (it's already been filmed, in fact), and how devastated Charles was by his beloved mentor's passing.
His death was a blow to the entire family.
Mountbatten died suddenly and tragically, assassinated by the IRA in 1979. The bomb blast also killed three other family members and was a shock to the entire Royal Family. At the family, Charles did a reading and spoke about his uncle and mentor:
"...a constantly active brain which was never allowed a moment’s rest...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."
And his unhappiness was evident all over his face as he and his father watched Mountbatten's coffin being led away:
Although their relationship might have been complex, Charles clearly felt very close to his mentor and friend.
For more stories like this, including celebrity news, beauty and fashion advice, savvy political commentary, and fascinating features, sign up for the Marie Claire newsletter.