We present a book talk by author Andrew Lownie on his book published 22nd August 2019 to tie in with the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Earl Mountbatten. The talk will be introduced by John Lee.
Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900-1979) is one of the major British historical figures of the twentieth century and a central figure in The Crown.
As one obituary noted, ‘It seemed almost unbelievable that one human being could have touched the history of our century at so many points’. Head of Combined Operations, a Member of the Chiefs of Staff and then Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in South East Asia during World War Two, the last Viceroy and first Governor General of India, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Defence Staff, member of the Royal Family and mentor of Prince Philip and Prince Charles: his life provides an opportunity to look at the most important and controversial issues of the last century.
His biography cannot be told without also examining that of his wife Edwina, the richest heiress in the world when they married, whose aimless pre-war life of multiple lovers found new purpose during World War Two and afterwards with her humanitarian work.
Though each individual has had an authorised life, this is the first full independent life, based on extensive research in their archives, and the first joint biography providing a dual portrait of two of the most glamorous figures of their time. It is a study of a marriage which, whilst beset with infidelities, was a loving one where each needed the other. It attempts to humanize these glamorous and sometimes heroic figures to show their vulnerabilities and explain both his ruthlessness and vanity and her search to find some purpose in her life.
It is a rich story whose characters include: all the key figures of the Second World War from Churchill, Macmillan, Eden, Montgomery to Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Stilwell and Chiang Kai-Shek; The Royal Family from the Duke of Windsor and George VI to the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles; Barbara Cartland , Charlie Chaplin, Agatha Christie, Noel Coward, Joan Crawford, Salvador Dali, Tom Driberg, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, George Gershwin, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Merle Oberon and Laurens van der Post.
Andrew Lownie was educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he was Dunster History Prizeman and President of the Union, before studying for a Masters and Doctorate in history at Edinburgh University. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and former Cambridge history fellow, he has run his own literary agency since 1988. He formerly served in the Naval Reserve.
He has written for numerous papers and magazines, including the Times, Sunday Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Mail, Spectator, New Statesman, The Age, Wall Street Journal, BBC History Magazine, History Today and Scotland on Sunday.
His books include lives of the writer John Buchan and the spy Guy Burgess. Stalin’s Englishman was a Book/Biography of the Year in the Times, Guardian, Spectator, BBC History Magazine and Daily Mail and won the St Ermin’s Hotel Intelligence Prize, the premier intelligence book award in the English-speaking world. It was also optioned by the makers of Sherlock for a drama.