Edwina was buried at sea in 1960, as per her will—a tribute to Mountbatten’s naval career. British frigate Wakeful which carried her body to the sea off Spithead, a channel off southern England, was escorted by an Indian frigate Trishul—such importance India under Nehru gave her. Contrast this with the treatment meted out by Nehru to Sardar Patel, Netaji Subhas, Dr Ambedkar and Dr Rajendra Prasad after their death—that we covered above!

Going by several books and material on the web, including Alex Von Tunzelmann’s ‘Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire’, while Mountbatten had several affairs, Edwina was from a rich family, indulged herself, and had many lovers—Nehru was one in that series. But, was Edwina very good looking? Hardly, though she was white- skinned—something brown sahibs bent down to. Tunzelmann writes:
“…‘Please keep this to yourselves but she [Edwina] and Jawaharlal are so sweet together,’ he [Mountbatten] wrote to his elder daughter, Patricia. ‘They really dote on each other in the nicest way and Pammy and I are doing everything we can to be tactful and help… And so Edwina and Jawahar walked together among the wild strawberry bushes during the days and drove with Pamela along winding roads to the brightly lit town of Shimla in the evenings…”
“…‘Nehru in those days was having a roaring love affair with Lady Mountbatten,’ added Bakhtiar, ‘said to be with the tacit approval of Mountbatten.’” Further, “Jinnah had been handed a small collection of letters that had been written by Edwina and Jawahar. ‘Dickie [Mountbatten] will be out tonight—come after 10.00 o’clock,’ said one of Edwina’s. Another revealed that ‘You forgot your handkerchief and before Dickie could spot it I covered it up.’ A third said ‘I have fond memories of Simla—riding and your touch.’” (Incidentally, Jinnah did not use the letters.).                                                                                                                                               [In 1948] “…Nehru was officially received at Heathrow, but his first action after that was to go to the Mountbattens’ small flat… For Edwina, his midnight visit was ‘too lovely’. The very next day, she drove him to Broadlands [Edwina’s secluded country house]. Dickie tactfully ensured that he would be absent for much of the time at Dartmouth… ‘Edwina will be awaiting you,’ he wrote to Jawahar. The two of them [Nehru- Edwina], alone at last in the privacy of her estate, were able to talk, laugh and cry together, to embrace and to press each other’s hands on walks by the river. Even after Dickie turned up, the weekend was a great success, so much so that Jawahar changed his plans so that he might return the following weekend as well…”
“…Whenever he [Nehru] was in Britain for a conference or diplomatic visit, he would stay with Edwina at Broadlands. During these sojourns, Dickie [Mountbatten] would remove himself to their London address…”

When Edwina died in an Indonesian Hotel in Borneo on 21 February 1960, a number of letters were found strewn around her—said to be the love letters of Nehru!

Wrote Nehru’s secretary M.O. ‘Mac’ Mathai: “One thing that I could not fail to notice was that whenever Nehru stood by the side of Lady Mountbatten, he had a sense of triumph.”

MO Mathai also wrote: “Once, at a reception at the India House in London, to which Attlee and several other dignitaries came, Nehru stood in a corner chatting with Lady Mountbatten all the while. Krishna Menon turned to me and said that people were commenting on it and requested me to break in so that Nehru could move about.”

Wrote Rustamji:
“JN [Jawaharlal Nehru] had the typical Indian weakness of being impressed by foreign women—white women—they were his favourite.”
“On a visit to Assam, he [Nehru] asked me to ensure that the orchids he ordered in Shillong reached Lady Mountbatten in London safely.”

Stanley Wolpert personally watched Edwina and Nehru together at a function in New Delhi, and wrote:
“I was surprised at how cheerful Nehru appeared that evening and how like adolescent lovers he [Nehru] and Edwina behaved, touching, whispering into each other’s ears, laughing, holding hands. …Lord Mountbatten himself often referred to Nehru’s correspondence with his wife as love letters, knowing better than anyone but Nehru how much Edwina adored her handsome ‘Jawaha’, as she lovingly called him. This was why Nehru’s daughter Indira hated her…”

Reportedly, Nehru used to go to London to be with Edwina almost every year, or she used to come to India, and stay with him—after independence. Also, reportedly, one of the jobs of Krishna Menon as High Commissioner in London, for which he used to gladly volunteer, was to receive Nehru at
the airport at any hour and drive him down to Edwina’s secluded country house—Broadlands—where Nehru and Edwina could enjoy complete privacy.

Wrote Stanley Wolpert:
“Nehru flew off again to London… Krishna Menon was waiting with the Rolls, as usual, at London’s airport and drove him back to Edwina shortly before midnight… Indira was upset by her father’s unrelenting obsession with ‘that Mountbatten lady’!”
“Jawahar tried to talk Edwina into staying on with him after Dickie [Mountbatten] flew home [in June 1948], for he knew by now that her heart belonged to him alone. Mountbatten, of course, also ‘knew that they were lovers’, as did all of their close friends. Edwina’s sister Mary hated Nehru for it… Still he wanted her, needed her, pleaded with her…”

MJ Akbar writes about the encounter of Russi Mody, once the Chief Executive of Tata Steel, with Nehru at Nainital where Nehru was staying with his father and UP Governor, Sir Homi Mody.
“Sir Homi was very pukka, and when the gong sounded at eight he instructed his son to go to the Prime Minister’s bedroom and tell him dinner was ready. Russi Mody marched up, opened the door and saw Jawaharlal and Edwina in a clinch. Jawaharlal looked at Russi Mody and grimaced. Russi quickly shut the door and walked out.”

Wrote K Natwar Singh: “I once asked Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Nehru’s sister, if the rumours about her brother having an affair with Edwina Mountbatten were true. She was herself a diva and uninhibited in her conversation. She said to me: ‘Of course he did. And good for him.’”

Nehru’s correspondence with Edwina contained matters of national importance, for he used to share his thinking with her. Hence, they are of vital historical importance, and not just something that are merely personal —of no consequence. Yet they are being treated as if they are the personal property of the Dynasty, and are being kept a closely guarded secret. Wolpert mentions in the preface to his book ‘Nehru: A Tryst with Destiny’ he tried to access the letters, but failed.
While one doesn’t really care for the personal side of it—considering they were two consenting adults—could such relationship have compromised Nehru or India’s political cause in any way?

Edwina Mountbatten, about whose relationship with Nehru a lot has been written, would have most likely persuaded Nehru to go by the counsel of Mountbatten and take the Kashmir matter to the UN, but one can’t be sure. Maulana Azad, a pro- Nehru person, expressed bewilderment in his autobiography as to how a person like Jawaharlal was won over by Lord Mountbatten; mentions Nehru’s weakness of being impulsive and amenable to personal influences, and wonders if Lady Mountbatten factor was responsible.

Reportedly, Mountbatten himself admitted that he used his wife to get an insight into Nehru’s mind and, where needed, influence Nehru when he failed to bring him round to his view. Philip Zeigler, Mountbatten’s biographer, stated that Mountbatten encouraged loving relationship between his wife and Nehru—to this end.

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