Friday, August 27, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Assassination of Mountbatten

A sunny day, a silver sea... And then the sound - so sharp it seemed to rend both the loveliness of the day and the Shadow V with equal callousness. Once the smoke had cleared off Mullaghmore - on this day in 1979 - three were dead and four were seriously wounded; a day later and the numbers had reversed. Thomas McMahon and 50 pounds of IRA mortar had done their worst.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIn the end, her cousin Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma - 'Dickie' to his friends - was the closest Ireland's homegrown terrorists could get to the Queen; mourned as the father he'd never had by both her husband the Duke of Edinburgh and her son and heir the Prince of Wales the Royal Family, upper lips stiff as sailcloth, kept its course.

Also killed in the blast was a teenaged boat boy named Paul Maxwell, as well as one of Mountbatten's twin grandsons, Nicholas Knatchbull, and the Dowager Baroness Brabourne - Mountbatten's daughter's elderly mother-in-law, who died the following day. At the same time it was assassinating Mountbatten the IRA was carrying out what has come to be known as the Warrenpoint Ambush, during which eighteen British soldiers from the Parachute Regiment were killed.

England may have lost one of her most decorated statesmen that day, but she also gained a legend - a knight, fallen on the field of battle, one of the first to occur not at some distant remove of history but in an entirely modern context; that he had fallen at sea served only to make the tale more quintessentially English. A memorial service for Mountbatten - held at Dublin's St. Patrick's Cathedral - was attended by Ireland's President, Patrick Hillery, and Taoiseach, Jack Lynch; his state funeral, meanwhile, was held at Westminster Abbey, and he was later interred at Romsey Abbey.
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