‘One of worst days of her reign’—Queen’s ‘grief etched on her face’ after royal tragedy

Lord Mountbatten’s assassination shocks royal family in 1979

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Lord Louis Mountbatten died at the age of 79 when a bomb was detonated on his fishing boat. The 1st Earl of Burma was enjoying his annual summer break with his family in County Sligo. On the morning of August 27, 1979, he headed out on his boat, Shadow V, for a day of lobster-potting and tuna fishing. 

However, unbeknownst to him, the night before IRA member Thomas McMahon had planted a radio-controlled bomb on the vessel. 

Mountbatten’s boat was only a couple hundred metres from the shore when the bomb was detonated. 

The royal was pulled from the water alive but was pronounced dead once he reached land. 

His 14-year-old grandson Nicholas Knatchbull was also killed in the blast, along with a 14-year-old local crew member named Paul Maxwell.

Mountbatten’s elder daughter Patricia, Lady Brabourne, her husband Lord Brabourne, Nicholas’ twin brother Timothy and Lord Brabourne’s mother Doreen, Dowager Lady Brabourne all sustained severe injuries.

Doreen, 83, died in hospital the following day. 

About an hour after the deadly detonation, news of the bombing reached Balmoral Castle, the Scottish retreat of Queen Elizabeth II. 

Royal aides informed Her Majesty that her second cousin had been killed. 

Wesley Kerr OBE, royal commentator and historian, said the incident would have “affected the Queen very profoundly” and described the monarch as having “grief etched on her face”. 

During the 2021 Channel 5 documentary ‘The Murder of Lord Mountbatten: 3 Days that Shook Britain’, Mr Kerr said: “To lose this beloved family member in such a horrific way, I think this must have affected the Queen very profoundly.

“This must have been one of the worst days of the Queen’s reign.”

He continued: “To have that grief served up in front of everybody…must have been difficult.”

Dr Andrew Lownie, royal author and historian, added: “She would have been absolutely appalled.

“She was very close to Pamela [Mountbatten’s younger daughter] and Patricia. She’d grown up with them. They were roughly the same age. 

“She would have known all the people on the boat apart from Paul Maxwell.

“And, of course, it would have shown how vulnerable she and her own family might be.”

Mr Kerr described the funeral, which was held nine days later at Westminster Abbey, he said “you could see the grief etched” on the monarch’s face. 

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The Royal Family, government officials and foreign dignitaries gathered at the London church to honour the life of the well-respected royal. 

His coffin, draped in a Union Jack, was processed through the streets of London and marching alongside were members of the British Armed Forces, as well as representatives from Burma, India, the United States, Canada and France. 

Mountbatten had laid out most of the arrangements for his funeral a few years before the assassination. 

In fact, the royal had given great thought to his death and had even filmed footage for his own obituary. 

In a BBC tribute to the Earl, Mountbatten said: “I think it’s an awful thing, to be sad at funerals. 

“I hope people won’t cry. They must remember that all my life I’ve enjoyed a joke. 

“I’ve enjoyed the fun of life, and I’m going to enjoy the fun of dying.

“And I’m only sorry I won’t be there to see the fun of the funeral.”

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