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Website Last Updated - 06 Feb 2016

(from Sept 2006)

Lord Louis Mountbatten

Viceroy of India

Now the War was over, Mountbatten - who held the substantive rank of only a Captain, wanted to return to the sea. It was his life, and he was told that he would be appointed to command the 1st Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean Fleet, following the successful completion of a Senior Officers’ Technical Course at Portsmouth - but he had more challenges ahead of him.  However, the politics of the post-War world were changing and his talents were called upon to fulfil another job - and he was summonsed to Downing Street by the then Prime Minister - The Rt Hon. Clement Attlee, (later The Rt Hon. The 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC (1883-1967)) to be the next (and last) Viceroy of India. For it was to Mountbatten, that the British Government chose to take on the task of bringing the British Raj to an end and give the people of India the freedom they desired. Of course, with a country of over 400 million inhabitants, how to please all the different religious, civil and Princely leaders - seemed an impossible job. He understood that there was a real chance of failure and failure was not something that Mountbatten had ever experienced.  

With some trepidation, he accepted the post - but demanded plenipotentiary powers (ie: to act completely independently of the British Government’s India Office), which Attlee agreed to.  It seemed right to all that the cousin of the King-Emperor, and himself a great-grandson of Queen Victoria, (1819(1837-1901) would be the last Viceroy, and supervise the sunset of the British Empire, which the British Government had stated must end by June 1948. Mountbatten said at the time - “I want you to regard me not as the last Viceroy winding up the British Raj, but as the first to lead the way to a new India”. Mountbatten arrived in Delhi on 22nd March 1947 and was sworn into office 2 days later, in a ceremony of Vice-regal pageantry not seen for many years. Mountbatten’s presence was felt from day one, and Mountbatten set to establish dialogue and contact with all the key figures of Indian politics.

A short film (no audio) by Pathé

of Mountbatten being sworn in as Viceroy of India

Mountbatten with Edwina

as Viceroy & Vicereine of India

following their swearing in ceremony -

the first time it was seen by the mass public in India

On 4th June 1947, Mountbatten held a press conference and took his own staff completely by surprise and suddenly announced his idea for the solution of India, with a date of full transfer of powers to take place on 15th August 1947. So instead of fifteen months, they had a matter of just 10 weeks to arrange the mammoth task. Although Mountbatten had always wanted to hand over a unified India, it became clear that the only acceptable solution was to create a separate independent Pakistan in addition to an independent India.

Governor-General of India