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(from Sept 2006)

Scandal

Despite infidelities on both sides, the Mountbattens remained together - anything else would be scandal and threaten their position in society.  The couple were an influential match, his looks and Royal pedigree, her looks and wealth, and an invitation to a party hosted by the Mountbattens would mean mixing with rising politicians, theatre and film stars including Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939) or Sir Noël Coward (1899-1973).

In May 1930, Edwina attended the opening night of a new production of Shakespeare’s “Othello”, starring the black American actor Paul Robeson (1898-1976), who fascinated Edwina and she subsequently introduced him to London society, but gossips suggested that she and Robeson were lovers. Robeson’s wife was to say - “it is most incredible that people should be linking Paul's name with that of a famous titled Englishwoman, since she is just about the one person in England we don't know.” Rumours continue to spread throughout society which caused Robeson’s own marriage to flounder, especially when it became known that he indeed had a brief affair with his leading lady - Dame Peggy Ashcroft, DBE (1907-1991).   




Paul Robeson as “Othello”

There was of course some truth to the rumours as Edwina was having an affair with a “man of colour” but it was not Robeson. Edwina - despite the certain controversy, had became friends with the Grenadian black singer Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson (1900-1969), who was an immensely popular entertainer and a favourite of Mountbatten’s cousin “David” (Prince Edward, The Prince of Wales - subsequently King Edward VIII (1894(1936)1972) and later the Duke of Windsor).  However the newspaper “The People” printed an article hinting that “one of the leading hostesses in the country, a woman highly connected and immensely rich...” who had been “associating with a coloured man...” were ”caught in compromising circumstances”. The article went on to indicate that the said hostess had been forced to leave the country for a few years to let the scandal “blow over” and that “a quarter which cannot be ignored” (ie. Buckingham Palace) had forced the hostess to leave England.”


The Mountbattens took “The People” newspaper to Court and sued for libel, explaining that as Mountbatten was a serving officer in the Royal Navy, stationed in Malta - the fact that Edwina had come to Malta could be nothing more than a loving wife, joining her husband.  “Hutch” never recovered from the Court case, as he could not understand how Edwina could deny knowing him, despite many people seeing him at her parties. Of course Mountbatten was concerned that this controversy would affect his chances of promotion and risked their much needed connection to the Court. Mountbatten’s marriage at this time became strained and behind closed doors, perhaps was on the verge of collapse.


Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson

Edwina, Countess Mountbatten of Burma

Scandal 2