Anger over ‘grotesque abuse’ of £600,000 case to keep Mountbatten papers secret

1 year ago 121

The Cabinet Office has been accused of a “grotesque abuse” of nationalist funds successful a state of accusation conflict implicit the idiosyncratic diaries of Lord and Lady Mountbatten successful which costs are present expected to transcend £600,000.

Andrew Lownie, the writer and historian, has fought a four-year ineligible conflict implicit the papers that are successful an archive saved for the federation aft a fundraising campaign. They are present held astatine Southampton University.

The assemblage initially blocked the merchandise of the diaries and correspondence betwixt the Mountbattens covering humanities events from the abdication of Edward VIII to the independency of India, aft seeking proposal from the Cabinet Office.

Lownie, writer of a 2019 biography of the Mountbattens, has successfully forced the merchandise of the immense bulk of papers. The Cabinet Office and the assemblage are inactive warring Lownie successful an accusation tribunal implicit the worldly not yet released.

Lownie’s ineligible costs for the lawsuit and an entreaty proceeding owed to beryllium heard adjacent week are present astatine astir £350,000. His ineligible squad says a “conservative estimate” for the full ineligible costs for the Cabinet Office, assemblage and the Information Commissioner’s Office is £300,000.

Lord David Owen, the erstwhile overseas caput who has near his ain archive of papers to Liverpool University, said: “This has been a grotesque maltreatment of nationalist money. It’s an perfectly disgraceful interference by the authorities and Mr Lownie should beryllium paid backmost his costs.”

Mountbatten, who was calved to the German Battenberg family, became 1 of the astir trusted advisers to the royal household and was a mentor to Prince Charles. He and his wife, Edwina, were influential figures successful London nine successful the 1920s, mixing with the royal household and Hollywood stars specified arsenic Charlie Chaplin and Fred Astaire. They some had affairs during their matrimony and their idiosyncratic lives were described arsenic “messy and complex”.

Mahatma Gandhi with the Mountbattens successful  New Delhi successful  1947.
Mahatma Gandhi with the Mountbattens successful New Delhi successful 1947. Photograph: ullstein bild Dtl./ullstein bild/Getty Images

Mountbatten served arsenic the past viceroy successful India. Edwina struck up a adjacent relationship with Jawaharlal Nehru, the archetypal premier curate of autarkic India, and determination was speculation they had an affair.

Mountbatten was main of the defence staff, caput of the equipped forces successful Britain, from 1959 to 1965. He was assassinated successful August 1979 by a weaponry planted connected his sportfishing vessel successful County Sligo, Ireland.

Lownie, who is raising funds for the lawsuit connected the ineligible backing website CrowdJustice, said: “These diaries and the correspondence incorporate fantastic item and are a unsocial and invaluable penetration into immoderate of the astir important humanities events of the past century.

“The authorities and the assemblage person gone from a presumption wherever thing could beryllium released to wherever astir everything tin beryllium released. We privation to effort and retrieve our costs, but they inactive haven’t admitted the crippled is up.”

The diaries covering the play from 1920 to 1968 are portion of a larger postulation of 4,500 boxes of documents and photographs, known arsenic the Broadlands Archives, which were kept for years astatine the Mountbattens’ Hampshire estate. They see the papers of the 19th-century premier curate Lord Henry Palmerston and 1,200 letters from Queen Victoria.

The documents were moved connected indebtedness to Southampton University successful 1989 done an statement with Trustees of the Broadlands Archive, a Mountbatten household trust. The trustees subsequently decided to merchantability the archive and they were saved for the nation successful 2011 with a £2m assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Lownie requested entree to the Mountbattens’ diaries and correspondence successful 2017, but was told the papers were sealed connected proposal from the Cabinet Office. The Information Commissioner’s Office ruled successful December 2019 that the documents should beryllium released, but the university, supported by the government, appealed.

Rupert Earle, a spouse astatine ineligible steadfast Bates Wells who is acting for Lownie, said: “The documents were transferred to the assemblage connected the ground they would beryllium unfastened to the public, but the Cabinet Office has a default mounting of secrecy. It has been an outrageous discarded of nationalist money.”

The Cabinet Office has precocious faced disapproval implicit its effect to state of accusation requests. The Information Commissioner’s Office says it is the astir complained astir nationalist authorization successful narration to the legislation.

The Cabinet Office said it is not due to remark during ineligible proceedings, but has said successful parliamentary effect that Mountbatten accepted his diaries should not disclosed without archetypal being vetted. Officials are inactive deciding whether to merchandise details of the government’s ineligible costs.

A Southampton University spokesperson said: “99.8% of the Broadlands Archives, which dwell of 4,500 boxes, is publically disposable and accessed regularly by researchers globally arsenic an invaluable historical resource.

“ We were directed [in 2011] to support a tiny fig of the papers closed until different advised.”