Lord Mountbatten, The Last Viceroy: A Review [2 of 2]

The primary feature of of Radcliffe’s boundary line divided Amritsar, now in India, from Lahore, which went to Pakistan. By and large it followed major administrative divisions, although it did meander between villages in the Kasur region southeast of Lahore.
The two most controversial elements of this line involved Gurdaspur and Ferozepore. Pakistani critics interpreted Radcliffe’s decision to grant most of Gurdaspur District to India as an attempt to provide India with a land link to Kashmir. As one element of the beginnings of the Kashmir conflict, this allegation remains controversial even today.



by Patrick L. Cooney


 Cyril Radcliff, the chairman of the Partition Committee, is given only five weeks to decides on where the boundaries between east and west Pakistan and India will be.  This is a difficult decision because it has to weave back and forth between pre-dominant Muslim and pre-dominant Hindu villages.  The boundaries will not be revealed until after independence has been declared.

One other problem.  Mountbatten agrees that Independence Day will be August 14 at midnight instead of August 15 because the astrologers have said that August 15 is not a propitious dead.


Delhi, August 14, 1947.  At the stroke of midnight, independence begins.  There is a big independence celebration. Mountbatten is now the Earl and Edwina is the Countess Mountbatten of Burma.  Another change is that the Viceroy House is the Government House.  Mountbatten is invited again to be the Governor-General of India.  Gandhi is upset by independence.  He says that he will observe the day as a day of mourning.  The crowds celebrating the day are so huge that Mountbatten and Edwina cannot get to the platform for the flag-raising ceremony.

Calcutta becomes a big problem.  It might erupt in religious violence at any moment.  Gandhi agrees to stay in Calcutta if the local Muslim leader will live with him in his house.  The man agrees.

Mountbatten presents the new boundaries and everyone is shocked.  The Sikhs are particularly worried because five million of their people live in Pakistan while another five million live in India.   They are given a status report by Field Marshal Auchinleck,  Every village along a 50 mile stretch on either side of the border is on fire.  Ten percent of Lahore has been destroyed. 200,000 people are living in refugee camps.  Four to five million people are on the move between Pakistan and India.

Edwina continues with her nursing efforts.  She is almost fearless.   She goes into many dangerous areas.  In Pakistan she virtually bullies a Pakistani officer into starting to treat decently the Hindus under his charge. 

Mountbatten and others are worried that Gandhi will leave Calcutta.  If he does, everything will blow up in their faces.  Gandhi goes on a hunger strike to protest the religious violence in Calcutta.  This leads to a significant reduction in the violence in Calcutta as all the city leaders agree to stop the religious violence.  This is soon called “the miracle of Calcutta.”

Nehru speaks to Mountbatten about taking the exhausted Edwina with him to Simla for rest and relaxation.  But before he gets away, Mr. Jinnah suddenly shows up.  He wants Mountbatten’s help with the Indian leaders.  Jinnah finds them to be unhelpful, maintaining a lack of communication with him and interfering in the affairs of Pakistan.  Mountbatten replies that now he is an Indian and can only advise, not command.  He then tells Jinnah he is headed for Simla.


Mountbatten is relaxing at Simla.  Vee Pee calls him to say that things are getting out of hand in Delhi.  Delhi is out of control and in chaos.  Mountbatten says that it is not his business anymore and says he is not coming to Delhi.  Vee Pee shames him by saying that if Delhi is lost then all of India will be lost.  Mountbatten and Edwina come to Delhi.  Nehru and Patel appoint him to lead the task force to save Delhi.  Mountbatten agrees.

The main problem in Delhi is that there is three-quarters of a million refugees in Delhi.  There is not enough food or medical supplies for them.  Mountbatten suggests that marauders and looters will be shot on sight and that weapons will be banned.

Edwina and Nehru take a look at the waves of refugees on the move.  Nehru tells Edwina that he has learned friendship from her husband and love from her.  They both agree that any other time than the current one things would have been different.

A train arrives in Calcutta.  All the passengers have been killed.  The Hindus on the platform are shocked and then some of them start attacking the Muslims on the platform.  At this time Gandhi arrives and puts a stop to the violence.  He promises not to leave Calcutta while religious violence looms overhead.

Delhi is nearing a condition of anarchy.  They only have food for two more days.  The hospitals are being attacked by religious fanatics.  Edwina works on setting up a United Council for Relief and Welfare that combines both Hindus and Muslim resources to handle all the health and welfare issues.

News arrive that Pathan tribesmen have attacked Kashmir with the intent to annex it to Pakistan.  Nehru declares this an act of war on part of Pakistan.  But Mountbatten urges that they wait until they find out real situation in Kashmir.  He says there is no proof that Jinnah is behind the aggression.  (We soon learn that Jinnah was behind it all.)

Mountbatten sends Vee Pee to talk with the Maharajah of Kashmir to get him to decide on whether he wants to be in India or Pakistan.  The Maharajah decides to go with India.  Now Mountbatten feels it is alright to send troops into Kashmir.  He also sends Auchinleck to talk with Jinnah about the consequences of the aggression in Kashmir.

Nehru is ill.  Mountbatten and Edwina pay him a visit.  The now reinforced troops in Kashmir are able to stop any farther inroads into Kashmir and are starting to push them back. They can all breathe again.  Mountbatten leaves as he has a lot of work to do and tells Edwina to stay with Nehru.


Jinnah wants to talk to Mountbatten about Kashmir becoming a part of India. With Lord Ismay, Mountbatten travels to Jinnah, who tells him that Pakistan will not recognize Kashmir as part of India.  Mountbatten says that the invading tribes had their chance, but they threw their victory away.

India bans 'Nehru and Mountbatten love scenes' from film

A film on the nature of Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten’s relationship has been shelved by Hollywood producers.  Their relationship is still hotly contested. In India, many prefer to believe the “lonely widower” and the adventurous Vicereine were devoted but platonic friends.

Edwina sees Nehru again and he tells her that he is feeling better.

The head of the Congress Party has resigned.   Mountbatten observes that if Gandhi’s candidate becomes the next president, Gandhi will be the leader, but if Nehru and Patel’s candidate is the next president, it means that Gandhi is no longer the leader.

Religious violence continues.  And the situation is still bad in Kashmir.  Tribesmen are still being sent into Kashmir in order to take it from India.  Mountbatten suggests that they refer the matter to the United Nations, but this does not appeal to Nehru or Patel.  Instead, they decide to cut-off any further monetary funds going to Pakistan.  This infuriates Gandhi who says that a sacred promise has been broken and he goes on a hunger strike.

He says that seven conditions must be met before he will end the strike, among these being the resumption of monetary funds going to Pakistan.  Gandhi has all his supporters very worried because his kidneys begin to fail.  Mountbatten and Edwina visit him, along with other leaders, including Nehru and Patel.  Nehru gives up and agrees to resume sending funds to Pakistan.  Gandhi ends his hunger strike.

Patel tells Gandhi that he is going to resign because Nehru is pushing him out of the picture.  Gandhi tells him not to resign and that the three men will get together and end the friction.  Gandhi walks outside amongst the gathered throng.  An assassin shoots him three times in the chest and Gandhi dies.  The assassin turns out to be one of the extremist Hindus (and, more importantly, is not a Muslim).  With Mountbatten’s help, Nehru and Patel hug each other.

Mountbatten is going home.  He wants to be First Lord of the Admiralty and that means he must get re-started on that career path.  Edwina is very upset.  When they first married, she was happy to play the loyal wife and a helper to her husband.  But in India she has come into her own.

Her husband agrees that her work has been very important and that she is surely loved in India for her great humanitarian efforts.  But he tells her that he cannot leave her in India while he goes back to Britain.  She is very sad, but she agrees to go with him.  Nehru gives them a grand send-off and deeply thanks both of them for their wonderful work.


Good movie.  My wife and I enjoyed it, although at times some of the political maneuverings were a bit hard to follow. (But with a DVD you can always go back and repeat the scenes or stop the action to see maps.)  A different version of the relationship between Nehru and Edwinais presented in the movie Jinnah (1998).  But regardless of their personal affairs, Mountbatten and Edwina set a wonderful example of outstanding human beings.


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