Battle of the Courtiers? A grudge-match beyond death: Lord Lambton vs Lord Mountbatten

photo 1 (17) The Mountbattens by Antony Lambton (1973, 1979, 1989 & ‘The Canadian Publishers’)

Lord Lambton vs. Lord Mountbatten

Three years into Edward Heath’s run as Prime Minister, on 22 May 1973  Minister Lord Lambton, Parliamentary under secretary for Defence (RAF) resigned as Conservative MP for Berwick-Upon-Tweed, his constituency for almost 22 years. This triggered a by-election which the Liberal party’s Alan Beith won, (who’d previously fought Lambton and lost in 1970 election) joining the small number of Liberal MPs that  as the ‘joke’ went, could all fit in a taxi together

Lambton’s scandal was exposed in the News of the World with smoky sepia-tint photos of him in bed with two prostitutes, (presumably as a result of the night photo lens Colin Levy the shadowy special services executive married to S&M prostitute Norma)

“In May 1973 he was exposed by conman Colin Levy, who used a camera hidden behind a peephole in a mirror to photograph the peer in bed with the conman’s prostitute wife Norma Levy, 26, and another woman Kim Pinder, at their flat in Maida Vale. Audio recordings were made using a microphone hidden in a teddy bear’s nose next to Norma’s bed.

It emerged that Norma, known as The Nun, had been part of a 15-strong ring of prostitutes run by society madam Jean Horn, whose clients included Lord Jellicoe, Leader of the House of Lords, who was also forced to resign” [Sex Scandal Lord’s family at war over Lambton estate (Daily Express 11 October 2013)]

“Lambton’s edition of The Recollections of Three Reigns by Queen Victoria’s secretary Sir Frederick Ponsonby ruffled a few feathers by asserting that the new breed of courtiers — drawn from the Services and “insecure in their social position”— was “less effective” than that drawn from the “best families in England”.

But his carefully researched first part of a two-volume study, The Mountbattens (1989), drew widespread criticism for its acerbic portrayal of Earl Mountbatten as a bemedalled social climber who lied about his German ancestry to enhance his claims to royal status. Lambton was persuaded not to persist with the proposed second volume, which was to have dealt with Mountbatten’s career.” (Daily Telegraph Obituary of Lord Lambton, 2 Jan 2007)

“The final by-election triumph, at Berwick-on-Tweed, symbolised my personal attitude to electioneering – and also signalled the end of the road for the Liberal euphoria wagon. The seat became vacant, it will be remembered, because Lord Lambton, the Tory, resigned after being involved in a tawdry affair with London prostitutes. The morality issue was, however, never raised by the Liberals in the campaign, as far as I am aware, and when I spoke there I was determined to ignore it: I do not believe in the politics of the smear. A man’s private life is his own affair.” (Big Cyril, Cyril Smith, p148 published 1978)

‘We won the Berwick seat, and its victor, Alan Beith is arguably the best Parliamentarian at Westminster.” (ibid, p.149)

However, newspapers outside the UK were at the time reporting an international ‘vice’ ring supplying young boys to men in London, Paris and other European capitals [British Sex Scandal may involve others, The Gadsden Times, 22 May 1973]

At no 58 Hamilton Terrace, St John’s Wood, in a road behind Abbey Road Studios (the Abbey was Kilburn Abbey) and  just across the Edgware Road from Little Venice, although very much on the side of Maida Vale), Lord Lambton and his wife Bindy and their children had moved into the art-deco former house of Bindy’s aunt Freda Dudley Ward, the mistress of the Prince of Wales (Edward the Abdicator in 1936) from 1918 – 1923. The year the Lambtons moved in was 1966, also the year Savile first claimed to have made Mountbatten’s acquaintance. Bindy had set about redecorating, having a splendid butterfly shaped swimming pool installed. Seven years later Antony Lambton was to be caught at no 9 Marlborough Court (virtually across the road in a turning off Edgware Road opposite Maida Vale station). While he certainly believed in straying, Lambton didn’t believe on straying far when it came to distance.

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“On about their fifth meeting, she reveals for the first time, he arranged for a handsome young male prostitute, aged about 20, to join them, and asked her to watch him have sex with the man.

I still feel a little embarrassed about that,’ she drawls, sipping strong black coffee. ‘I wasn’t used to seeing two men having sex. I think he was bisexual. But mostly he just liked to smoke pot, and there was a bit of conversation. You know what? We didn’t really have much sex.‘” [Call girl who nearly toppled government, Daily Mail, 26 January 2007)

The story of Freda Dudley Ward, Bindy’s aunt is an interesting tale in itself, setting up the Four Feathers youth charity nearby on behalf of the Prince and run as a Prince of Wales (three feathers being the fur-de-lys of the plumed crown) venture despite the Prince’s apparent disinterest in both Freda and the charity once he had been left by Thelma, in Wallis Simpson’s capable hands.

Maida Vale, W9

As the traditional home of elite escorts for about 150 years, where royalty in particular liked to keep their mistresses, Maida Vale and its local environs is unsurprisingly quite the focal point of a number of scandals over the years. In 1934 the BBC bought the failed 1907 built Edwardian ice skating rink to become BBC Maida Vale Studios in Delaware Road, recording big bands and later where DJ John Peel would record his Radio 1 Peel Sessions, and so the area from thereon in also began to attract broadcasting and musical celebrities of the day. People such as comedian Benny Hill had a flat at Cunningham Court, and according to this article by 1964 actor Victor Beaumont and DJ Alan ‘Fluff” Freeman were Maida Vale residents: Savile and Freeman showed me no pity, says victim abused by BBC DJs when he was just 11, Daily Mail, 22 September 2013

As Edgware Road descends from Kilburn, Cricklewood, cuts through Maida Vale W9 (Maida Hill) it passes the postcodes of NW1 (Marylebone), NW8 (St John’s Wood / Lisson Grove), W2 (Paddington), and nearing central London, heading south towards the corner of Hyde Park occupied by Speaker’s Corner, it ends just before Marble Arch and the former site of the Tyburn gallows (the area is now being renamed Tyburnia in estate agents’ bumf, focused around Connaught Square/Connaught Village where the Blair family townhouse is, along from Portsea Hall where Antony Blunt died at no 45, 6th floor on 26 March 1983, close to the church his father Reverend Stanley Blunt St John’s The Evangelist Hyde Park (see horse riders service in September) had been at when he was a child and had visited his cousin Elizabeth, seven years his senior, who married one of the sons of King George V when Blunt was just 16 in 1923 and lived in Mayfair at Bruton Street, just across from Hyde Park and Park Lane.

“One name that could well appear in Blunt’s description of his early life is that of his cousin, a certain Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon – later, of course, to become the Queen Mother.

Blunt’s mother Hilda was a 2nd cousin of the Earl of Strathmore, Elizabeth’s father.

The young Anthony and his two brothers Christopher and Wilfrid occasionally used to have tea with Elizabeth at the family’s London home in Bruton Street, Mayfair – the house from which she was driven to Westminster Abbey in 1923 (when Blunt was 16) to marry the Duke of York, later King George VI.” [Last Secrets Queen Mother’s favourite traitor: Memoirs of Society Spy Anthony Blunt rock royals, Daily Mail, 27 June 2009]

On Blunt’s father’s side his grandfather had been the Rt Rev Lord Bishop of Hull when his father Rev Arthur Stanley Vaughan Blunt had married Hilda Violet Master at St Andrew’s, Ham, Surrey on 18 October 1900.

Portsea Hall features large in Brian Sewell’s autobiography The Art of Espionage: Antony Blunt & Me, Brian Sewell, The Australian, 15 December 2012)

During the 50s (and possibly beyond) it was Paddington that was crime central, also close to Maida Vale, attracting characters like Jack Spot, the Krays, Billy Hill and Gyp.

Writing in Chiantishire

So despite gallivanting off to landscape a garden in Italy with his mistress (debutante of the year 1954) and become Lord of Chiantishire as folk joked, Lambton continues to nurse something of a grudge for Lord Mountbatten throughout restoring his Italian villa and begins researching and writing what he intends to be a 2 volume account of The Mountbattens. A decade after Mountbatten’s murder in 1979 Lambton publishes his first volume with a back sleeve that reads:

“One of the oldest traceable families in Christendom” – Burke’s Peerage

Or is it?

Blow the dust off the Mountbatten family album and discover the truth behind one of Europe’s most famous royal dynasties. Royal insider Antony Lambton uncovers the real story – a story rife with trumped-up lineage, paternity scandals, and stormy marriages.

In this authoritative history, Lord Lambton sheds light on the illicit union that resulted in the births of Prince Alexander of Hesse and his sister Marie, Empress of Russia. You’ll meet Sandro, the sacked ruler of Bulgaria, who was torn between his duty to the Princess of Prussia and his passion for a seductive actress. You’ll also witness the infamous, trouble-causing marriage of the rakish Alexander and the commoner Julia Hauke.

In many respects the history of the Mountbattens is the history of Europe, and across Lambton’s pages parade some of the continent’s most famous – and notorious – personages” Queen Victoria, George V, Kaiser Wilhelm, Tsar Alexander II and William Gladstone. Even soviet spy Anthony Blunt played a role in the Mountbatten past.”

The Canadian Publishers

Interestingly, Lambton’s publishers are M&S Paperbacks from McClelland & Stewart Inc who feature as their imprint the words ‘The Canadian Publishers’ – a slogan which would not have been lost on Mountbatten had he been alive to see the publication.

Following the disastrous raid on Dieppe where over 3,000 Canadian troops were killed like fish being shot in a barrel in 1942, Lord Beaverbrook (a Canadian media mogul who owned the Express) never let Mountbatten forget. [The wartime raid that shamed Mountbatten, Daily Express, 20 August 2012]

country which following Lord Beaverbrook’s outspoken venom for Mountbatten following Dunkirk is unsurprising.

Over the last 10 years further information has come to light

“Former MI6 agent Lee Tracey told the Mail on Sunday that his bosses wanted to expose Lambton in a bid to embarrass MI5, which had failed to act against his activities.

Mr Tracey claimed he supplied a night-vision lens to the News of the World, which allowed the newspaper’s photographer to take the photograph from a cupboard.

He said he received a phone call telling him to loan the specialist equipment to the paper.

The Echo revealed last month that a security services report into the scandal raised fears that Lambton would be driven to suicide.

The concerns were contained in files released to the National Archive under the 30-year rule, which detailed a Security Commission inquiry by MI5 officer Charles Elwell.” [Lambton ‘victim of MI6 dirty tricks’ Sunderland Echo, 19 Janary 2004]

“This, at least, is Norma’s story. Others suggest that she connived with Levy, and was motivated either by money (she estimates that worldwide newspaper sales of the story made £100,000 – more than £600,000 today) or, more sinisterly, was involved in a conspiracy to discredit Lambton and the government.

Inevitably, Norma dismisses these accusations. However, she believes there is sufficient evidence to suggest that Lambton was the victim of a smear plot, albeit without her knowledge.

For one thing, she questions whether Levy had the expertise or cunning to have set up the hidden camera, which was positioned behind a stereo system in the wardrobe facing her double-bed. To record Lambton’s voice, a listening device was also embedded in the nose of Norma’s giant teddy-bear.

‘Colin was into a lot of deep, heavy stuff. I think the whole thing was set up and he [Lambton] was sacrificed for this big plot,’ she says.

‘I was a pawn in the game, too. It was very sad. Colin knew too much about my life. I started trusting him. I didn’t think he was that type of person. Some people don’t have a conscience about what they do.’

Norma’s theory gains credence when we remember how, three years ago, a retired MI6 operative named Lee Tracey admitted to being part of a ruse to expose Lambton.

Tracey says MI6, responsible for overseas intelligence, was concerned because its home-based sister organisation, MI5, knew Lambton used prostitutes but had done nothing to deter him.

The plot was hatched to embarrass MI5 into action, he said, and he supplied a newspaper with the nightsights for the wardrobe camera.” Daily Mail, 26 January 2007)

“Mountbatten had put in charge of the raid’s military intelligence a racing driver playboy chum, the Marquis de Casa Maury, a totally unqualified amateur from Cuba.

The blame, however, was shifted on to the Canadian task force commander Major-General John Roberts, who himself was the victim of poor information and the communications breakdown that characterised the day’s events.

Partly thanks to Dieppe, there has been a major shift in the perception of Mountbatten’s character in recent years.

Historian Andrew Roberts has dealt the hardest hammer blow to his reputation.

He has convincingly depicted “Dickie” Mountbatten as a psychopathically ambitious, vain, disingenuous, manipulative adrenaline junkie and a man who was utterly careless of other people’s lives.

Whether this view is fully justified is debatable but even at the time of Dieppe many military people were wary of Dickie’s cronyism and mad gung-ho schemes.

At the Admiralty he was known as the “Master of Disaster”.

One eminent biographer who admired Mountbatten became so sickened by his subject’s disrespect for the truth that he put a sign on his writing desk: “Remember, in spite of it all, he was a great man.”

Mountbatten was certainly great at public relations and the art of making sure no mud stuck to him.

Montgomery had always thought the raid was absurd and it is a tragedy that his view that it should be called off wasn’t heeded.

When the news came through of the scale of the disaster the press baron Lord Beaverbrook – owner of this newspaper and a Canadian – went puce with rage.

He would have been more furious had he known that vital intelligence from codebreakers at Bletchley Park had been ignored.

Beaverbrook went so far as to call Mountbatten a murderer.

Any stain on Mountbatten’s reputation was defl ected by the timely release, just after Dieppe, of a film based on his life as a naval officer, In Which We Serve.

Noel Coward showed him his fawning script based on the daring adventures of his ship HMS Kelly, which was sunk in 1941 during the Battle of Crete.

Mountbatten supplied Coward with vivid stories, stating that he and the survivors had been machine-gunned in the water, an event that appears in the film but which none of his shipmates recall happening.

COWARD played the Captain in the film that did a great deal to secure the Mountbatten legend in the general public’s mind. Roberts states that Mountbatten saw it 11 times.” [The wartime raid that shamed Mountbatten, Daily Express, 20 August 2012]

The chap in charge of the Dieppe raid as appointed by Mountbatten – the Marques de Casa Maury, was the second husband of Freda Dudley-Ward (Edward the Abdicator’s ex) who had been married to her and living at No.58 Hamilton Terrace from 1938 in their much architecturally applauded house commissioned from architects Burnet, Tait & Lorne (see Wikipedia Freda Dudley Ward further). Later to become Lambton’s family home in London when he was caught on camera in Maida Vale.

 Acknowledgements & the Curious Incident of the Closed Archives

“To Lord Brabourne who courteously answered my letters making it plain I was not to see any of the Battenberg Archives. This in itself was as interesting as Sherlock Holme’s dog, who did not bark in the night. It made me draw the conclusion that every author who was not prepared to accept the Mountbatten myth would be starved of information.” (Acknowledgements, The Mountbattens, Antony Lambton, below (1989))

Lord Brabourne (1928 – 2005) served as Aide-De-Camp to Mountbatten in South-East Asia

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The eldest daughter of Queen Victoria had married the Crown Prince of Germany who became Emperor Frederick III. Empress Vicky “developed a passionate wish her daughter should marry (against her father and mother0in-law’s wishes) Alexander of Battenberg. She persecuted her dying husband to agree to the match which would have ensured Bismarck’s resignation. Her letters were as fanatical as those of the last Tsarina’s, her niece.” (Lambton, caption under photo of the Emperor and Empress, p.193)

Christopher of Hesse-Cassel (grandson of Crown Princess, Vicky – Christopher was the son of her daughter Princess Margaret who had married Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse-Cassel)

“was a half-mad extremist, the associate and companion of Himmler. The wild seeds in his furious mind may have been planted by his unluckily tainted grandfather as they were in his elder brother, Prince Philip, a friend of Goering’s, who as made a general of the Storm Troopers in 1933. An enthusiastic Nazi, he admired violence and was used as a sycophantic go-between Hitler and Mussolini and Hitler and his cousin the Duke of Windsor. The latter connection may have saved him from imprisonment for after his release from Dachau he was immediately arrested on 9 April 1945 by the Americans as Target 53 in the Nazi heriarchy rounded up for interrogation. Successful British pressure prevented an embarrassing trial.

Shortly before his arrest King George VI sent his librarian and, of all people, Anthony Blunt, to retrieve secret papers considered damaging to the British royal family from his house, Freidrichschof. It is unlikely they, as suggested, related to Queen Victoria and likely they referred to Prince Philip’s wooing of the Duke of Windsor with offers of a crown. hey are now buried in Windsor but as Blunt saw them it is likely that any interesting information was passed on to the Russians.” [Lambton, p.141.-142]

In 1988 Mask of Treachery by John Costello was published on the Blunt affair, also referred to by Robin Harbinson in The Dust has never Settled: “Using newly discovered top-secret British and American reports, and confirming the resulting analysis with veterans of British intelligence and the CIA, this book uncovers a sophisticated Soviet plan to infiltrate their agents into the highest levels of British and American societies. 16 pages of photos.” Yet to be read.

More to come on Lambton’s Introduction which gives a psychologically sensitive portrayal of young Mountbatten watching his father be castigated for his Germanic lienage despite reaching heights of First Admiral, and the bullying he suffered as a result growing up during WWI.




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