Civil War Echoes: A Death in Ireland

Britain’s Prime Minister during the Civil War years was Henry John Temple, the 3d Viscount Palmerston. His grandfather received a grant of land in County Sligo, Ireland on the Mullaghmore Peninsula, which overlooked an inlet that fed into the Atlantic Ocean. The estate, sized at 10,000 acres, remained largely vacant until the 3d Viscount decided to build a summer residence and the Mullaghmore Harbor which it would by Joseph Mischyshyn

The house, known as Classiebawn Castle, rose up during the Civil War years, but was not complete until 1874, nine years after Palmerston’s death in office. Nonetheless, the family used the castle (a very prominent local landmark) until 1916, when it fell into disrepair. A renovation started in 1939, and was completed in 1950, and became popular again. It is the descendants who provide the Civil War echo.

When the renovation started, Classiebawn Castle belonged to Edwina Ashley, who had married Lord Louis Mountbatten. She was a direct descendant of Lord Palmerston. For the rest of the Mountbatten’s marriage, Classiebawn became a regular retreat, and Lord Louis (by then Earl Mountbatten of Burma) kept up the tradition after Edwina’s death in the mid-1960s. Admiral_of_the_Fleet_Earl_Mountbatten_of_Burma_IND5298

In August 1979 Mountbatten made his usual trip to Classiebawn with many of his family and a few friends. A famous and popular person with an outgoing personality, Mountbatten was well-known to local residents. He maintained lobster traps out in the bay, and could often be seen on his small boat, Shadow V.

On the morning of 27 August 1979, Mountbatten (age 79) took Shadow V out of Mullaghmore Harbor to inspect his traps. The day was sunny and Palmerston’s castle was plainly visible as they left the harbor. It was expected to be a short visit before returning to Classiebawn Castle for lunch. Also in the boat were his daughter Patricia and her family, and a hired crewman. Watching from the shore were Mountbatten’s security detail. Also watching were two men of the Irish Republican Army (IRA); the night before they had hidden a remote-controlled bomb aboard Shadow V.

At 11:45, Mountbatten’s boat was about 200 yards from shore when a tremendous explosion ripped it apart. Mountbatten died, as did one of his teenage grandsons, and everyone else aboard was seriously injured (one mortally). The IRA in a public statement took credit for the “execution” of Mountbatten.The_Earl_Mountbatten_of_Burma_at_home_Allan_Warren

POSTSCRIPT: Patricia by special dispensation succeeded to the title as Countess Mountbatten of Burma. She died on 13 June 2017, and was buried two weeks later still carrying scars and embedded paint from the explosion that killed her father.

Top image: Classiebawn Castle, photographed in 2005 by Joseph Michyshyn.

Middle Image: Mountbatten and Edwina in India with Mahatma Gandhi, 1947. 

Bottom: Earl Mountbatten in 1976, taken by Allan Warren.



3 Responses to Civil War Echoes: A Death in Ireland

  1. Chris:

    Thank you for this piece. I remember Mountbatten very well and have read a great deal about him and Edwina and their experiences in India, including her alleged infidelities. (His family name, you probably know, was Battenberg, but they changed it because of sensibilities to German identification during WWI.) He was a prince of a man and his assassination was worse than appalling. What the IRA thought they would gain by murdering such a man is beyond my understanding. It was Lord Palmerston, the PM, and his Foreign Minister, Sir John Russell, incidentally, who had agreed to call a meeting of the Cabinet in late summer or early fall, 1862, at the latest, for the purpose of offering mediation of our Civil War, which would surely have led to Southern independence. They conditioned the calling of the meeting, however, on Lee’s successful invasion of the North. Because of his lost and found battle plans before Antietam, as we all know, Lee’s invasion was not successful, and so the Union was preserved, says McPherson, because of a one-in-a-million happenstance. On such freakish things does history turn, as all historians know.


    1. Glad you liked it, John. The twists and turns, and connections, of history are sometimes very surprising.

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