Nehru and the Mountbattens
In 1947, Henri Cartier-Bresson was in India for the first time to document the newly independent India. His most famous picture of the Independent India was that of Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, and PM Nehru on the steps of Government House, Delhi. Nehru and Mountbatten’s wife Edwina shared a joke while the viceroy looked whimsically away. HCB’s juxtaposition compared and contrasted the English reserve and native candidness.
The photo takes another dramatic interpretation when it became known that Lady Edwina Mountbatten had an affair with Jawaharlal Nehru throughout Mountbatten’s viceroyalty. The pair even resumed that relationship on Nehru’s subsequent visits to England. Lord Mountbatten, who was also rumored to be a closeted homosexual (his wife was also accused of being a bisexual), knew about the relationship, and was not only tolerant but encouraging. When Edwina died at the age of 58 in 1960, Nehru not only gave an eulogy in the Indian Parliament but also sent an Indian Navy frigate to the spot where she had been buried at sea in the English Channel, to cast a single wreath of marigolds.
For a scholarly account of the relationship and how it influenced Indian independence, see Alex von Tunzelmann’s Indian Summer.