Andrew Lownie's case

by Andrew Lownie

Andrew Lownie's case

by Andrew Lownie
Andrew Lownie
Case Owner
I am a historian, with several published books, seeking to secure access to the diaries and correspondence of the 1st Earl (1900-1979) and Countess Mountbatten (1901-1960).
on 05th June 2021
pledged of £116,345 stretch target from 1208 pledges
Andrew Lownie
Case Owner
I am a historian, with several published books, seeking to secure access to the diaries and correspondence of the 1st Earl (1900-1979) and Countess Mountbatten (1901-1960).

Latest: April 22, 2023

Recent media coverage

The Mountbatten Diaries Scandal has been widely reported with the  following recent media coverage:

A piece in the Telegraph…

Read more

I have been fighting for 4 years to secure access to the diaries and correspondence of Lord and Lady Mountbatten, from 1918-1979. It is too late for my own book, but I am carrying on the fight so the diaries and correspondence, bought with public money, are available for everyone.

 It will take £100,000 to fund the case to a final hearing, of which I am fund raising for half. Lord Mountbatten (“Dickie”) was the uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, confidante of Edward VIII (Duke of Windsor), the last Viceroy of India (overseeing independence and partition of India and Pakistan), First Sea Lord (at the time of the Suez crisis) and Chief of Defence Staff. Edwina, Lady Mountbatten was a wealthy socialite, who became a tireless relief worker, and had a close relationship with the Indian leader Nehru.

Together, their writings can be expected to shed light on many of the most important episodes of 20th-century history, including on the Royal Family and the independence of India, Pakistan (and Bangladesh). It is estimated the diaries could be a more important historical source than the Chips Channon Diaries.

Using almost £4.5 million of public money, Southampton University purchased the entire Broadlands archive (including the Mountbattens’ diaries and letters) from a Mountbatten family trust The purchase was enabled with the help of grants, including almost £2 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and £100,000 from Hampshire County Council, and partly through the Acceptance in Lieu tax scheme with the approval of HMRC.

Arts Council England says the Acceptance in Lieu scheme allows important historic archives to be given “to the nation” as a way of settling tax bills, and that “material accepted under the scheme is allocated to public museums, archives or libraries by the appropriate minister and is available for all.”

In its applications for funding the purchase, the University stated that the entire Mountbatten archive would be accessible by the public at Southampton but it is   not. I made a request for the diaries and correspondence under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in May 2017. The University refused to release them, citing a Cabinet Office’s power of veto under a Ministerial Direction, and after futile internal reviews I complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), in August 2018. In December 2019, the ICO ordered the University to release all the diaries and letters.

This decision was significantly delayed because the University failed to respond to the ICO’s investigation for over a year. Indeed, it only did so after the ICO was forced to take what it described as the “unprecedented” step of bringing contempt of court proceedings in the High Court to compel the University to respond . The ICO branded the University’s delay as “completely unacceptable” and in court filings complained about its “persistent, wholescale and unexplained failure to comply with the information notice … or otherwise to assist the Commissioner with her reasonable enquiries. In effect, the [University] continues to flout its statutory duty under the Freedom of Information Act 2000”.

The University appealed to the First Tier Tribunal, with the support of the Cabinet Office. Together they have an army of lawyers, including two QCs. After much pressure the University said that the diaries to 1934 would be released in early April 2021. They were not.

Over four years I have done my best on my own working with expert lawyers in the field but I now need help to fight the case to a conclusion – the full Tribunal hearing has been repeatedly adjourned at the request of the University and Cabinet Office, and is now due to take place on 15-19 November 2021. The University and Cabinet Office keep changing their case, and I will now need to file statements to overcome numerous further FOIA exemptions from disclosure being cited by the University and Cabinet Office, prepare final legal arguments, and fund my advocate for a 5-day hearing.

There are important issues at stake in this David versus Goliath case.

The historical importance of the archive itself, not least relating to Indian Independence and how far the Mountbattens were impartial.

Questions of academic freedom and whether the state can censor private diaries and letters.


(i) What is the genesis of the Ministerial Direction which “closed” the diaries and letters shrouded in secrecy? Despite after four years of probing, neither the Cabinet Office nor the University has disclosed even the name of the person who signed it; 

(ii) Why are Government and University spending large sums of money (with two QCs) on a legal case to prevent access to private diaries and letters bought with public monies and where the fundraising emphasised that the archive would open to all? 

· Any reference to ‘I’ in respect of work undertaken on this campaign to date may refer to my personal capacity or my capacity as Director and part-owner of The Andrew Lownie Literary Agency Ltd.

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Update 18

Andrew Lownie

April 22, 2023

Recent media coverage

The Mountbatten Diaries Scandal has been widely reported with the  following recent media coverage:

A piece in the Telegraph

An investigation by Declassified

An article for The House Magazine

An article for the Archives and Records Association

An Early Day Motion in Parliament

An article in Conservative Home

An article in Politico

A Telegraph article picked up by UK Daily News

The story has even reached Australia

Parliamentary and media pressure needs to be kept up in order to ensure the release of the historically important Nehru/Edwina Mountbatten correspondence bought with public monies at the time  and which could be made public on payment of £100. Southampton refuse to explain why they have not done so.

Update 17

Andrew Lownie

April 22, 2023

£40,000 still needed to settle my legal bill.

Even though over 99% of the Mountbatten diaries and letters were released before the November 2021 hearing and the ICO began to institute contempt of court proceedings against Southampton University, which must constitute 'unreasonable behaviour', I was not awarded costs.

In dismissing my appeal for costs the judge said

‘In my judgment, the most important factor is that the review of the papers held by the University had been agreed in 2018, before any proceedings began in the First-tier Tribunal. And it was clear by 15 September 2020 at the latest that the Cabinet would be changing from blanket reliance on section 44 to a targeted reliance on specific exemptions with a view to opening as much of the archive as possible.’

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The Cabinet Office reviewed the diaries and letters and more than 99% of the material was released before the tribunal hearing in November 2021. This information would have been released whether there had been a tribunal or not. “The small amount of information which has not been released includes personal data relating to living individuals. ‘‘The Tribunal accepted that the University of Southampton acted lawfully in withholding the material and Dr Lownie’s appeal for costs was dismissed.”

If the material was going to be released, and there had been no indication it would be between purchase in 2011 and dumping it on the internet just before the November 2021 hearing, why did Southampton & Cabinet Office appeal the ICO Decision Notice of November 2021 and fight the case through to the hearing? 

And why would I continue to spend large sums of money to secure the release , even after my book was published, if I knew it was about to be released anyway? The reality is in February 2021 at a case management hearing the judge, subsequently replaced,  asked Southampton to show him the 30,000 pages to see what could be released but there was never any indication it would be made public.

Several months ago Sir Julian Lewis MP presented this memo to Oliver Dowden, now Deputy Prime Minister, and the Minister responsible for the Cabinet office. There has been no response.


In 2011 Southampton University bought the Broadlands Archive for the nation for £2.8 million with public funds, including through HMRC’s Acceptance in Lieu (‘AIL’) scheme. The Archive comprised the papers of the 1st Earl Mountbatten (‘Dickie’) (1900-79), his wife, Edwina (1901-60), and their respective ancestors. The Mountbatten family freely sold the Archive under a lengthy Purchase Agreement drafted by the University’s legal department. For tax reasons, only certain specified items were sold under the AIL scheme, including Dickie’s and Edwina’s private diaries and their letters to each other. These AIL items were collectively defined as ‘AIL Chattels’ and warranted by the vendors to be free of any encumbrance. Completion of the sale was conditional on HMRC transferring ownership of the AIL Chattels to Southampton via a ‘Ministerial Direction’ under the relevant tax legislation. However, I only became aware of these details during the lengthy and costly legal proceedings that followed my attempts under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to procure access to the diaries and letters.

Some background information is essential. When Dickie Mountbatten retired as Chief of the Defence Staff in 1965, there was concern in Whitehall and the Public Record Office – now the National Archives (‘TNA’) – that he retained a considerable quantity of ‘official’ papers. The relevant TNA files evince that a bitter dispute with Mountbatten was resolved in 1969 by an agreement between the Cabinet Secretary, Mountbatten and his Broadlands Archive Trustees. In brief, the Crown waived all claims in return for various undertakings. They included the right of the Cabinet Office to examine Mountbatten’s official papers and ‘close’ those it deemed sensitive; it would review these from time to time for possible release.

In 1989 the Broadlands Trustees agreed to loan the bulk of the Archive to Southampton University for public research. The loan did not include Dickie’s or Edwina's private diaries or correspondence with each other, which the family retained. The University gave similar undertakings to the Cabinet Office in respect of Dickie’s official papers closed under its 1969 agreement with the trustees. These papers were kept in sealed bags at Southampton; Cabinet Office personnel visited periodically to review them for release. In consequence, such personnel developed close relations with certain university staff, in particular, Professor Woolgar.

The University’s fund-raising for the 2011 purchase of the Broadlands Archive, which Professor Woolgar spearheaded, stressed that the collection, including Dickie’s and Edwina’s private diaries and correspondence, would be open to all.

However, after completion in August 2011, the University unilaterally decided to keep the diaries and letters under lock and key, with Professor Woolgar solely controlling access. Accordingly, the material was not even catalogued. In communications with a Cabinet Office colleague in 2012 following an unwelcome request from a researcher to access the material, Woolgar suggested that they could treat their exchange of emails in September 2011 (when he confirmed completion of the purchase) as a notice of closure.

Several books on the Mountbattens published pre-2011 quote the diaries and letters. Thus, when I made enquiries to the University about access in early 2017 while researching my joint biography of them, I was surprised to be told that the Cabinet Office had ‘closed’ them under a ‘Ministerial Direction’. The University claimed that this constituted a statutory prohibition and an absolute exemption under section 44 FOIA. It was reluctant to provide a copy of the Direction – or, indeed, any information concerning its genesis. Eventually, a redacted copy was provided; after further delays, it was disclosed that the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) had prepared the Direction. The DCMS, however, had wound up MLA in October 2011; some of its functions were transferred to Arts Council England; the remainder went to TNA. Those bodies, along with DCMS and the Treasury, in reply to my FOI requests, have denied any knowledge of the Direction. To this day, neither the University nor the Cabinet Office has provided any information concerning the Direction’s genesis – not even the identity of the signatory on behalf of ‘the Secretary of State’, or who authorised its execution.

The Direction is highly pertinent. Its terminology does not accord with that of the 2011 Purchase Agreement. The Direction purported to vest in the University ‘the Archive’ of Dickie and Edwina Mountbatten ‘already on deposit’ at the University on 5 August 2011 (the date of signature) ‘and make it accessible to the public with the exception of those elements of the Archive which have been notified to the University ... as closed by ... the Cabinet Office ...’ – that is, notified prior to 5 August 2011. However, the Direction could, of course, only transfer the Archive items actually sold under AIL – namely, the AIL Chattels. They were certainly not ‘closed’, as warranted by the vendors in the Purchase Agreement. All items that had been closed by the Cabinet Office and had yet to be released were expressly defined in the Purchase Agreement as ‘Excluded Records’ and were dealt with separately. They were sold conditionally for £100; title would only pass to the University in respect of any item if and when released by the Cabinet Office.  

Indeed, it is nigh impossible to believe that, with the benefit of expert legal advice, either the University or the Cabinet Office could ever have had any bona fide belief that the Ministerial Direction transferred anything other than AIL Chattels, or that any AIL Chattels were ‘closed’. By not utilising the definitions appearing in the Purchase Agreement, the unidentified person who drafted the Direction appears to have inserted the ambiguous and redundant proviso merely to make it clear that Southampton’s obligation to give public access to the entire ‘Archive’ did not extend to those items of Dickie’s official papers that the Cabinet Office had closed under the 1969 agreement and which it had yet to release – the ‘Excluded Records’. Furthermore, for these reasons, the Cabinet Office had no locus standi; while Southampton had the right to seek advice from the Cabinet Office (or any other department) on FOIA matters, the Cabinet Office had no right to dictate any course of action – let alone ‘close’ or ‘review’ the material.

I should add that it was only during the course of the proceedings that the University disclosed a heavily redacted copy of the Purchase Agreement. I still await an unredacted copy; the Information Commissioner is currently progressing an FOI appeal against the University’s refusal to provide one.

Eventually, in 2019, after many FOI requests to both the University and Cabinet Office, appeals to the Information Commissioner, her commencement of High Court contempt proceedings against the University for FOIA breaches by ignoring her information requests – the first time the ICO had done this – and having had to engage lawyers to advise and represent me , the Information Commissioner issued a Decision Notice ordering the University to give me (and the public) access to all the diaries and letters. There was no credible evidence that the Cabinet Office had ever ‘closed’ the diaries or letters. Moreover, the Information Commissioner ruled that even if it had done so, nothing in the Ministerial Direction could oust FOIA; section 44 was irrelevant. 

Southampton and the Cabinet Office appealed, relying solely on the Ministerial Direction and section 44 FOIA. A full hearing in the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) was belatedly scheduled for November 2021. At a preliminary hearing in February 2021, Southampton argued that the material was far too delicate for public access and that scanning/digitising would be immensely difficult, time-consuming and excessively costly. Judge O’Connor, however, ordered the University to digitalise all the material for his examination that autumn: if he ruled against them on the Ministerial Direction in November, their case would fail; they would only be able to deny public access to any item of the material if (1) they pleaded a fact-specific exemption under FOIA (such as communications with the sovereign) for such item and (2) he accepted its application. 

Events now moved rapidly. During June 2021, despite all their protestations, the University started publishing the digitised material on its website, without even the courtesy of telling my lawyers, the FTT or me. By November, 99%  of the material – some 30,000 pages – was on the website. There is firm evidence that both the Cabinet Office and Southampton had long known that this material was innocuous. Indeed, as confirmed by recent responses from FCDO to my FOI requests, when FCDO experts visited Southampton in March 2018 at the Cabinet Office’s request to examine the material, they concluded that what Professor Woolgar showed them seemed innocuous and unlikely to benefit from any FOIA exemption; a thorough review could be completed within a few months. The Cabinet Office, for some reason, did not take up the offer.

It is critically significant that it was only just before the November 2021 hearing that the Cabinet Office clarified that it would be changing its defence from blanket reliance on the Ministerial Direction (section 44 FOIA) to a targeted reliance on specific exemptions for the unpublished material. Thus, at the hearing Judge Buckley (who had belatedly replaced Judge O’Connor) ruled that she did not need to consider the Direction or section 44 at all. And yet, she proceeded on the basis that the diaries and letters were ‘closed’ and that Southampton  had been obliged to comply with the Cabinet Office’s review of them and its instructions on FOIA matters. She did so even though my Counsel specifically drew her attention to the definition of AIL Chattels in the 2011 Purchase Agreement and the glaring nonsense of the proviso in the Ministerial Direction concerning ‘closed’ elements of the ‘Archive’. My Counsel also stated that an application would be made for costs against the Cabinet Office and Southampton – above all, due to their unreasonable reliance on section 44 for the bulk of the proceedings.

I did not have the financial resources, however, to appeal Judge Buckley’s substantive decision. She effectively rejected my costs application on the grounds that she had not needed to decide the Ministerial Direction/s. 44 issue for her substantive decision. With respect, she did not appear to have considered the AIL issue at all. Although I appealed to the Upper Tribunal, Judge Jacobs ruled he could not overturn Judge Buckley’s costs decision without challenging her substantive decision, which I had not appealed. 

The Cabinet Office have made a number of misleading statements about my case to Parliament, the media and the courts – not least that the diaries and letters were closed by the Ministerial Direction, that Mountbatten had given undertakings concerning the diaries and letters, and that they were due to be released anyway. I believe that without my efforts and legal costs, the diaries and letters would still be ‘closed’. No private individual should be financially penalised in seeking access to material bought under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme and which the Purchase Agreement clearly shows were ‘open’, but that is the position I now find myself in.

This story has been reported worldwide including by the Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail, Express, Today Programme, House Magazine, Conservative Home and Politico. The Mail’s investigation team is presently looking at it. Others who have supported me are Open Democracy, Index on Censorship, the Royal Historical Society, the Campaign for Freedom of Information and EnglishPen.

Given my costs, the Government must have spent a  great deal of taxpayer’s money – they will not give precise figures – to block public access to material bought for the nation. The Government should draw a line under this scandal by reimbursing me my legal costs, which come to just under £500,000.

They should also take appropriate steps to procure Southampton University’s release forthwith of the historically important Edwina/Nehru correspondence bought under the Purchase Agreement via a so-called ‘option’. This ‘option’ has been exercisable since 2016 for £100. Giving evidence on behalf of the University during the FTT proceedings, Professor Woolgar opined that the nominal sum of £100 reflected the Mountbatten family’s acknowledgment of the significant sums they had received for the Archive under the Purchase Agreement. He also admitted that the University had held the correspondence since 2016. 


 1/ The Mountbatten private diaries and letters were bought with public monies to be open to all under the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme.

2/ There is no evidence the Cabinet Office ever ‘closed’ the diaries or letters and the Information Commissioner ruled that even if it had done so the Ministerial Direction could oust FOIA; section 44 on which the case was based was irrelevant. The Cabinet Office therefore had no locus standi in the case but all this was ignored by the tribunal.

3/ By the November 2021 hearing 99% of the diaries and letters, had been released. The material, which the Cabinet Office has fought for a decade to suppress, proved to be entirely innocuous, as the Cabinet Office already knew from a review conducted a year before they even appealed the ICO Decision Notice.

4/ Huge legal costs were expended by me over many years addressing the Ministerial Direction for it to be abandoned just before the November 2021 hearing.

5/ The genesis of the Ministerial Direction, on which the Cabinet Office case, was built remains a mystery in spite of many attempts to discover who authorised it.

6/ My lawyer stressed I would be seeking costs due to unreasonable reliance on section 44 for the bulk of the proceedings.

7/ The Cabinet Office and Southampton’s behaviour was unreasonable to the extent that the ICO took the unprecedented action of instituting contempt proceedings.

8/ The Edwina/Nehru correspondence bought with public monies under the same Purchase Agreement should be released.

9/ No private individual should be financially penalised seeking access to material bought under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme and which it was explicitly stated in the fundraising would be open to all. I feel I am entitled to reimbursement of my legal costs which come to just under £500,000.

I have now personally paid almost all the over £400,000 legal bill , using up my savings to do so, but now need to raise just under £40,000 to settle the final bill. Any help you can give would be much appreciated.

Update 16

Andrew Lownie

July 25, 2022

Parliamentary interest

The Mountbatten diaries scandal and the subsequent judgement failing to award me my costs  has continued to excite media interest in this country and abroad with articles in

The Pakistan magazine Dawn


The Parliamentary House Magazine

Questions have been asked of the Cabinet Office and Southampton of the cost of their litigation - estimated to be several million pounds of taxpayers' money - and whether they will be reimbursing my costs , given that 99% of the disputed material, which a 2018 review had shown to be innocuous, had been released by the hearing.

I have personally spent £350,000 with a further £60,000 raised by Crowdjustice but I still owe my lawyers £50,000 - money I don't have. Without my legal battle this important collection of over 30,000 pages, bought with public funds a decade ago to be open to the public,  would still be illegally closed.

Any help towards paying my legal costs would be appreciated. My book is long published and the diaries are of no use to me but the collection is important to scholars and there are important issues at stake  not just for historians but all of us about transparency, truth, trust, government censorship, academic freedom and access to archives.

Update 15

Andrew Lownie

July 2, 2022

Media picks up story

The scandal of the Mountbatten diaries has been picked  up by the media with stories appearing in the Telegraph and Times and articles expected in Declassified and the Parliamentary House Magazine next week.

Links can be found here

This was the result of this press release which I drafted:

After a five-year legal battle an historian has successfully secured the release of the private diaries and letters of the last Viceroy and Vicereine of India, Dickie and Edwina Mountbatten but faces a legal bill of over £400,000 after a tribunal failed to award him his legal costs.

The diaries and letters were amongst papers which the University of Southampton bought, with public monies, for the nation in 2011 from the Mountbatten family for £2.8 million (including £1.6 million of tax waived by HMRC under the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme) but which an archivist at Southampton then closed, arguing they contained sensitive royal material.

Dr Andrew Lownie, a Cambridge-educated historian, challenged the closure, and was supported by the Information Commissioner, who in December 2019 ordered Southampton to make the material publicly available. The University appealed the Decision Notice and the hearing was held in November 2021.

Before the hearing took place, Southampton digitalised the collection and quietly put it up on their website – 99 per cent of the material and over 30,000 pages. The material that they had kept closed for a decade and fought so hard to prevent being made publicly available proved to be entirely innocuous.

What remained under dispute were about a hundred redactions – some only a word or paragraph – and it was these Freedom of Information exemptions which formed the basis of the November hearing and on which there has just been judgement.

Many redactions were ordered to be lifted but a few remained, such as names of members of the Royal Household, even though many names are already in the public domain or appear on other pages of the diaries or letters unredacted.

The tribunal ruled, on the grounds of National Security, that a mention in Lord Mountbatten’s 1943 diary of an intelligence organisation under Captain G.A. Garnon-Williams should be redacted even though his P Division has been written about extensively and there are numerous references to him and his organisation in the database of the Mountbatten papers.

A reference to the Pakistan leader, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in Edwina’s private diary was redacted on the grounds that it would be prejudicial to relations with Pakistan, even though  there is plenty of evidence already in the public domain, from books about Edwina or by family members drawing on their access to the diaries, that she had a low opinion of Jinnah .

Even though the release of the material came too late for Lownie’s The Mountbattens: Their Lives and Loves, which came out in 2019 and was a top-ten Sunday Times bestseller, he continued with his campaign. He is hoping to raise the £50,000 he owes Bates Wells through a Crowdjustice  page.

Lownie has said

Millions of pounds of public monies were spent purchasing the total Broadlands Archive,even though we don’t know exactly what was apportioned to the diaries and letters, to make this important collection available to the public. Now well over £1 million has been spent suppressing them.

For me the campaign has also come at a heavy cost. No private individual should be financially ruined seeking access to material which was purchased with taxpayers’ money on the basis that it would be open to the public but that is the position I now find myself in. 

I hope, however, that as a result of my efforts an important historical source has been made available and a stand has been made for academic freedom, access to archives, the need for trust and transparency in public institutions and against the abuse of power.

The fight now needs to continue for the remaining innocent redactions to be lifted from these private diaries and letters, which were freely sold by the Mountbatten family,  and for the Nehru-Edwina correspondence, again bought with public funds to be available publicly, to be released.

Southampton raised public funds to secure that correspondence and since 2016 have been able to exercise their option over it for a token £100. The question one has to ask is why have they not done so?

For more details e mail [email protected] or ring 0207 222 7574

But only £355 has been raised on the page this week. I'm very grateful for all contributions but I have an outstanding bill of £50,000  and, having spent £350,000 of my own money  to ensure the release of this important collection for the nation, I am cleaned out. Any suggestions of possible donors or people who might publicize this scandal much appreciated.

Andrew Lownie

Update 14

Andrew Lownie

June 26, 2022

Over 30,000 pages of Mountbatten material released

Update on Andrew Lownie's case

The battle to secure the release of the Mountbatten diaries and letters has been largely successful with 99% of them released and now available here

In fact they were released before the appeal hearing in November so one has to wonder why the Cabinet Office and Southampton University continued to press ahead with their appeal against the ICO decision.

I was not awarded my costs so victory has come at a heavy personal financial cost. Crowdjustice raised £60,162.94 , for which I'm very grateful, but I spent £349,916 and still owe £47,965 - money which I simply don't have. Any further contributions which can be made would be much appreciated.

The Mail on Sunday ran a truncated and not totally accurate diary story today. The full story should have read:

As uncle to Prince Philip, the Supreme Allied Commander in South East Asia during World War Two, the last Viceroy of India and Chief of the Defence Staff, Lord Mountbatten was always at the centre of British life.

Now, more than 40 years after he was killed by an IRA bomb, “Dickie” is still attracting attention as the Government persevere with a five-year battle to prevent some of his private papers from being released.

In December 2019 the Information Commissioner ruled that the diaries and letters bought in 2011 for £2.8 million from public funds, much from the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, should be opened, after the historian Andrew Lownie requested the documents for his book The Mountbatten: Their Lives and Loves.

Lownie has spent more than £350,000 of his own money fighting to remove the remaining redactions on the material. Another £60,000 has been raised through Crowdjustice and he is seeking to find the remaining £50,000 that he owes lawyers Bates Wells through continuing efforts there.

“I’m completely cleaned out ,” he tells me. ‘No private citizen should be financially penalised seeking material which should be publicly available and, indeed, had already been released by the time of the appeal hearing in November 2021. If my costs are almost £500,000, I hate to think what Southampton University and the Cabinet Office have spent with two top QCs. Alas they will not say.’

Lownie’s heroic battle, which had one point had the Information Commissioner threatening to bring contempt of court proceedings against Southampton University and the Cabinet Office, has been largely successful, with around 99% of Mountbatten’s diaries and letters – over 30,000 pages - now available, but the government stubbornly refuses to remove redactions on some documents ,

The Cabinet Office has cited “communications with the sovereign” as possible grounds for censorship, along with national security and international relations – Foreign Office mandarin Nigel Casey told the tribunal that the comments on Jinnah seventy-five years ago might still damage Britain’s relationship with Pakistan, given Mountbatten’s role in the partition of India .

Lownie argues much of the redacted material is already in the public domain, such as the identity of a wartime intelligence organisation and the views of Edwina Mountbatten on the Pakistan leader Jinnah and says that the references to the Royal Family, many going back almost a hundred years, are completely innocuous.

“It was a travesty of a decision”, Lownie tells me, saying he feels “stitched up”. ‘The Cabinet Office should not have even been part of the hearing as they had no locus standi , the defence of the material being subject to a Ministerial Direction having been abandoned before the hearing. Southampton University bought this material over a decade ago – it was freely sold by the Mountbatten family - on the grounds it should be open to the public and it should have been reviewed and FOI exemptions applied then and by them with no Cabinet Office control.’

Now that he can no longer afford legal representation to appeal, Lownie is having to rely on media and parliamentary pressure to recover his costs.

He has had some support. Former foreign secretary David Owen has sent a letter to the Cabinet Office suggesting they should reimburse Lownie’s costs and wrote to Lownie that ‘the very least the Government should repay the National Heritage Fund £2 million and all your costs as well as indicate opening up of all the papers. Archives and diaries are not open to government censor.’

Lownie feels “isolated” because “no historians have stood up and said this is terrible”. He suspects many have stayed silent because “they don’t want to upset the royals but the case raises important issues about abuse of state power, access to archives and academic freedom.”

For Lownie it has been a pyrrhic victory but he is pleased that as a result of his efforts the important collection is now open to the public. He says his next campaign is to secure the release of the correspondence between Edwina and the Indian leader Nehru, letters, part of the same purchase and which only requires Southampton to pay a £100 option to release.

Private Eye have also continued to support my efforts and their story can be found here:

Thanks for all your support and I would be grateful for any help.

Andrew Lownie

Update 13

Andrew Lownie

Jan. 9, 2022

Recent publicity

Private Eye have run their fourth story on the Mountbatten scandal this week and a copy of the article can be seen on my Facebook and Twitter pages.

Last week I also gave an interview about the censorship of our history by the Government which can be viewed here-

Tonight I'll be appearing on the George Galloway show and that too can be seen on my social media accounts.

Further interviews in Ireland will be appearing shortly. 

This is all part of raising awareness of this abuse of state power and fundraising  to cover defending the appeal by the Cabinet Office and Southampton University against the Information Commissioner's decision to make the papers available.

I have been forced to spend £250,000 of my own monies to make these papers - bought with public monies for all - available but I can no longer afford to fund the legal costs alone and need help. 

All suggestions of possible donors welcome.

Update 12

Andrew Lownie

Dec. 19, 2021

The fight continues

The saga of the suppressed Mountbatten diaries and letters continues to excite press interest around the world.

Last week I was interviewed by Isabel Oakeshott on GB News and published an article in the Express

I was also interviewed for an Indian television station

The fight to open the important closed Nehru correspondence continues and any help with  that campaign and paying existing legal costs would be appreciated. The letters will shed crucial new light on Indian and British history.

This fight  is not just about making an archive bought with public monies open to all. 

Many of our freedoms are currently being eroded. Let's make a stand in favour of academic freedom and against the abuse of power. 

Closing down documents, which are meant to be open to all, is a the first step towards dictatorship. 

Update 11

Andrew Lownie

Dec. 4, 2021

£42,000 to raise by Christmas

The media worldwide continue to be interested  in the issues raised by the Mountbatten diaries and letters. The fact that Southampton and the Cabinet Office first refused to release them and then did so selectively has only heightened that interest. Much has been achieved but there is still the battle to make the Nehru/Edwina correspondence available to all.

I have spent £250,000 of my own money , with no personal gain, to bring us to this point but have now run out of money and need to find £42,000  by Christmas to pay the legal bill. Any contributions that you  or your contacts can make to the fighting fund would be appreciated. I cannot continue to shoulder the financial responsibility for this campaign alone.

This is a David v Goliath battle of one individual who has battled against the power of government to make an archive available to all and to prove to both government and an academic institution that public property should be open to the public, that academic research should not be suppressed in deference to  the Royal Family and that our history should not be censored by faceless bureaucrats.

Here is the publicity:

Do please give generously to this important cause.

Andrew Lownie

Update 10

Andrew Lownie

Nov. 21, 2021

Worldwide interest

The issues raised by the Mountbatten diaries and letters continue to generate interest around the world. Here is just some of the publicity.







Update 9

Andrew Lownie

Nov. 20, 2021

Hearing concludes

The week's hearing ended yesterday and a decision is expected in the New Year. My campaign has led to almost all the diaries and letters being made available  so, whatever the verdict,  that is a victory already.  However,  it took  parliamentary, media and legal pressure to do so and material only started being released six months ago.

This material should have been available ten years ago and I'm angry I wasn't able to use it for my biography. The good news is that the archive is now available to historians  - which is why it was bought with public monies in the first place a decade ago.

The campaign has personally cost me £250,000 - all my earnings and savings - and a further £50,000 was crowdfunded in the summer. Because of some of the legal tactics that were deployed, I now have a further legal bill of £50,000 - money I need to raise in the next twelve days .

I am calling on those interested in historical scholarship and against censorship and abuse of state power once again to help me in this important case -  I am told there has never before been a case of withholding access to archives in such circumstances - and spread the word.

The next target must be to secure the release of the historically important Edwina/Nehru correspondence, part of which was used by Janet Morgan in her life of Edwina. This was bought with public monies in 2011 and simply requires Southampton paying £100 for its release.

The press around the world continues to cover the story, an indication of the important issues at stake.

Update 8

Andrew Lownie

Nov. 19, 2021

Update 7

Andrew Lownie

Nov. 18, 2021

Worldwide Media interest in Mountbatten case

The attempt by Southampton University and the Cabinet Office to censor the Mountbatten diaries and letters has been picked up by the media worldwide. Here is a selection of the coverage

Call to unveil private diaries of ‘bisexual’ Lord Mountbatten
A historian is seeking access to the diaries and letters of Lord and Lady Mountbatten, which he believes could contain evidence of his bisexuality.Andrew Lownie, a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, - Rank 1 - this is relevant | irrelevant

* * * * *

UK is paying $800,000 to hide Mountbatten diaries, but why?
What is the cost of keeping a secret? The UK government is paying 600,000 pounds (around $800,000) for the same purpose. The secret: Diaries of Lord Mountbatten and his wife Lady Mountbatten, and some correspondence between the two. - Rank 2 - this is relevant | irrelevant

* * * * *

Allegations that Mountbatten influenced India-Pakistan boundary at Partition raised in London tribunal
LONDON: A question mark has been raised at a tribunal in London over the impartiality of Lord Mountbatten and whether he sought to interfere with the boundary drawn between India and Pakistan at Partition. - Rank 6 - this is relevant | irrelevant

* * * * *

DNA Exclusive: Was there a secret pact between Jawaharlal Nehru and Mountbattens? Details here
Zee News Editor-in-Chief Sudhir Chaudhary on Wednesday (November 17) talked about the classified documents related to the Mountbattens and Nehru which could provide crucial insights into the events surrounding India's Independence. - Rank 4 - this is relevant | irrelevant

* * * * *

U.K. tribunal to decide on personal diaries of Mountbatten
It covers an important period of British-Indian history, including when India's Partition was being overseen by Mountbatten - Rank 8 - this is relevant | irrelevant

* * * * *

DNA Exclusive: Was there a secret pact between JL Nehru and Mountbattens? Details here
Zee News Editor-in-Chief Sudhir Chaudhary on Wednesday (November 17) talked about the classified documents related to the Mountbattens and Nehru which could provide crucial insights into the events surrounding India’s Independence. - Rank 21 - this is relevant | irrelevant

* * * * *

Cabinet Office accused of lying to MPs to keep Mountbatten papers private
Andrew Lownie, battling to gain unrestricted access, tells tribunal it is ‘shameful’ archive has not been made fully available to public - Rank 1 - this is relevant | irrelevant

* * * * *

UK tribunal to decide on Mountbatten diaries dating back to India-Pakistan Partition
The UK Cabinet Office maintains that most of the information is already in the public domain and any withheld aspects 'would compromise the UK's relations with other states'. - Rank 18 - this is relevant | irrelevant

* * * * *

UK Tribunal To Decide On Mountbatten Diaries From Partition Period
The personal diaries and letters of Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, are at the heart of an ongoing appeal hearing in London this week, to decide whether they can be fully released for open public access. - Rank 5 - this is relevant | irrelevant

* * * * *

UK tribunal to decide on diaries dating back to India-Pakistan Partition
The personal diaries and letters of Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, are at the heart of an ongoing appeal hearing in London this week, to decide whether they can be fully released for open public access. - Rank 19 - this is relevant | irrelevant

* * * * *

UK Tribunal to Decide on Public Release of Redacted Sections of Mountbatten's Diaries Dating Back to India-Pakistan Partition
University of Southampton purchased the archival material, named Broadlands Archive, from the Mountbatten family with the intention of making it widely available. - Rank 6 - this is relevant | irrelevant

* * * * *

UK Tribunal To Determine Fate Of Documents, Diaries From India-Pakistan Partition Era
UK Tribunal is scheduled for hearings until Friday to determine the fate of some redacted sections of the diaries and correspondence dating back to the 1930s. - Rank 2 - this is relevant | irrelevant

* * * * *

Update 6

Andrew Lownie

Nov. 16, 2021

Media reports the hearing

The scandal of the closing of the Mountbatten diaries and letters is being picked up by the media now the hearing  has started. The Cabinet Office have now narrowed the number of exemptions they are seeking to impose so most of the letters and diaries are available. This is a victory after four years of campaigning but there is still a legal bill of £50,000 and so the crowfunding has to go on. If you know anyone who could contribute to this worthy cause please encourage them to do so.

Best wishes, Andrew Lownie 

Update 5

Andrew Lownie

Nov. 14, 2021

Hearing begins

After many delays the appeal against the ICO's decision ordering the release of the Mountbatten diaries and letters will begin today.

The Telegraph will be covering the week and their first article has appeared

I will be appearing on the Today programme.

Best wishes, Andrew Lownie

Update 4

Andrew Lownie

Nov. 4, 2021

Most of the diaries and letters released

A media and parliamentary campaign over the last few months has led to Southampton quietly releasing most of the Mountbatten diaries and letters . 

This included an Early Day Motion, organised by Julian Lewis MP, support from Chris Evans of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Archives and History (APPG) and a letter to Southampton University from the Royal Historical Society. Unfortunately the Government refused to meet and discuss the issues with any MPs. 

The releases so far can be seen here

However the campaign continues with a five day hearing from 15th November. Southampton and the Cabinet Office continue to hold back material, citing FOIA exemptions, even though some of the material is already in the public domain.

I had hoped the £50,000 raised in the summer would cover costs to the end of the hearing but sadly that has not been the case and I am now having to raise another £50,000 and call on the generosity of others once again.

The Mountbatten collection is important historically but there are also important issues at state - not least abuse of state power and the censoring of our history - and I hope I can call on new support.

English PEN have been supportive and have publicised my efforts here

The Archives and Records Association have taken an article for their magazine

The Standard Diary recently reported on the case

Further articles will be appearing over the next few weeks and I will keep you abreast of the situation.

With many thanks for all your support, Andrew Lownie 

Update 3

Andrew Lownie

June 6, 2021

Target achieved

The target £50,000 was reached last night after David Elstein, the former chairman of Open Democracy and Chief Executive of Channel 5, topped up the fund by £15,000. I'm extremely grateful to him and the almost 500 other donors for their generosity. It will now be possible to defend the appeal in November and I hope secure the release of the important Mountbatten diaries and letters for all scholars.

Update 2

Andrew Lownie

May 23, 2021

A huge thank you to those who have contributed

With less than a week to go I still have £20,000 to raise to ensure the Mountbatten diaries and letters, bought with £4.5 million of public monies to be 'available to all',  can be seen by all historians. This is an important archive and also involves  crucial  principles of censorship, Freedom of Information, abuse of power.

No university should be blocking public access to archive material of great historical significance which it purchased using public money and for which tax income was forfeited. No university should be censoring private diaries and letters, ostensibly on behalf of the Government, for which there is no legal justification, in what seems an unquestioning relationship between an academic institution and the State. No university should have run a fundraising campaign which misrepresented the extent of public access to the purchased material.

I have spent my life savings to ensure this material is released but I have nothing more to give. I am hoping others will step up to the plate and carry on what I started. I've been touched by the generous donations from people I don't even know but who believe this is a just cause.but disappointed that friends, many historians, have remained silent. If 100 people give £200 then the target will be reached. I have six days to raise it.

Here is some of the recent publicity:

Talk Radio today at 7.50 am-

Daily Telegraph interview-

Westminster Confidential-

Eastern Eye -

Update 1

Andrew Lownie

May 15, 2021

The story breaks in the media

The story of my campaign has now broken in the media with stories in the Guardian and the Mail

Further coverage is expected tomorrow and next week.

The other good news is that the diaries up to 1934 promised for release were suddenly made public on Thursday. They can be found at

However,  Southampton are still keeping back some promised  pre-1934 files. Why?

I still have £47,000 to raise in two weeks if my legal challenge is to continue. These are important diaries which should be open to all. I have spent all I can to take this so far and would appreciate any donation, however small.

Best wishes, Andrew

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