This is one of the saddest stories to report. The Hon. Nicholas Knatchbull, who is the heir to the Brabourne Barony and the Mountbatten earldom, continues to battle drug addiction. This past week, the Sunday Mirror posted a video of the 28-year-old Nicholas, showing him using heroin and other drugs.
Nicholas is the only son of Lord and Lady Brabourne, who live at Broadlands, in Romsey, Hampshire. The Brabournes are very close to the British royal family due to the Mountbatten connection, as Lord Brabourne is the grandson of the late earl Mountbatten of Burma. Lord Mountbatten, the youngest son of the the Marquess and Marchioness of Milford Haven, and who was created an earl in his own right due to his role in India's independence, is the uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh. Lord Mountbatten's two daughters, Patricia and Pamela, were childhood friends of Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret.
In 1922, the then Lord Louis Mountbatten married the very wealthy Edwina Ashley, the daughter of Lord Mount Temple. She brought into the marriage a very large checkbook and a country home, Broadlands. As the couple had only two daughters, the Mountbatten of Burma earldom was created to allow for the succession of Patricia and Pamela and their male heirs.
Thus, in 1979, following the assassination of Lord Mountbatten by the IRA, the Mountbatten earldom passed to his elder daughter, Pamela, the wife of the 7th Baron Brabourne. Her eldest son, Norton, was styled as Lord Romsey, the secondary title for the Mountbatten earldom.
Lord Brabourne died in 2005. Lord Romsey succeeded his father as the 8th Baron. Although Norton remains Lord Romsey, he is now styled as Lord Brabourne, as he is a peer in his own right. There is no courtesy title for the heir to Brabourne barony, which means Nicholas cannot use the Romsey title. This is reserved for the Mountbatten heir.
Some may wonder about Nicholas' inheritance of the estate and fortune. Some years ago, the then Lord and Lady Romsey, following a precedent established by the Duke of Marlborough, whose eldest son and heir was a noted drug user, set up a trust to protect the estate's assets should Nicholas live to succeed to the titles and property.
(When Lord Brabourne succeeds his mother, he will be styled as the Earl Mountbatten of Burma. It is entirely possible that the Brabourne title will be used by his son, as a courtesy title. Norton would remain the peer, but the earldom is a higher rank than a baron. There is a precedent for this. The present duke of Fife is also the Earl of Southesk. During his father's lifetime, the Duke of Fife's son was styled as the Earl of Macduff, which is the courtesy title for the Fife dukedom. When the Earl of Southesk died, and the Duke of Fife inherited the earldom, the Duke announced that his son would be styled as the Earl of Southesk and his eldest grandson as Lord Carnegie. Lord Southesk has three sons so there are heirs to the Fife dukedom, but if the Fife dukedom would ever become extinct, the Southesk earldom will pass to another branch of the Carnegie family.
So it is possible that a similar announcement will be made after Norton succeeds as earl. Nicholas will most likely be styled as Lord Brabourne, and not Lord Romsey when his father is the earl. However, this all depends if Nicholas, who is named for Norton's younger brother, who was also killed in the IRA bombing on August 28, 1979, survives his drug use.)
The family has been beset by so much tragedy, including the IRA bombing that killed Lord Mountbatte, the Hon. Nicholas Knatchbull, the Dowager Lady Brabourne and Paul Maxwell, a 15-year-old local boy who worked for the family, and severely injured Lord and Lady Brabourne and the Hon. Timothy Knatchbull, Nicholas' twin. In 1991, Lord and Lady Romsey's younger daughter, Leonora, who died in 1991 at the age of five from a cancerous kidney tumor.)
The September issue of Tatler includes a profile on Timothy Knatchbull, who has written a book, On a Clear Day, about the bombing. Unfortunately, the writer includes the familiar canard about Lord Mountbatten engineering the match between his nephew, Prince Philip, and Princess Elizabeth. This is untrue. Prince Philip was raised by Lord Louis's older brother, the 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, and not by Lord Louis. It was only after Philip joined the Royal Navy that he got to know his uncle Louis.
Princess Elizabeth's circle of friends included Patricia Mountbatten, but she was closer to Georgina Wernher, who was the daughter of Sir Harold, Bt, and Lady Zia Wernher. (Zia's sister, Nada, was married to the former Prince George of Battenberg, who succeeded his father as the 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, who, of course, was Prince Philip's uncle and guardian.)
Although Philip was close to his cousin, David, who was the 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven (and was his bestman at his wedding), his best friend was Alex Wernher, who was Georgina's older brother. Alex was killed in action in Tunisia in 1942.
It is more likely that Elizabeth and Philip met through the Wernhers due to their friendship with Georgina and Alex. Today, Georgina, who is now Lady Kennaird, remains on the Queen's closest friends and confidantes.