For decades, the one name to top the royal guest lists has remained the same: Mountbatten.
Weddings, christenings, funerals and, yes, coronations just wouldn’t be the same without the presence of the family whose stately Hampshire home was Broadlands where both the King – with Princess Diana – and his parents began their honeymoon.
Indeed, no household is more woven into the modern history of the royal family than the Mountbattens, who have been linked by blood and kinship for more than a century, sharing moments of both happiness and crushing loss.
So the absence of the revered Lady Pamela Hicks from Westminster Abbey when King Charles is crowned next month is certainly surprising.
Queen Elizabeth looks down at her goddaughter, Edwina, in the arms of her mother, Lady Pamela Hicks. April 16, 1962
Lady Pamela Mountbatten, right, lady-in-waiting, corrects Queen Elizabeth’s shawl at the Royal Ball in Melbourne, March 1954
Lady Pamela, whose father Earl Mountbatten of Burma was Prince Philip’s uncle, attended the Queen’s funeral in a wheelchair last September. And later her daughter India Hicks revealed that her mother hoped to be one of the few people who had attended three coronations: that of King George VI in 1937 when she was eight years old, that of the Queen in 1953 and that of Charles .
Instead, Lady Pamela, widow of interior designer David Hicks, learned yesterday – her 94th birthday – that she had not been invited to the King’s coronation. “My mother wasn’t offended at all,” Mrs. Hicks said admirably.
Yet not including such a highly respected figure, who was a bridesmaid at the Queen’s wedding to Prince Philip in 1947 and whose late sister Patricia was Charles’ godmother, threatened to be among the 2,000 people invited to the ceremony. be seen as a stub.
It has also raised some troubling questions about what kind of spectacle the King and Buckingham Palace are planning on May 6. There have been grumbles about the smaller scale of the event compared to the scale of Queen Elizabeth’s awe-inspiring enthronement.
Then last week there were more murmurs about the King’s apparent desire to make the coronation “meritocratic and not aristocratic” with his decision to exclude many of Britain’s dukes and their robes and crowns, immediately making him one of the more colorful and moving aspects of earlier coronations.
It prompted the financier Ben Goldsmith, whose grandfather the Marquess of Londonderry was a high-ranking member of the aristocracy, to warn that Charles risked giving in to “dullness and dripping” by “watering down” his coronation.
‘Britain,’ he noted, ‘does these parties so well, and they are important to a great number of people, not just here, but all over the world.’
The Duke of Rutland told the Mail he did not understand the absence of an invitation, adding: “It is families like mine that have supported the royal family for over 1,000 years or so.”
Then Prince Charles with Lady Pamela Hicks at Anjelica Hicks’ christening in December 1992
Jemima Jones and Ben Goldsmith attend the wedding of Lady Gabriella Windsor and Thomas Kingston at St George’s Chapel on May 18, 2019 in Windsor, England
Rupert North wears the coronation robe, designed by award-winning florist Helen James, during a photo call on Spring Flower Show staging day on April 19
Much of the traditional pomp and circumstance will still be present, but there will be striking differences from the ceremony of 70 years ago. And the biggest change will be in the composition of the guest list.
According to courtiers, the king wants it to have a modern, inclusive and diverse look to reflect the country as a whole.
And while some may not mourn the omission of many of Britain’s 24 non-royal dukes, it’s harder to reconcile the absence of such an important figure as Lady Pamela.
Yesterday, her daughter, who herself is a goddaughter to the King and was maid of honor at his wedding to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, did her best to put a brave face on the news.
She wrote on Instagram that because her mother was hard of hearing, “important” messages were conveyed through her. “One of the king’s personal secretaries relayed a message from the king,” she wrote. “They explained that this coronation would be very different from the Queen’s.
“Eight thousand guests would be reduced to 1,000 (sic), easing the burden on the state. The king sent his great love and apologies, he offended many families and friends with the abbreviated list. My mother wasn’t offended at all.’
She quoted Lady Pamela as saying, ‘How very, very wise. I will follow the events of this new regime with great interest.’
It was, of course, an elegant response from someone who has long been at the heart of royal life.
And while the name Mountbatten will no doubt be represented – it is thought that the present Countess Mountbatten, who is married to Lady Pamela’s cousin Norton, will be a guest – the fact that the matriarch of the family will not be there raises eyebrows.
“If there’s no room for Lady Pamela, who else will be missing?” says someone from the king’s circle. “I’m sure it’s not an insult, but it looks like a blunder.”
Lady Pamela Hicks (left) shows the bridesmaid dress she wore to Queen Elizabeth’s wedding
At the 1953 coronation, Edwina in her large Art Deco tiara, with her daughters, Lady Pamela Hicks, and Lady Patricia, 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma and 7th Baroness Brabourne
As a young man, Prince Charles regularly sought the advice of Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India.
Indeed, in the 1970s, Mountbatten harbored hopes that the Prince would choose his own granddaughter Amanda Knatchbull – Lady Pamela’s niece – as his bride.
When Mountbatten was killed by the IRA in 1979, the Queen and all senior members of the Royal Family, including Prince Charles, attended the funeral. Seven years ago, Charles took the place of his old Gordonstoun classmate Norton, who was unwell, to give away Mountbatten’s great-granddaughter Alexandra on her wedding day.
If she were disappointed by this turn of events, Lady Pamela would never say so.
Loyalty to the royal family is a maxim she and her entire family have long lived by. However, many will wonder if her absence means that the same loyalties are not always reciprocated.