When the diaries and letters of Lord and Lady Mountbatten were “saved for the nation” in 2010, it should have created an invaluable public resource. Instead, a writer has spent four years and £250,000 of his own money in an ongoing – but still frustrated – attempt to force Southampton University and the Cabinet Office to allow the public to view them.
The university bought the Broadlands archive, named after the Mountbattens’ Grade I-listed house, for £2.8m in 2010, attracting funding by stating it would “preserve the collection in its entirety for future generations to use and enjoy” and “ensure public access”.
However, Andrew Lownie, the author of a 2019 book about the Mountbattens, has been fighting unsuccessfully since 2017 for their correspondence and diaries to be released. This is despite freedom of information (FoI) requests and an order by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that the material be released.
The university has said it was directed by the government to keep a small number of the papers private until told otherwise. “They’ve spent hundreds of thousands of pounds and brought in two top QCs, and this fight has been going on for four years so I can only imagine there’s something [interesting] there otherwise why would they bother?” said Lownie.
Lownie began his quest when researching his book. Although it has since been published, he is determined to continue the fight, and is now trying to raise £50,000 on Crowdjustice…