Patricia Knatchbull, a cousin of Prince Philip who survived an Irish Republican Army bombing that killed her father and teenage son, died June 13 at her home in southeast England. She was 93.
The death was announced by the family, but no cause was given.
Mrs. Knatchbull, titled Countess Mountbatten of Burma and known as Lady Patricia, was the elder daughter of the British World War II military leader Lord Louis Mountbatten, who died in the 1979 bombing aboard his fishing boat off the coast of County Sligo in western Ireland. The attack also claimed the lives of her teenage son, her mother-in-law, who was 83, and a 15-year-old deck hand.
Mrs. Knatchbull, her husband and another son were badly wounded but recovered. She spent much of the rest of her life supporting charities for children and another that helps parents cope with grief.
Part of her own emotional healing involved not succumbing to hatred of the attackers. “If you are bitter, it consumes you, your family and the people around you,” she told the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph in 2008. “If my father had survived he would have felt the same way.”
A descendant of Queen Victoria, Mrs. Knatchbull was close to the royal family and a lifelong confidante of Queen Elizabeth II — she was also Prince Charles’s godmother. Charles, in a statement, said he had “known and loved [her] ever since I can remember. She played an extremely important part in my life.”
Patricia Edwina Victoria Mountbatten was born in London on Feb. 14, 1924. Her father was a descendant of European royals and became a career officer in the British Royal Navy, seeing action in World War I. By the end of the next world war, he was Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia.
Mountbatten was also the uncle and guardian of Prince Philip and seen as a matchmaker between his nephew and the then-Princess Elizabeth.
Mrs. Knatchbull and her sister were raised by a governess and did not consider themselves close to their mother, who was absent for much of their upbringing and had a notoriously open marriage. Her father was away too, often at sea, but he developed a close bond with his daughter.
“He was a wonderful father,” she said, “spending as much time with us as he possibly could.”
Early in World War II, Patricia and her sister Pamela were packed off to the safety of New York, where they lived in the Fifth Avenue mansion of Cornelius Vanderbilt III and his wife, Grace. Mrs. Knatchbull returned to England in 1943, joining the Women’s Royal Naval Service.
Posted to Asia, she met her father’s aide-de-camp, an army officer and nobleman named John Knatchbull. (His title was Lord Brabourne). At their huge society wedding in 1946, the guests included King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Mrs. Knatchbull’s bridesmaids included the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.
The following year, Louis Mountbatten was made the last British viceroy of India to administer India’s independence.
The Knatchbulls’ marriage was happy, enduring and fruitful. They raised two daughters and five sons, the youngest the identical twins Nicholas and Timothy.
After the war, Lord Brabourne became a successful producer in the British film industry as well as a television company executive.
In the late 1970s, when Prince Charles was feeling pressure to find a wife without a past, he turned to Mrs. Knatchbull’s younger daughter, Amanda. Her father, ever the dynastic matchmaker, sought to foster the relationship, but his wife was cooler toward the match, recognizing that Amanda saw Charles only as a friend. She rejected his proposal but remained a friend.
On Aug. 27, 1979, the Mountbattens were in Ireland vacationing at the family’s castle overlooking the fishing village of Mullaghmore. This was during the height of the “The Troubles,” when the Provisional Irish Republican Army was waging a guerrilla war against British rule in Northern Ireland. Mountbatten, then 79 and retired from public life, thought the Irish nationalists would leave him alone, though he had a police security detail.
On a clear, blue morning, he skippered his 29-foot motor yacht, Shadow V, out of Mullaghmore harbor to retrieve lobster pots. Other family members came along for the ride. Unknown to them (or the police who stayed on shore), the IRA had placed a 50-pound bomb under the helm. The attackers, watching from the distance, set it off once the boat was a few hundreds yards offshore.
The wooden boat disintegrated. Mountbatten, Nicholas Knatchbull, 14, and the deck hand, Paul Maxwell, 15, were killed in the blast. Mrs. Knatchbull, her husband and her son Timothy were badly injured. Her mother-in-law, the Dowager Baroness Doreen Brabourne, who was 83, died the following day.
Mrs. Knatchbull, while in the water, said she remembered advice her father had given after he was once shipwrecked: that she should hold her nose and mouth to prevent drowning. She suffered a shattered leg, cuts from splinters and facial trauma that required 120 stitches in her face, including her eyeballs. She later called the scars “my IRA facelift.”
She took leading roles in several major charities, including the British Red Cross and several organizations benefiting children.
After the loss of her son, “I cried every day for over six months,” she said, “and intermittently for the next year.”
She said she felt guilty that her grief for her son was so deep, “that I was not able to grieve for my father, whom I really adored, in the same way.”
Mrs. Knatchbull’s survivors include six children, her sister and 18 grandchildren. Her husband died in 2005.
The only person convicted in the attack was the bombmaker, Thomas McMahon. He served 18 years before his early release under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought The Troubles to a close.
Speaking on BBC radio in 2005, Mrs. Knatchbull said that she believed “if letting him go a year earlier would advance the peace process that was the thing that really mattered. It’s so desperately important to get peace back into Ireland in a proper way.”