Late Queen blocked Lord Mountbatten statue plans over maintenance costs, released papers suggest

Queen With Lord Mountbatten At A Polo Match
The Queen raised the issue with minister Michael Heseltine about the prices - Tim Graham

The late Queen was so “concerned” at the spiralling costs and size of a nine-foot statue commemorating the murdered Lord Mountbatten that she intervened with ministers - saving the taxpayer some £250,000.

Officials pulled the plug on an elaborate design that would have featured the former Admiral of the Fleet at the centre of four fountains on the points of a compass rose, after she baulked at the massive upkeep costs, newly released National Archives papers show.

The bronze statue was funded by around £100,000 of public donations in a campaign driven by Margaret Thatcher, who personally chose the final location outside the Foreign Office.

Six sculptors competed for the commission, with judges choosing a design by Franta Belsky that placed a nine-foot-tall statue on top of a nine-foot-tall plinth.

‘Commuted sum’

At the time, the installation costs alone were set to reach £65,000 and Belsky was to be paid £35,000, but a “commuted sum” of around £250,000 was also needed to maintain the fountains for an indefinite period and would have landed on the taxpayer.

Peter Rumble, a senior official at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, wrote in a memo that the Queen raised the issue with his minister, Michael Heseltine.

Officially, comments made by advisers from the Royal Fine Art Commission were used to justify revisions to the winning design.

But Rumble wrote in newly released notes: “It was calculated that a commuted payment of £250,000 would have been required for future maintenance.

Queen Elizabeth II dances with Lord Louis Mountbatten during a fundraising dinner
The Queen unveiled the revised design of the sculpture in November 1983 - Jimmy Sime

“That calculation fell by the way following the comments of the Royal Fine Art Commission.

“However, I believe that Her Majesty may have heard of the magnitude of the commuted payment for future maintenance and may have raised it with Mr Heseltine.

“The outcome is that the rumoured requirement for a commuted sum of £250,000 which concerned the Queen is reduced to £5,000.”

The revised design, unveiled by The Queen in November 1983, was a more austere diamond shape with steps leading to the plinth.

Mentor to King Charles

Subsequent maintenance costs included cleaning four times a year, washing and coating with lanolin, as well as any necessary repairs, costing only around £550 a year.

Mountbatten was killed when members of the IRA planted a bomb aboard his fishing boat in County Sligo, Ireland.

A highly decorated WWII naval commander, Mountbatten, known as Dickie, was also uncle to Prince Philip and mentor to the then Prince Charles.

He served as viceroy and governor-general of India before the country was partitioned and gained independence from Britain.

He later became First Sea Lord in Sir Anthony Eden’s cabinet and served as chief of the defence staff between 1959 and 1965.