Lord BRABOURNE (1924-2005)

Lord Brabourne
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THIS IS YOUR LIFE - Lord Brabourne, professionally known as John Brabourne, peer and film producer, was surprised by Michael Aspel at the Old Brewery venue in London.

The son of the 5th Baron Brabourne, John was educated at Eton College and Brasenose College, Oxford. During the Second World War, he served in the Coldstream Guards, rising to the rank of Captain.

John became the 7th Baron Brabourne in 1943 after his elder brother, who had inherited the title on the death of their father in 1939, was executed by the German SS. He married Patricia Mountbatten, elder daughter and heiress of Lord Mountbatten.

After the war John began working in television production before graduating to the role of production manager in films by the early 1950s, and finally becoming a film producer in his own right in 1958. Among his most acclaimed films are Death on the Nile, Romeo and Juliet and A Passage to India.

This edition of This Is Your Life is presented as the 501st by Thames Television, and was recorded in front of a specially invited audience of past subjects.

“What a shock that is!”

Photographs of Lord Brabourne This Is Your Life

The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book

Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley recalls the experience of this particular edition of This Is Your Life in his book This Is Your Life: The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book...

The Banqueting Hall of the Old Brewery in the City of London was the scene of a gala evening on 9 September 1990 – the occasion of the 501st edition of the Life since Thames Television first started broadcasting the programme.

Every guest had been the Life’s guest of honour over a period of twenty-one years. As Michael Aspel said, ‘I doubt if there has ever been such a stunning array of people, from all walks of life, gathered together: show business, sport, politics, courage in war, bravery in peace, light-hearted lives and lives of self-sacrifice.’

The man whose name was on the book that night covered them all. Our co-conspirator was Countess Mountbatten of Burma, and the man from whom she was keeping the secret was her husband, the host at that table, international film producer Lord Brabourne.

Said Michael Aspel as he sprang the surprise: ‘As our dinner guests might say, “Welcome to the club.”’

The curtains onstage parted to reveal friends, colleagues and family, including daughters Joanna and Amanda, sons Michael-John, Philip and Timothy, and Lord Mountbatten’s second daughter Lady Pamela Hicks.

Before the war, Lord Brabourne’s father had been Governor of Bombay and Bengal and Acting Viceroy of India as, of course, was Lord Mountbatten. So, uniquely, both grandfathers of Lord Brabourne’s children were Viceroys of India.

In 1941, Lord Brabourne lied about his age – he was in fact seventeen – to enlist in the Coldstream Guards. By a coincidence he was among the troops drafted in as extras on Noel Coward’s wartime classic In Which We Serve, based on the exploits of Lord Louis and HMS Kelly.

Lord Brabourne’s younger brother Norton, an officer in the Grenadier Guards, was taken prisoner in 1943. He attempted an escape, but was recaptured and shot to deter others.

Himself commissioned, Lord Brabourne was in the thick of the action as the Guards swept through Europe following the Normandy landings in 1944. He was wounded in the shoulder.

Next he became ADC to General Sir William Slim of the 14th Army in South-East Asia. One day, the general invited the Supreme Allied Commander, Lord Louis, to tea at his Ceylon HQ. He took Lady Patricia with him, and that is when they met. The following year he became army ADC to Mountbatten, and he and Patricia were married in 1946 at Romsey Abbey.

Prince Charles wrote, ‘Just tell him he and my godmother Patricia have been a part of my life since my earliest childhood recollections and they both mean a great deal to me.’

After demob, he went to work for film producer Herbert Wilcox and met a newly demobbed third assistant director, Richard Goodwin. They were to set up their own company, and the first film Lord Brabourne produced was Harry Black and the Tiger, starring Stewart Granger, who greeted him before going on stage.

International directors Lewis Gilbert, Sidney Lumet and Franco Zeffirelli paid tribute, as did producer David Puttnam.

The lives of Lord Brabourne and Lord Louis Mountbatten were inextricably linked from the moment he first met Patricia. And, with Patricia, he was at Lord Louis’s side at the very end. A family fishing trip, a mile from Mullaghmore Harbour in County Sligo, on 27 August 1979, ended in a tragedy that made world headlines.

A bomb had been planted in the boat, resulting in the death of Lord Louis, Lord Brabourne’s mother, Doreen Lady Brabourne, and his son Nicholas, aged fourteen, twin of Timothy. Local youngster Paul Maxwell aged fifteen, also died in the blast. Lord Brabourne himself, Patricia and Timothy were all seriously injured. Patricia ensures her father’s memory lives on with the title she now proudly bears: Countess Mountbatten of Burma.

A moving example of this family’s fighting spirit came from Lord Mountbatten’s family home at Broadlands, where we filmed Lord Brabourne’s son Norton, Lord Romsey, his wife Penny and their children Nicholas, aged nine, Alexandra, seven, and five-year-old Leonora, who was battling against cancer, and had been allowed home from Bart’s Hospital for a few days.

Lord Romsey and Penny joined us live, and the family picture was completed with more grandchildren, Joanna’s daughter Eleuthera, four, and surprise fly-ins from Portugal, Michael-John’s wife Melissa, with their daughter whose name keeps alive the memory of Lord Mountbatten’s heroic wartime experiences – two-year-old Kelly.

programme details...

  • Edition No: 785
  • Subject No: 774
  • Broadcast date: Wed 17 Oct 1990
  • Broadcast time: 7-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Mon 17 Sep 1990
  • Venue: The Old Brewery
  • Series: 31
  • Edition: 1
  • Code name: India

on the guest list...

  • The Beverley Sisters
  • Bill Griffiths
  • Su Pollard
  • Paul Shane
  • Adam Faith
  • Donald Sinden
  • Frazer Hines
  • Sheila Mercier
  • Robert Dougall
  • Deryck Guyler
  • Jane Rossington
  • Richard Todd
  • Marjorie Proops
  • Wendy Craig
  • Jimmy Tarbuck
  • Bob Monkhouse
  • Jeffrey Archer
  • Alan Whicker
  • Trevor McDonald
  • David Jacobs
  • Judith Chalmers
  • Cliff Michelmore
  • Patricia Hodge
  • Peter Shilton
  • Gorden Kaye
  • Rodney Bewes
  • Dinah Sheridan
  • June Whitfield
  • John Conteh
  • Claire Rayner
  • Esther Rantzen
  • Martyn Lewis
  • Felix Bowness
  • John Harris
  • Oliver Reed
  • Patrick Mower
  • Jackie Pallo
  • Nosher Powell
  • Richard Dunn
  • Joanna - daughter
  • Amanda - daughter
  • Michael-John - son
  • Philip - sons
  • Timothy - son
  • Countess Mountbatten - wife
  • Lady Pamela Hicks
  • Doris Robinson
  • Sean Jamieson
  • David Featherstone-Hall
  • Major Jim Cowley
  • message from HRH Prince Charles
  • Richard Goodwin
  • David Puttnam
  • Franco Zeffirelli
  • Anthony Havelock-Allan
  • Lord Crathorne
  • Norton - son
  • Penny – daughter-in-law
  • Eleuthera – granddaughter
  • Melissa – daughter-in-law
  • Kelly - granddaughter
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Peter Ustinov
  • Charles Harris-St John
  • Stewart Granger
  • Lewis Gilbert
  • Sidney Lumet
  • Leonora – granddaughter
  • Nicholas – grandson
  • Alexandra - granddaughter

external links...

production team...

  • Researcher: Sue Green
  • Writer: Roy Bottomley
  • Director: Brian Klein
  • Associate Producer: John Graham
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
names listed in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
Series 31 subjects: Lord Brabourne > Graham Gooch > Norman Barrett > Richard Harris > Tracy Edwards > Stephen Hendry > Robert Pountney > Jimmy Savile > Evelyn Laye > Ernie Wise > Kenneth Mckellar > Tom Gleave > Bernard Braden > Barry Foster > Carmen Silvera > Arthur Hailey > Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent > The Bee Gees > John Woodhouse > Evelyn Glennie > David Tomlinson > Dave Willetts > Harry Carpenter > Lionel Bart > Stan Richards > Lonnie Donegan