In Depth

The Crown: victim’s mother calls for ‘sensitivity’ in depiction of IRA attack

Netflix urged to tackle Mountbatten ‘execution’ truthfully and with respect in next series

The mother of a boy murdered alongside Lord Louis Mountbatten has called on the makers of Netflix hit The Crown to depict the IRA atrocity with “sensitivity” and “truth”.

Mary Hornsey’s 15-year-old son, Paul Maxwell, was working on Mountbatten’s fishing boat when the vessel was blown up by an IRA bomb on 27 August 1979, the Belfast Telegraph reports. 

The attack is to feature in the upcoming fourth season of the royal drama, a move that Hornsey says could be “positive” - provided it is handled well.

“I think it’s important to get that message out, that they should not murder, they should not kill. Especially children,” she said.

Actor Charles Dance, who plays Mountbatten in The Crown, has reportedly already filmed the scene, but Hornsey says she has no idea what the resulting episode will involve.

“I don’t know whether the programme’s going to be respectful until I actually see it. I would hope that it would be because there are very many sensitive issues,” she said. 

“A lot of people like myself are still grieving over that and probably always will. So it should be handled with sensitivity and yet truth as well.”

What happened in 1979?

Mountbatten died along with three other people when the IRA detonated a remote-controlled bomb on his boat, Shadow V, during a fishing trip off the County Sligo village of Mullaghmore, on Ireland’s northwest coast.

The paramilitary group described the killing of Mountbatten – the last viceroy of India and the Queen’s second cousin – as an “execution”, The Guardian reports.

His grandson Nicholas Knatchbull, 14, and the dowager Lady Doreen Brabourne, 83 were also killed in the explosion, along with boat boy Maxwell. 

Mountbatten’s daughter Patricia, her husband John and their son Timothy, Nicholas’s twin, were injured but survived.

The attack - described by The Guardian as “one of the Troubles’ most notorious atrocities” - was so shocking that it attracted more global attention than a separate IRA ambush that killed 18 British soldiers just hours later.

A BBC documentary aired last year, The Day Mountbatten Died, suggested that Martin McGuinness, the late Sinn Fein leader, personally approved the operation to kill Mountbatten in his role as the then commander of the IRA’s South Armagh unit.

Bombmaker Thomas McMahon and alleged accomplice Francis McGirl were arrested hours after the attack. McMahon was sentenced to life but released in 1998 under the Good Friday Agreement.

McGirl was acquitted and died in 1995 in what appeared to be an accident. However,  The Mail on Sunday last year reported claims that an SAS hit squad tracked down and killed McGirl, but made it appear that he had been run over by his own tractor while drunk.

Is this The Crown’s first brush with controversy?

As The Sun reports, the popular television show has raised eyebrows on more than one occasion with its depiction of the Royal Family. 

A scene showing a “racy Princess Anne... cavorting in sexy underwear with muscly soldier Andrew Parker Bowles” caused some controversy, although as the paper notes, “embarrassingly for the real royals… this tale is true”.

And a storyline in the third series alluding to a relationship between the Queen and her horse training manager Lord Porchester forced her former press secretary, Dickie Arbiter, to tell Sky News that the rumours were “absolute nonsense”.

“All sorts of people have written about it and made allegations, innuendos, suggestions - there’s nothing to it,” insisted Arbiter. 

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