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Meet Lord Ivar Mountbatten - the late Queen's gay cousin who made royal history

The farmer and aristocrat married his husband in 2018

Millie Jackson
Freelance Writer
June 29, 2024
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Lord Ivar Mountbatten made history when he became the first member of the extended royal family to publicly come out as gay and the first to have a same-sex wedding. 

Read on for his story... 

Early life

Ivar is the son of Janet Mercedes Bryce and David Mountbatten, 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven. He was educated at Gordonstoun School in Scotland, the same school that educated King Charles and Prince Phillip. He also attended college in Vermont in the US. 

Janet Bryce, Lady Milford Haven pictured with her newborn son Ivar Mountbatten in London on 20th March 1963© Getty
Janet Bryce, Lady Milford Haven pictured with her newborn son Ivar Mountbatten in London on 20th March 1963

Connections to the royals 

Ivar is the great-great-great grandson of Queen Victoria and is related to the late Queen and Prince Phillip. His father David was the godson of the Duke of Windsor, the best man at the wedding of the Queen and Prince Phillip, and a mentor to the then Prince Charles.  

Princess Margaret and Prince Edward attended Ivar's first wedding and he is the godfather to Lady Louise Windsor. 

First marriage 

Ivar married Penny Thompson in April 1994, and she knew her husband was bisexual. They wed at the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Clare, Suffolk, followed by a Reception at Moyns Park. 

The couple were married for 16 years and separated in 2010, divorcing in November 2011. Ivar told The Daily Mail: "Ultimately, Penny did not feel sufficiently loved and she wanted more from a husband than she could get from me. Given my sexuality, I was quite surprised she married me in the first place. It was brave. Perhaps she thought she could change me but in the end she realised she couldn't." 

The separation was amicable with Penny spending lockdown in a bubble with Ivar, James and their family© Instagram
The separation was amicable with Penny spending lockdown in a bubble with Ivar, James and their family


Ivar shares three daughters with Penny: Ella, Louise and Alix. He has a close bond with all three, and has often commented publicly about how supportive they are of him and his current relationship. 

Ella is the goddaughter of Prince Edward, while Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, is godmother to Alix. 

Ivar and Penny's daughters were at the wedding© Instagram
Ivar and Penny's daughters were at the wedding

Coming out 

"Being a Mountbatten was never the problem," Lord Iver told The Daily Mail, "it was the generation into which I was born. When I was growing up, it was known as 'the love that dare not speak its name', but what's amazing now is how far we have all come in terms of acceptance. 

"'Coming out' is such a funny phrase but it's what I suppose I did in a rather roundabout way, emerging to a place I'm happy to be. I have struggled with my sexuality and in some ways I still do; it has been a real journey to reach this point." 

James and Ivar's love story 

The couple met in Verbier, Switzerland, in March 2015 when airline cabin services director James mistook Ivar for a ski guide he had been with earlier. They got chatting and began to call regularly and go on dates. 

Of their early courtship, Ivar told Tatler: "We used to speak to each other so much over the phone that it was a bit like being on Cilia Black's Blind Date, talking to each other through the screen." 

The couple wed in 2018© Instagram
The couple wed in 2018

It was a matter of weeks before Ivar introduced James to his family. James said: "He doesn't hang around, and that's the delightful thing about Ivar, he makes his mind up about some­thing and sticks to it. There's no game playing, to a degree where you're almost looking for the catch. He's so straightforward and remarkably easy to love." 

Ivar proposed to James in the kitchen of their home, Bridwell Manor. 

The wedding 

In 2018, James and Ivar wed in a ceremony in Devon, and the royal was given away by his first wife Penny, who has been supportive throughout his coming out journey. 

On Instagram, Ivar wrote: "Well we did it finally! It was an amazing day despite the miserable British weather. Fabulous service conducted by Trish Harrogate, chief Registrar for Devon, who set the perfect but lighthearted tone for what is a serious occasion." He also thanked the gospel choir, the Bristol’s Teachers Rock Choir as well as the photographer. 

The couple had a lovely day in spite of the weather© Instagram
The couple had a lovely day in spite of the weather

He went on: "Most importantly a massive thanks to my three gorgeous girls for being so understanding and supportive, without their support this could never have happened! And finally the biggest thank you to James for being just perfect." 

Their family home 

The three girls, James and Ivar live in the Grade I listed Bridwell Manor in Devon, coming complete with a deer park, home to 300 deer. 

Due in part to financial constraints, in April this year Ivar announced they were selling the Georgian country pile for an impressive £5.5 million. 

They opened their home to the public in 2015, which has over 300 deer roaming the grounds© Harry Trump
They opened their home to the public in 2015, which has over 300 deer roaming the grounds

Making history 

Ivar wrote about his experience in The Independent. He said: "Having the world’s press shine a huge spotlight on me overnight proclaiming me 'The First Gay Royal' was nonetheless pretty alarming. The reaction of my friends and family concerned me a lot, and I wondered if my world would suddenly collapse around me. 

"My fears were of course unfounded. Absolutely everyone was incredibly supportive, and it soon became clear that in the scheme of things, your sexuality is of no significance to others. In my case, it’s fair to say that once I had made that very public leap out of the closet, I wondered what all the fuss was about." 

Lord Ivar regularly shares photos of his blended family© Instagram
Lord Ivar regularly shares photos of his blended family

Royal reaction 

While Prince William has not addressed the match directly, he said in 2019 when speaking to an LGBTQ+ charity in London that he would "fully support" his children if they were gay but added: "It does worry me from a parent point of view how many barriers, hateful words, persecution, all that and discrimination that might come, that's the bit that really troubles me."  

The Queen's cousin told Tatler that Prince Edward and Duchess Sophie were "very supportive" of the match and thought James is "brilliant". 

He also added that his aunt Nadejda Mountbatten, 2nd Mar­chioness of Milford Haven, "was a lesbian", and said: "The older generation of my family have seen and done it all before." 

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