[WATCH] The Mountbatten mystery: is this the last piece of the Rabat red house brothel?

Lord Mountbatten’s dirty laundry at the elusive Red House is given an airing by the historian Andrew Lownie in a revealing new book. But did the elusive Red House brothel truly exist in Rabat?

Louis Mountbatten and his wife Edwina
Louis Mountbatten and his wife Edwina
Mountbatten mystery: was Rabat house naval officers' brothel?

The Rabat Red House that served as a secret gay brothel attended by Lord Mountbatten exists no more with the only remnant being a foundation rock.

The building was mentioned in a yet to be published biography of Lord Mountbatten and his wife Edwina by Andrew Lownie, a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Although Lownie’s investigation sheds little light on where the house is, research undertaken by MaltaToday points to a site in Rabat, just off the Roman Villa.

The building is no longer there and the only remnants of the Red House appear to be a red foundation rock and the name of the street, Red Tower Street.

Research for the biography unveils that the decorated war hero and uncle to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, used to frequent a gay brothel in Rabat during his time in Malta between 1950 and 1954.

Lownie describes this as the Red House, and quoting his source, Lownie told MaltaToday that The Red House functioned as “an upmarket gay brothel used by senior naval officers.”

Historian Andrew Lownie
Historian Andrew Lownie

He said that Lord Mountbatten’s former chauffeur in Malta, now in his nineties, said that Mountbatten used his own personal car to get to the Rabat brothel.

The driver, Ron Perks, was once asked by Mountbatten to take him to this fabled house and he had acceded to the request.

“I found [the driver] from an interview in a newspaper cutting in East Anglia… and went to see him. During the course of the interview, he decided to tell me these things. He’s a very nice, serious, old school soldier,” Lownie said.

“It was an isolated, baronial-style building with a flat roof. One day as we were driving along, Mountbatten asked if I knew the Red House. I said I did and he asked if I would take him there, which I did. I never dropped him there, but he had his own car which he used often. He wouldn’t have asked me for nothing. I didn’t know what it was and only learnt after I came out of the service that it was an upmarket gay brothel used by senior naval officers. You’re taught to keep out of trouble in the Navy and I’ve never said a word about the incident until now,” Perks told Lownie.

In a chapter of Lownie’s book called ‘Rumours’, the biographer retells stories he heard about Mountbatten’s exploits in Malta.

“People told me stories about [Mountbatten] being invited on picnics in Malta and it was clearly a sexual invitation. There was also an affair with a woman in Malta but which was covered up. I wasn’t able to get anyone to speak on record about it. I think most of them didn’t want to say anything because of their loyalty towards him,” Lownie said.

Red foundations: these Rabat apartments have probably been built over the alleged former brothel known as ‘the Red House’
Red foundations: these Rabat apartments have probably been built over the alleged former brothel known as ‘the Red House’
Red foundations: these Rabat apartments have probably been built over the alleged former brothel known as ‘the Red House’
Red foundations: these Rabat apartments have probably been built over the alleged former brothel known as ‘the Red House’

Back in May 2018, Lownie used the Times of Malta to ask for any knowledge of The Red House by publishing a call for information.
When we reached out to him he said that that call was quite fruitless.

“I tried to locate [the house] and spoke to several people in Malta… tried various forums but with no luck. My source is in his nineties and was remembering back 70 years but he was pretty adamant about The Red House,” he said.

There is a red house, il-Palazz l-Aħmar, in the area known as Landrijiet in the outskirts of Rabat, today housing the restaurant Rogantino’s.
But its owner, Tony Grech, a history buff, insisted the Red House frequented by Lord Mountbatten was inside Rabat proper. “The Red House you’re looking for is close to the Roman Villa but it’s not there anymore. It has since been turned into a block of flats,” he told MaltaToday.

Grech’s claim was corroborated by an elderly acquaintance of Mountbatten – in Malta – who said the Red House was close to a drinking spot for horses.

Pictures of prominent photographers at the time, like Alfred Vella Gera and Richard Ellis do not seem to have documented The Red

The Mountbattens by Andrew Lownie
The Mountbattens by Andrew Lownie

Postcard collections compiled by the forensic expert Anthony Abela Medici do not feature the elusive house either, who said he was unaware of a red house on Red Tower Street.

Tony Grech and other sources told MaltaToday that the Red House belonged to the Von Brockdorff family, and at the time was used as a ‘party house’ by the British navy. The Von Brockdorffs eventually sold it and moved to Iklin, Grech suggested.

While he could not confirm the existence of a gay brothel in Rabat, Joseph Carmel Chetcuti, author of Queer Mediterranean Memories – a query history of Malta –said that Rabat was “quite gay friendly” at the time of Mountbatten.

“All I know is that [Mountbatten] used to go horse-riding and give young teenage boys a ride on the horse in Marsa… he used to hold them very close to him,” Chetcuti claimed.

Rumours of Lord Mountbatten and his Edwina’s sexual promiscuity have become part of the legend of the Mountbattens. But Lownie’s unearthing of the FBI files confirm the reputation of his alleged homosexuality to have been earned by Queen Elizabeth’s second cousin.
Mountbatten himself had admitted later in life that he and his wife had spent “all [their] married lives getting into other people’s beds.”

He never confirmed, however, his interest in young men, and the story of the Red House in Rabat still proves elusive and largely based on hearsay.

Lownie told MaltaToday that he had encountered a 2002 Daily Express article which told the story of a possible illegitimate child of Lord Mountbatten, Andrew Guy, who was the adoptive son of a leading telegraphist — who served on some of the same ships as Lord Mountbatten – and a nurse to Lord Mountbatten’s daughters at Casa Medina in Malta.

The story seems to have not been followed up since that time and while Guy asked for Lord Mountbatten’s DNA for analysis, nothing else was reported.

Mountbatten was an admiral in the Royal Navy and served as Supreme Allied Commander, South East Command during the second World War. He also held the post of Chief of Defence Staff and Chairman of the NATO military Committee. He was assassinated in an IRA bomb attack on his private boat, in Mullaghmore in Ireland, in August 1979.