LONDON -- The biggest gathering of royalty since the wedding of Prince Charles paid homage Wednesday to Earl Louis Mountbatten -- the sailor-statesman killed by an Irish terrorist bomb four years ago.
Almost the entire British royal family, a galaxy of foreign royals, and four former British prime ministers gathered to watch Queen Elizabeth II unveil a statue in Horse Guards Parade to the inspiring war commander and a revered statesman they knew simply as 'Uncle Dickie.'
He was murdered four years ago at age 79 by members of the Irish Republican Army who planted a bomb in his sailboat off the Irish coast. It blew up when he went fishing with his grandchildren, killing him instantly.
'He himself died at the hands of wicked men, but his work lives on,' said Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Mountbatten's life and achievements in peace and war were synonymous with the history of Britain in the 20th century: supreme allied commander in Southeast Asia in World War II, first sea lord, chief of defense staff, last viceroy of imperial India.
Mrs Thatcher personified him as 'A gallant figure. Loyal, bold, steeped in tradition yet unconventional ... a man to whom our nation could look to recall and inspire its spirit of action and reverence of personal courage.'
The queen added a personal note, saying 'above all Dickie delighted in being a family man and was always ready to help any members of the family.'
As great-grandson of Queen Victoria he was closely related to the royal family and introduced the queen, his cousin, to her future husband, Prince Philip. Prince Charles and Princess Diana spent their wedding night at his country home.
All three attended the brief ceremony along with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, Queen Mother Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and a host of lesser royalty. King Olav of Norway was among a dozen European royals.
Mindful of the IRA's bomb attack, security was the tightest since the royal wedding July 29, 1981, reporters said. More than 200 armed police, backed up by closed circuit television, mingled among the crowds.
To a fanfare of trumpets, the queen stepped forward under a gray November sky to unveil the Union Jack from the 9-foot-high bronze statue. It depicts Mountbatten in naval uniform standing ramrod straight, binoculars to his chest.
The statue, by Czech-born sculptor Franta Belsky, was paid for by public subscription. The names of thousands of people around the world, from world leaders to retired seamen and soldiers who served under Mountbatten were recorded in a book of donors handed over to Mountbatten's family.