Lord Ivar Mountbatten is Bisexual, First Member of Royal Family to Come Out

Just in time to kick off Bisexual Awareness Week, 53-year-old Lord Ivar Mountbatten has become the first out member of the British Royal Family by coming out as bisexual. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Mountbatten said he’s known he was bi since he was a teen, but “just did not want to go there because there would have been so much grief.” Mountbatten, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth, married wife Penny in 1994, and they divorced in 2011. Mountbatten says that he was out to his wife as bisexual and dated men after their divorce, but never came out publicly until he met now-boyfriend James Coyle, who he says wasn’t willing to be with someone closeted for the long term.

Lord Ivar Mountbatten, left, with boyfriend James Coyle, right

Lord Ivar Mountbatten, left, with boyfriend James Coyle, right/photo credit Daily Mail

Although Mountbatten doesn’t face many of the challenges that bi people worldwide tend to, like poor health and poverty, due to his wealth and class, it seems that his family’s stature hasn’t insulated him from some other forms of biphobia, like the fact that headlines seem to almost exclusively refer to him as coming out as gay even though he refers to himself as bisexual several times. (He also refers to himself as gay elsewhere, saying “I am a lot happier now, though I am still not 100 per cent comfortable with being gay,” but the nuance of his using both labels does not seem to be reflected in most coverage of him.) Additionally, when talking about his ex-wife, he says “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,” a sad statement — unfortunately, it’s far too common for bi people feel that their sexual orientation makes them undesirable as partners, or that their partners are with them in spite of their bisexuality.


Today, Mountbatten seems happy and settled with Coyle, an airline cabin services director; he says “everyone in our family knows and could not be more supportive.” Both are still close with his ex-wife, Penny, and Mountbatten is out to his three daughters, who he says love James as a stepfather.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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  1. I’m just thinking, what would the inheritance logistics be if someone was exclusively gay? Would being born by surrogate or IVF affect the line of succession, or is just the legal parent important? I guess the only way to answer that for the present would be to see if royals have adopted kids and had them inherit the title in the past.

    • I think that the requirement is biological, and so as long as they are biologically related to the current peer they would be in line to inherit…I don’t think there’s ever been a test case but I imagine surrogate and IVF would be fine as long as the sperm comes from the male title holder (i.e. not his partner).

      On adoption – you can’t inherit as there’s no genetic link. You do get a courtesy title though, and I believe you’re basically treated as a biological younger child.

      On an interesting, and linked note this article on transgender inheritance of titles may be an interesting read.


      • That article is also extremely transphobic. The entire tone comes off as a well-meaning cisgender person who doesn’t give a shit about actually understanding what they’re writing about.

          • That’s fine, but if you agree, then next time you should put up a disclaimer or warning that the content may be offensive to others. :)

  2. Thank you for using the word “bisexual” in the headline. So many news organizations used the less-inclusive umbrella term “gay” which contributes to bi erasure.

  3. I know this is great news but the surname “Mountbatten” is so ridiculously British and royal that I can’t stop giggling at it

  4. I’ll just be sitting quietly over here, waiting for Queen Victoria of Sweden to be coming out and whisk me off to a royal ball.

  5. Bi wasn’t used because Mountbatten identified himself as gay. His Royal lineage and his age points to a time where he had to hide in the closest and deny his true feelings and had no choice as many older men had to. To mislabel him as bi just because he was married and had a child after he himself declared that he is gay is as bad as mislabeling a bi-sexual person as “gay”

  6. In all the British press (there’s been LOTS!) , whether mainstream or LGBT, he’s described himself as gay, not bi, in every single one…

    • I get that the Daily Mail is a tabloid, but they have a quote from Lord Mountbatten where he does describe himself as bi: “‘I never thought I would get married because I didn’t want to be untruthful. Penny was aware before we got married. I told her I was bisexual, that my attraction went both ways.”

    • His usage of gay to describe himself seems to be a way to reflect that he is currently in a relationship with a same-sex partner, and the difference between that and his marriage. As in, his underlying orientation is bisexual, but he is currently in a gay relationship. That’s my understanding at any rate.

  7. Good for him, I imagine it’s pretty shitty and restrictive being a royal. But nobody else in England cares :)

    • Well, I don’t, as a British person, care at all in the general sense, and nor will most people I know. But our law have only recently changed to allow the royal family to marry catholics again, so this is pretty big in a way.

      Trying not to generalise here, but royalists TEND to be more conservative in their views. So actually he’s coming out to a supposedly supportive crowd which is actually potentially less likely to be accepting than those who aren’t interested in his heritage.

      It’s a big, glorious step if people can’t retreat to’old fashioned values.’ You can’t get much more old fashioned than the royal family, after all! I think it’s quite an important moment – members of the royal family have presumably been closeted for centuries, but the first person to speak out will always be important.

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