Romsey, England — Before Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last godson of Queen Victoria, was killed by an IRA bomb in the sea off the Irish coast in August 1979, it already had been decided that a museum to commemorate his life and times would one day be installed at Broadlands, the 17th-century home of the Mountbattens on the banks of the River Test near this ancient Hampshire market town.
This decision was taken by Lord Mountbatten himself during the preparations for opening Broadlands to the public.
''We were approached by the family to help them get the house open to the public by designing a small exhibition and to advise on how the public might pass through the house,'' London designer Robin Wade says.
Mr. Wade is head of Robin Wade Design Associates, one of England's most experienced museum-exhibition design firms. Recent Wade commissions have been executed in the British Museum, Hampton Court Palace, Canterbury Cathedral, the Royal Academy, and St. George's Chapel in Windsor.
The exhibition - Mountbatten of Burma: Highlights of a Life - occupies a 17 th-century stable (outwardly little changed since the time of William and Mary) adjacent to the house. There are five galleries on two floors.
Mr. Wade and his colleagues have arranged the artifacts and memorabilia associated with Lord Mountbatten to portray his life and reflect his times. These are displayed in a series of graphics panels and show cases about the galleries.
The figures of Lord and Lady (Edwina) Mountbatten have escaped the mummery of the waxworks. ''They are sculptured and simplified, rather than highly realistic ,'' Mr. Wade said. ''They are designed to show off the regalia, rather than to recreate the two of them in a living presence.''
Their illustrious subject presented the designers with an abundance of riches. The man who began life as Prince Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Battenberg had accumulated so many public and private titles and trappings that they tend to get mixed up in the enumerating. Some of his cousins were members of the Russian royal family; others, members of the British royal family.
Lord Mountbatten's career in peace and war took him from naval cadet to first sea lord. Later he rose to admiral of the fleet, the first time father and son had achieved this rank. Although the appointments of Lord Mountbatten and his father were decades apart, they were made by the same person - Winston Churchill.
High points of the exhibition include: a photograph of Queen Victoria holding the infant prince at his christening; pictures of Edward, Prince of Wales, and Prince Louis on their world tours; Noel Coward's poem, ''A Weekend with Edwina''; wartime notes and letters from Churchill and General Eisenhower; a signed photograph of Nehru; and pictures of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their honeymoon at Broadlands.
One of the museum's most striking set pieces is of Mountbatten of Burma, the last viceroy of India, wearing the robes of the grand master of the Order of India, and of Lady Mountbatten in a yellow dress, wearing jewels.
While explaining the vast array of Lord Mountbatten's ceremonial garb - badges, garters, uniforms, and robes shown in the exhibition, Robin Wade exclaimed: ''He must surely have been one of the most dressed-up men in history.''
After so much pomp and pageantry, the exhibit depicting the passing of Lord Mountbatten is as dignified as it is stark. The exhibition closes with these words:
''On August 27, 1979, Lord Mountbatten, his grandson, Nicholas Knatchbull, and the Dowager Lady Bradbourne, and the boat boy, Paul Maxwell, were murdered by a terrorist bomb hidden in his fishing boat, Shadow V.''
Nearby are a gold walking stick, a City of London sword, an admiral's hat, and a Union Jack.
Broadlands is open daily from April to September. Admission is $3.50 for adults, half price for children. Admission fee includes entrance to the house, museum, and grounds.