A Complete History of Prince Philip and Penny Knatchbull’s Friendship

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The Crown’s fifth season focuses on Prince Philip and his close friendship with Penny Knatchbull, a lady who is over 30 years his junior. Although the show seems to allude to allegations of an affair between the two, the truth might not be as complicated as it is depicted in the show.

First things first: what is Penny’s relationship to the royal family and who is she exactly?

Penny Eastwood, who was given the name Penelope Meredith Mary Eastwood, is the daughter of Marian Hood and Reginald Eastwood, who established the Angus Steakhouse restaurant business. After becoming the Countess Mountbatten of Burma by her marriage to Norton Knatchbull, the Earl Mountbatten of Burma, she became involved with the royal family. Norton is also Prince Philip’s godson and King Charles’ second cousin, who acted as best man at their wedding.

Nicholas, Alexandra, and Leonora were all of Penny and Norton’s children. The Crown portrays the events that followed the loss of their youngest daughter, Leonora, who died at the age of five following a struggle with kidney cancer. In the midst of her sorrow, Penny (Natascha McElhone) reached out to Philip (Jonathan Pryce), and the two forged a strong connection that has lasted through the years.

According to Ingrid Seward’s 2020 book “Prince Philip Revealed.”, Philip also persuaded Knatchbull, who also goes by the name Penny Romsey, to take up the sport. Sophie, the wife of Philip’s son Edward, and her daughter Lady Louise Windsor, both participate.Beyond the game, “The Crown” also reveals Philip and Knatchbull’s close relationship.

She kept in touch with the royals and was one of the few mourners at Prince Philip’s funeral in 2021, which only a few people attended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She also appeared at Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in 2022, when the monarch died at age 96.

Jonathan Pryce and Natascha McElhone as Prince Philip and Penny Knatchbull.

Although the Netflix series implies that Philip and Penny’s connection has romantic overtones – but then again obviously, the show itself lets the audience perceive their interaction as they deem fit, there isn’t much concrete proof to back up the claims that the two had had an affair.

The Crown treads carefully in hinting what happened between the two: “She’s half your age,” Staunton’s Queen Elizabeth snarls at Philip during a state visit to Russia, where he admits he’s had to seek “companionship” elsewhere. “I don’t want to be asked to give up something when I’ve done nothing wrong,” Pryce’s Philip says back.

In actuality, Penny had ties to other royals besides Philip. Not least of all is her connection with Queen Elizabeth, with whom she has numerous strong and well-known ties.

The timeline of Philip and Penny’s friendship is outlined here, starting with the two of them bonding over carriage driving and ending with Penny being one of 30 people present at Philip’s funeral.

She initially encounters Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the 1970s.

During her engagement to Norton, Penny had her first meeting with the queen and Philip. During a polo match, she allegedly met the Duke of Edinburgh.

Then Prince Charles and Penny Knatchbull in the ’70s.

Norton and Penny wed on October 20, 1979.

The pair exchanged vows in a magnificent ceremony at the church of Romsey Abbey in Hampshire, England. Over 900 guests attended the celebration, which was dubbed the “wedding of the year” at the time. Norton’s best man at the time was Prince Charles.


The wedding took place two months had passed since Lord Mountbatten, Philip’s paternal grandfather, and Nicholas, his younger brother, had been killed by the IRA.

Norton and Penny Knatchbull.

Over the years, Penelope Knatchbull has held various titles. Between 1979 and 2005, she was known as Lady Romsey, and from 2005 to 2017 as The Lady Brabourne. As of right now, she is known as Countess Mountbatten of Burma.

The couple had three children in the 1980s.

Nicholas Louis Charles Norton Knatchbull, their first child, was born on May 15, 1981. Later, on December 5, 1982, they welcomed their second child, a girl they called Alexandra Victoria Edwina Diana Knatchbull. On June 25, 1986, the couple gave birth to their third child, Leonora Louise Marie Elizabeth Knatchbull.

Leonora passes away on October 22, 1991.

Kidney cancer claimed the life of the youngest Knatchbull child at the age of five.

Even though “The Crown” exaggerates, Princess Diana did have a personal connection to the family. In contrast to what the tv show portrays, she was Alexandra Knatchbull’s godmother. During the Trooping the Color, an event honoring the British monarch’s birthday, Diana and Leonora were seen on camera in June 1991 on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. The timing of Philip and Knatchbull’s friendship, according to Seward’s book, is accurate in “The Crown.” They became pals after Leonora passed away: “Philip befriended her when her life began to fall apart … and encouraged her to take up carriage driving,” Seward wrote

The Leonora Children’s Cancer Fund is established in 1994.

The Knatchbulls established the Leonora Children’s Cancer Fund in honor of their daughter. Prince Philip apparently backed the foundation by going to a reception and dinner for it in May of that year.

As Penny competes alongside Philip in carriage driving contests in the 1990s, they get closer.

They grew close through their shared love of carriage driving, a competitive equestrian sport that Philip helped popularize. The royal staff is said to have given Penny the moniker “And Also” at this time because Philip would frequently list attendees for an event and conclude with “and also Penny.”

Penny and Philip during a carriage driving competition in 2006.

Along with Philip, the queen, and other members of the royal family, she also established herself as a regular feature at the yearly Royal Windsor Horse Show.

Norton leaves Penny for Lady Nuttall in 2010.

At the time, newspapers alleged that Norton had relocated to the Bahamas to pursue an affair with Lady Eugenie Nuttall, a London-based designer. Norton, however, ended the romance and returned home. Despite Penny’s acceptance, Norton reportedly slept in a converted barn on their estate rather than returning to live in their Palladian palace.

In his absence, Penny had assumed Norton’s ceremonial obligations and duties, becoming the High Steward of Romsey and patron of the Romsey Agricultural and Horse Show Society.

According to the Daily Mail, the royal family, particularly Queen Elizabeth, praised Penny’s poise in the face of the scandal. Despite the fact that Norton is a biological relative of the royals, the source claims that the queen and Philip “can’t truly forgive him for what he did to Penny.”

Penny is referred to in a new biography as Philip’s “keeper of secrets” in October 2020.

Ingrid Seward, a biographer, provides an intimate depiction of the duo’s connection over the years in Prince Philip Revealed. Penny was the “second-most important lady in the Duke of Edinburgh’s life,” according to Seward, “a persistent confidante, loyal companion, and ‘keeper of secrets.” Despite allegations of an affair, there’s no evidence that the two were anything more than friends—Seward, in her biography, notes that she had seen then event at a ball in which the lifelong friends openly expressed their love for one another.

“When I saw Philip and Penny flashing about the dance floor at the Royal Yacht Squadron Ball during Cowes Week, neither of them gave a damn who saw them or what anyone would think,” Seward wrote in the Express, according to the Express.  “I noticed that Philip, an excellent dancer, was completely in rhythm with the beautiful Penny. He’s undoubtedly close to her and is a supportive friend and mentor.”

Prince Philip’s alleged affair with Penny was dubbed “rubbish” by the late queen’s former press secretary Dickie Arbiter. It’s also important to note Philip’s response to a reporter who questioned his loyalty in 1991: “Good God, woman,” he said back. “Have you ever stopped to think that for years, I have never moved anywhere without a policeman accompanying me? So how the hell could I get away with anything like that?”

One never knows what goes on behind closed doors, as the saying goes. Including The Crown’s creators—so, in this case, it’s best to acknowledge the fictitious drama’s sensationalization of the situation.

She was close to both Philip and Elizabeth

“The Crown” dramatizes the implications of Philip’s public association with a woman who is considerably younger than him.

Seward claims that Knatchbull was close to Elizabeth and Philip as well as to their son, current King Charles III. Seward called her a “touchstone of royal life,” writing, “She (provided) a touchstone to the outside world and (told) both Philip and the queen about what’s going on.”

Penny laughs with Queen Elizabeth at the 2018 Royal Windsor Horse Show.

Philip kept her as a close friend throughout his entire life. Seward claims that Knatchbull took part in the difficult discussion about giving up driving that occurred after Philip’s auto accident.

Penny is one of 30 attendees at Prince Philip’s funeral on April 17, 2021.

Penny was one of the few people invited to Philip’s funeral, which was kept to a small capacity due to COVID-19 public health regulations.


“She looked heartbroken when she arrived at the funeral and she is heartbroken,” sources told the Express at the time. “She’s lost her best friend.”

Penny also attended the funeral as a stand-in for her husband, who was ill and thus unable to attend at the time.

In the following year, 2021–2022, Penny’s relationship with the Queen endures.

Queen Elizabeth flanked by Penny and Prince Edward during the 2021 Royal Windsor Horse Show.

Months after the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh, Penny accompanied the monarch to the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2021.

Penny attends the official funeral for Queen Elizabeth in 2022.

queen elizabeth ii funeralPETER BYRNE – PA IMAGES//GETTY IMAGES

The countess attended Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral, which was held on September 8, 2022, and was also among the large crowd of mourners.

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