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The newest chapter of Netflix’s The Crown depicts the complex marriage between Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, who wed in 1947 and remained married for 73 years until Philip’s death in April 2021. But season 5 of the drama series, inspired by the real-life events of England’s royal family, puts a lens on his relationship with another woman in his life, Penny Knatchbull.
In season 5, we're introduced to Penny (Natascha McElhone) who is a close confidante of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (Jonathan Pryce). Although the Queen (Imelda Staunton) suspects that Penny and Philip are having an affair, Philip reassures his wife that their relationship is solely an “intellectual and spiritual companionship.” As Ingrid Seward penned in her 2020 book Prince Philip Revealed, Penny became the “second-most important woman in the Duke of Edinburgh’s life” and his “keeper of secrets.”
But who exactly is Penny Knatchbull? How did she know the royal family, and how did she and Philip grow to be so close?
First, we’ll back it all up to the beginning.
Penny Knatchbull’s early life
Penny was born Penelope Meredith Mary Eastwood on April 1,6, 1953 in London (which means she’s 32 years younger than the late Prince Philip). She is the only daughter of Reginald Eastwood — who founded the Angus Steakhouse restaurant chain — and Marian Hood. In 1976, Penny graduated from the London School of Economics.
Her marriage to Norton Knatchbull
In 1979 Penny married Lord Romsey Norton Knatchbull, later 3rd Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Norton was Prince Philip’s godson and the grandson of Louis Mountbatten — who was assassinated by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) two months before Penny and Norton’s wedding, according to History.com. (His death is depicted in season 1, episode one of The Crown.) At their nuptials ceremony, King Charles (then Prince) served as the best man to Norton.
Through her relationship and then marriage to Norton Knatchbull, Penny grew closer to the royal family. She had three children with Norton: Nicholas, Alexandra, and Leonora (whose godmother was Princess Diana). However, in 1991, Leonora passed away after a yearlong battle with a rare type of kidney cancer.
The beginning of her friendship with Prince Philip
Penny’s friendship with Prince Philip unfolded after her daughter’s death, Seward wrote in Prince Philip Revealed, per Today. “Philip befriended her when her life began to fall apart… and encouraged her to take up carriage driving,” the outlet writes. Over the years, they continued to bond over a shared love of carriage driving and horses. They’ve been photographed at several events together, alongside other members of the royal family.
According to The Sun, Penny was given the nickname “And Also” because she was such a frequent guest of the royals. Up until Prince Philip’s death in 2021, at the age of 99, she continued to visit him at his home. And on April 17, 2021, she was one of 30 guests (and the only non-relative) to attend his funeral at St. George’s Chapel.
Her relationship with Queen Elizabeth
The Crown depicts Penny and Prince Philip’s friendship as a source of contention in his marriage to the Queen, and the season seems to hint that their bond was fairly flirtatious and bordering on a romantic affair. But the Queen and Penny appeared friendly and shared many laughs and smiles at events through the years.
Per The Sun, Seward wrote in her book, “We’ll never know how the Queen felt about it all. Philip always was a flirt and the Queen used to joke about his lascivious nature. If she had been hurt by rumors of supposed dalliances, she would never let on.”
On September 19, 2022, Penny attended Queen Elizabeth’s funeral at Westminster Abbey in London.
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