Prince Philip’s 74-year marriage to Queen Elizabeth II is one of the most famous romances of all time, but there was one other woman in Philip’s life who made a lasting impression on the royal—though it was under very different circumstances.
Penny Knatchbull was known as the confidant and “keeper of secrets” for Prince Philip after meeting him and the Monarch in 1974. Penny later became Lady Romsey after she married Prince Philip’s godson, Norton Knatchbull, who was known as Baron Romsey. Later, they became Earl and Countess Mountbatten of Burma. The pair had three children together and remained close to the Duke of Edinburgh throughout his life.
As Netflix’s The Crown reaches its fifth season, Penny’s friendship with Philip is set to be chronicled by Natascha McElhone (of Californication fame), and unsurprisingly, our curiosity about the real-life Penny is piqued. Below, we look at who she is, and the background of her unique relationship with the Duke of Edinburgh.
Who is Penny Knatchbull?
Penny Knatchbull was born Penelope Eastwood in 1953—just over a month before Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.
Penny and Philip first met when she was 21 years old (and he was 32 years older than her), but the pair quickly hit it off due to their shared love of the outdoors and horses.
Five years after she met Philip for the first time, Penny married his godson, Norton Knatchbull, who also had a close relationship with Philip and his royal relatives. Prince Charles was best man at their wedding.
Who were Penny Knatchbull’s children?
Penny and Norton had a son and two daughters together, Nichloas, Alexandra and Leonora. The family grew up alongside Charles and Princess Diana’s two sons, Princes William and Harry, with Princess Diana becoming godmother to Alexandra. Tragically, Leonora died of kidney cancer in 1991 when she was just five years old.
Did Prince Philip teach Penny Knatchbull how to drive a carriage?
Yes, it has previously been reported that Philip imparted his love for carriage driving on Penny, and the pair would often do this together.
Per Yahoo! the pair became closer when Philip offered his support for Penny following the death of Leonora. In the years following, they often attended the Royal Windsor Horse show alongside Queen Elizabeth.
What was the nature of Penny Knatchbull & Prince Philip’s relationship?
In Ingrid Stewart’s biography Prince Philip Revealed, she revealed that Penny became the Duke’s “constant confidant” and his “keeper of secrets”.
After having seen the pair dancing together person at the Royal Yacht Squadron Ball, Stewart recalled that “neither of them gave a damn who saw them or what anyone might say”.
In further proof of their long-lasting friendship, Penny was one of 30 guests invited to attend the Covid-safe funeral of Prince Philip in 2021. An aide told The Express at the time that Penny was “heartbroken” by his death.
“She’s lost her best friend,” the told the publication.