How Accurate Is Prince Philip & Penny Knatchbull's Relationship In The Crown?

Jonathan Pryce has addressed the subject directly.

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The new instalment of The Crown boasts a a whole new cast as the series moves the royals forward through the years, with Imelda Staunton taking over as Queen Elizabeth II from Olivia Colman and Jonathan Pryce taking over as Prince Philip from Tobias Menzies. As well as plenty of cast replacements, The Crown welcomes new characters too, including aristocrat Penelope Knatchbull, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, who is played by actor Natascha McElhone of Californication and Designated Survivor fame. The countess is widely known as Prince Philip’s friend and confidante and the new series details their special relationship, but what more should viewers know about Penelope “Penny” Knatchbull? And how accurate was The Crown’s depiction of their relationship?

Who Is Penelope Knatchbull?

As one of Prince Philip’s closest companions, Countess Mountbatten was among the very few selected mourners to attend Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021, which was subject to strict social-distancing restrictions. On the sad occasion, Penelope was described by The Express as looking “heartbroken” to have lost her best friend. Also, in the 2020 biography, Prince Philip Revealed, writer Ingrid Seward described the Countess as the “second-most important woman in the Duke of Edinburgh's life.” But how did Penelope and Prince Philip know one another?

The Countess is married to Norton Mountbatten, the grandson of Lord Louis Mountbatten, Prince Philip's beloved uncle who died in an IRA bombing in 1979. In another royal connection, her husband is Philip’s godson and a second cousin to the now-King Charles, who was the best man at their wedding.

Penny, 69, is well known in the culinary space too, as the daughter of Marian Elizabeth Hood and butcher-turned-businessman Reginald Wray Frank Eastwood, founder of the popular Angus Steakhouse chain.

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Known as Penny to her friends, Penelope became one of the Duke’s closest confidants when he began teaching her carriage driving in 1994,” the Metro reports, and the two were often photographed together at equestrian events. According to reports, their friendship was cemented after a tragedy in 1991, says People, when Penelope lost her 5-year-old daughter Leonora to kidney cancer.

Though Philip was 32 years Penelope’s senior, she soon became known in the tabloids as Prince Philip’s “keeper of secrets.”

Did Prince Philip & Penny Knatchbull Have An Affair?

According to royal family correspondence, definitely not. The fifth season of The Crown shows seemingly intimate scenes between Philip and Penny, like “touching hands as he divulges details of his marriage,” an insinuation which has evoked quite the backlash.

“Coming just weeks after the nation laid Her Majesty to rest next to Prince Philip, this is very distasteful and, quite frankly, cruel rubbish,” the Queen’s former press secretary Dickie Arbiter said to The Sun.“The truth is that Penny was a longtime friend of the whole family. Netflix is not interested in people’s feelings.”

Despite being 32 years her senior, Prince Philip held Penny in great regard and even helped her set up a society in remembrance of her daughter. Seward also revealed in his biography that Philip helped the Countess manage the family estate when her marriage was in trouble. “Running royal properties was something Philip knew full well, and having bonded with her over horses and carriage driving, their friendship blossomed further. While driving around sprawling country estates, Philip liked to discuss religion and other deep, worldly matters.”

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And it wasn’t just Prince Philip she was friends with. Over the years, Penny has also been seen sharing laughs with Queen Elizabeth II and the duo even continued to meet after Philip’s death. The Countess also attended the late Queen’s funeral in September.

Pryce defended his portrayal of Prince Philip to RadioTimes, explaining that Philip and Penny had a special bond. “It was a very real, strong friendship, and it tells you a lot about the man and his ability to empathise with people who had suffered a bereavement… If people only read the attention-grabbing headlines, they’re not going to get the whole picture.” While royal experts, actors, and fans have expressed plenty of criticism of Netflix’s portrayal of events, the Countess herself has yet to commented on the show.

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