Penny Knatchbull’s friendship with Prince Philip: Tragedy, loyalty and unproven affair rumours

Viewers of The Crown have been left in uproar over reports the upcoming series will show Prince Philip ‘pursuing an affair’ with Penny Knatchbull.

That Netflix hit series which is based on Royal family but also weaves into fictional storylines, is said to have filmed ‘intimate scenes’ between the characters, which will be shown just over two months after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

It is thought the couple will be seen touching hands as Philip talks about his marriage, in a move which has been branded “cruel nonsense” by the late Queen’s former press secretary, Dickie Arbiter.

Prince Philip and Penny Knatchbull (pictured at a polo match) first met in 1975 when she became engaged to Norton Knatchbull, the grandson of Philip's uncle Earl Mountbatten

Prince Philip and Penny Knatchbull (pictured at a polo match) first met in 1975 when she became engaged to Norton Knatchbull, the grandson of Philip’s uncle Earl Mountbatten

The pair (pictured at the Royal Winsdor Horse Show in 2009) struck up a close friendship spanning almost five decades, with Penny described as a 'secret keeper' to the Duke

The pair (pictured at the Royal Winsdor Horse Show in 2009) struck up a close friendship spanning almost five decades, with Penny described as a ‘secret keeper’ to the Duke

Penny also developed a friendship with the late Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, bonding with her over their shared love of horses (pictured at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2022)

Penny also developed a friendship with the late Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, bonding with her over their shared love of horses (pictured at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2022)

Natasha McElhone (pictured at the premiere of The First in LA, 2018) to play Penny Knatchbull in the upcoming series of The Crown

Natasha McElhone (pictured at the premiere of The First in LA, 2018) to play Penny Knatchbull in the upcoming series of The Crown

Penelope (Penny) Knatchbull, also known as Countess Mountbatten of Burma, who befriended Prince Philip at a polo match in 1975 when she was 20, became one of his closest confidants despite being 32 years his junior and was pictured on walks with the Duke over the years.

Their closeness had sparked rumors of an affair throughout their decades-long friendship, but the pair always vehemently denied the accusation.

Also known as Lady Romsey and Lady Brabourne, Penny, 69, bonded with the late Philip over their shared love of the equestrian sport of chariot driving.

When she met the Duke, Penny was in a relationship with Earl Mountbatten’s grandson Norton Knatchbull, whom she eventually married.

Penny Knatchbull, 69, attended the Queen's funeral today at Westminster Abbey looking dignified in an all black outfit and a smart hat

Penny Knatchbull, 69, attended the Queen’s funeral today at Westminster Abbey looking dignified in an all black outfit and a smart hat

Penelope Knatchbull arrives at Windsor Castle to attend the funeral of Prince Philip in April 2021 following his death aged 99

Penelope Knatchbull arrives at Windsor Castle to attend the funeral of Prince Philip in April 2021 following his death aged 99

The wedding was delayed for five after Earl Mountbatten was murdered in an IRA bomb in Co. Sligo, 1979.

Norton, 73, is the grandson of Lord Mountbatten – who was famously close to his nephew Prince Philip. Philip was Norton’s godson, while Norton is Prince William’s godfather.

Over the years, the Duke and Penny’s friendship had become so close that she was one of just 30 mourners invited to his funeral in April 2021 after he died aged 99.

After the funeral, The Mail on Sunday‘s Caroline Graham reported that Penny looked ‘heartbroken’ as she said goodbye to her best friend of almost five decades.

She quoted a royal aide who said Penny was a ‘secret keeper’ to the late Duke who had confided in her throughout their friendship.

The aide said: ‘Penny was one of the few friends Philip continued to see regularly after 2017 and his retirement from royal duties.

‘They were brought together by tragedy but were there for each other through thick and thin. He trusted her implicitly and she adored him. She never betrayed him.

‘She was a keeper of not only his secrets but the whole family’s.

‘Theirs was a deep and lasting friendship. Penny was always jokingly referred to as ‘and also’ because when a list was drawn up for a family event, be it private or public, it would be “let’s invite X and Y” and then Philip would insist ‘”and also Penny… “‘

Penny Knatchbull (also known as Brabourne) grew closer to the Duke and Queen after the death of her five-year-old daughter Leonora from kidney cancer in 1991 (pictured at Prince Philip's Service of Thanksgiving, March 2022)

Penny Knatchbull (also known as Brabourne) grew closer to the Duke and Queen after the death of her five-year-old daughter Leonora from kidney cancer in 1991 (pictured at Prince Philip’s Service of Thanksgiving, March 2022)

The Duke of Edinburgh and Countess Mountbatten of Burma (pictured riding 'easy riders' at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, 2005) remained close for over five decades

The Duke of Edinburgh and Countess Mountbatten of Burma (pictured riding ‘easy riders’ at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, 2005) remained close for over five decades

After first meeting Prince Philip in the 1970s, mum-of-three Penny is said to have leaned on the Duke and Queen in 1991 after her five-year-old daughter Leonora tragically died of kidney cancer.

Philip taught the countess carriage driving in 1994 and she became his regular companion for the sport. Royal insiders say her enthusiasm for carriage driving is one of the reasons he continued to take the reins into the late 90s. As recently as 2019, he was pictured riding in a carriage in the grounds of Windsor Castle.

After the Duke of Edinburgh retired to Sandringham after retiring from royal duties, Penny was a regular visitor to Wood Farm on the Norfolk Estate.

However, their close friendship was marred by rumors of an illicit romance as people suspected that Prince Philip had been unfaithful with his close friend – something the Duke has always vehemently denied.

In 1992, after being annoyed by the suggestion of infidelity, the Duke told a journalist: ‘Have you ever stopped to think that in the last 40 years I have never moved anywhere without a policeman following me ?

‘So how the hell could I get away with something like that?’

Rumors of a romance between the pair were somewhat quieted after Penny also developed a close relationship with the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Penny and Her late Majesty are said to have bonded over their mutual love of horse riding.

In 2010, after her husband left her for a new life and lover in the Bahamas, Penny is said to have gained huge respect from the Queen, who reportedly admired how she had kept their historic estate, Broadlands in Hampshire, running as normal despite her personal turmoil.

In July 2021, while the Queen was mourning her husband who had died a few months earlier, Penny was seen with the late monarch at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, sharing a joke with her.

The Daily Mail’s Richard Eden reported at the time that the couple remained ‘incredibly close’ and that Penny was a ‘comfort’ to Her late Majesty.

She also attended the Queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey last month.

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