Prince Philip and Penny Knatchbull’s Friendship Is More Than What’s in The Crown

The Crown’s fifth season is not solely focused on Charles and Diana drama. It also features Queen Elizabeth II (Imelda Staunton) grappling with the monarchy’s declining relevance within the Nineties and Princess Margaret (Lesley Manville) revisiting a long-lost love. As for Prince Philip (Jonathan Pryce), he develops a detailed friendship with family friend Penny Knatchbull while experiencing his own marital troubles with the queen.

Although Her Majesty—and doubtless a lot of us viewers—first suspects him of getting a romantic affair, Pryce’s Philip assures her that his and Lady Penny’s relationship is just an “mental and spiritual companionship,” nothing more. Indeed, the series doesn’t show the 2 characters getting particularly affectionate; as a substitute they bond over literature and carriage riding, heartfelt discussions about grief, and marital grievances. To prove that he has nothing to cover, Philip even convinces his wife to befriend Penny (played by Natasha McElhone) herself. Sure enough, the queen reluctantly meets together with her husband’s companion one-on-one and even invites her to ride together with her to church service.

This friendship did exist in real life, though (and viewers should know this by now) The Crown imagines how exact interactions and conversations went down. Penelope Knatchbull (née Eastwood) is the wife of Norton Knatchbull, the grandson of Earl Mountbatten (The Crown watchers know him as Uncle Dickie) and Prince Philip’s own godson. She is known as Lady Romsey in The Crown, a title she held from 1979 to 2005 before becoming Lady Brabourne from 2005 to 2017 and now the Countess Mountbatten of Burma, based on Today.

Lady Penny and Prince Philip did change into dear friends and bond over riding carriages. She became such a detailed confidant of his that she was often referred to his “And Also”—when listing his guests for an event, he would conclude with “and in addition Penny.”

Prince Philip and Penny on the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2007.

Max Mumby/Indigo//Getty Images

Weeks before The Crown’s fifth season premiered on Nov. 9, rumors were already circulating that the brand new episodes would cover Prince Philip and now-Countess Penny’s friendship. The mere implication that the duo had an affair didn’t sit well with royal insiders.

“Coming just weeks after the nation laid Her Majesty to rest next to Prince Philip, this could be very distasteful and, quite frankly, cruel rubbish,” Dickie Arbiter, the queen’s former press secretary, told The Sun. “The reality is that Penny was a long-time friend of the entire family. Netflix are usually not concerned about people’s feelings.”

While Penny Knatchbull, now 69, has not addressed the portrayal herself, a detailed friend reportedly told The Telegraph before the brand new season aired, “That is indeed an ill-judged, unnecessarily unsympathetic, and unlucky decision.”

Below are some key moments from their her friendship with the late Duke of Edinburgh through the years.


Penny was reportedly introduced to the royal family at a polo match when she was 20 years old. She was dating Norton Knatchbull on the time.


Penny Eastwood marries Norton Knatchbull at Romsey Abbey in Hampshire, England. The royal family attended, and Prince Charles, the groom’s second cousin, even served as best man.

20th october 1979  the grandson of lord louis mountbatten, lord romsey, marries penelope eastwood at romsey abbey  the event being dubbed the wedding of the year with over 900 guests in attendance from almost all of europes leading families  photo by central pressgetty images

Norton and Penny Knatchbull on their wedding day.

Central Press//Getty Imagesqueen elizabeth ii attending the wedding of norton knatchbull, grandson of earl mountbatten, and penelope eastwood, at romsey abbey, in romsey, hampshire, england, great britain, 20 october 1979 photo by tim graham photo library via getty images

Queen Elizabeth attends Norton and Penny’s wedding.

Tim Graham//Getty Images


The Knatchbulls’ five-year-old daughter Leonora dies after a 14-month battle with cancer. They later established the Leonora Kid’s Cancer Fund charity in her memory.

In keeping with royal biographer Ingrid Seward, Penny and Philip’s friendship blossomed after the family tragedy. “Philip befriended her when her life began to collapse … and encouraged her to take up carriage driving,” she wrote, per Today.

max mumby archive

Prince Philip and Penny riding motorbikes in 2006.

Max Mumby/Indigo//Getty Images

Their companionship continued for years, with Lady Penny seen with Prince Philip and the Queen at Sandringham, horse shows, and other royal events. She even stayed close through the Duke of Edinburgh’s final days. The now-Countess Penny is believed to have visited him repeatedly at his retirement cottage at Sandringham before his death, based on the Day by day Beast.

royal windsor horse show

Queen Elizabeth and Penny chat on the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2001.

Fiona Hanson – PA Images//Getty Imagesroyals at flitcham church

Penny is seen joining the Queen and Prince Philip at a church service at Sandringham circa 2012.

Antony Jones//Getty Imagesroyal windsor horse show 2018

The Queen and Penny in 2018.

Mark Cuthbert//Getty Images


Countess Penny attends the private funeral service for Prince Philip. She is one in every of 30 mourners present, including immediate relations.

“Penny and the Duke of Edinburgh shared a long time of affection,” a source told Grazia. “Her presence on the funeral amongst only thirty attendees is precisely what the late Duke would have wanted, and your entire family will probably be pleased to have her amongst them on the sombre occasion.

britons and the rest of the world mark the death of the duke of edinburgh on the day of his funeral

Penny photographed at Windsor Castle attending the funeral of Prince Philip on April 17, 2021.

Max Mumby/Indigo//Getty Images


Countess Penny remained close with the queen even after Prince Philip’s death, and was even seen attending the the Royal Windsor Horse Show together with her in May. They were photographed smiling as they watched from their seats.

royal windsor horse show day 2

Penny with Queen Elizabeth.

Max Mumby/Indigo//Getty Images

Months later, in September, she attended the queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey.

Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at There may be a 75 percent likelihood she’s listening to Lorde immediately. 

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