IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Who is Penny Knatchbull? 'The Crown' shows her relationship with Prince Philip

According to Prince Philip's biographer, the royal befriended the countess when "her life began to fall apart."
/ Source: TODAY

Season Five of “The Crown” explores Prince Philip’s “companionship,” as his character says in the show, with Penny Knatchbull, the Countess Mountbatten of Burma. 

The two bonded over their hobby of carriage riding, a form of competitive horse riding that the prince took up after retiring from polo in 1971, per Ingrid Seward's 2020 book "Prince Philip Revealed."

She later became the “second-most important woman in the Duke of Edinburgh’s life — a constant confidante, loyal companion and ‘keeper of secrets,'" Seward wrote.

The Duke of Edinburgh with Penelope Knatchbull
The Duke of Edinburgh and Penelope Knatchbull carriage riding in 2007. Steve Parsons / AP

Philip also encouraged Knatchbull — who also goes by the name Penny Romsey — to take up the sport, according to Seward, who also wrote that Philip got his son Edward’s wife, Sophie, into it as well; Sophie and her daughter, Lady Louise Windsor, both compete. 

Beyond the sport, “The Crown” also shows Philip's deep bond with Knatchbull. She remained close with the royal family, and was one of only a few mourners at Prince Philip’s 2021 funeral, which had limited attendees due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She also appeared at Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in 2022, when the monarch died at age 96.

Penelope Knatchbull, Lady Brabourne and Prince Philip,
Penelope Knatchbull and Prince Philip in 2007.Max Mumby/Indigo / Getty Images

She’s connected to Prince Philip through marriage

Knatchbull was born Penelope Eastwood. Her father, Reginald Eastwood, founded the Angus Steakhouse chain, as Nicholas Davies writes in his 2000 Queen Elizabeth biography, "Beyond Palace Doors."

Knatchbull married Philip’s godson, Norton Knatchbull, Lord Romsey, on Oct. 20, 1979. They’re also distantly related by blood: Norton is the grandson of of Philip’s uncle, Louis Mountbatten. 

The wedding took place two months after the IRA assassinated Philip's grandfather, Lord Mountbatten, and younger brother, Nicholas. 

Lord Romsey Weds
The grandson of Lord Louis Mountbatten, Lord Romsey, marries Penelope Eastwood at Romsey Abbey on October 20, 1979. Central Press / Getty Images

Charles, Philip's oldest son who is now the British sovereign, was Norton Knatchbull's best man in their wedding. He walked Norton's daughter Alexandra Knatchbull down the aisle. 

Penelope Knatchbull's titles have changed over the years. She was known as Lady Romsey between 1979 and 2005; The Lady Brabourne between 2005 and 2017; and now Countess Mountbatten of Burma.

Anwar Hussein Archive
Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and Lady Penelope (Penny) Romsey arrive at the Guards Polo Club on June 1, 1975 in Windsor, England. Anwar Hussein / Getty Images

Her daughter Leonora died of kidney cancer

Penny and Norton Knatchbull had three children: Alexandra, Nicholas and Leonora. As “The Crown” shows, their youngest, Leonora, died of kidney cancer at age 6.

Princess Diana did have her own connection to the family — though “The Crown” takes its liberties. She was godmother to Alexandra Knatchbull, not Leonora, as the show depicts. In June 1991, Diana was photographed with Leonora at the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Trooping the Color, a celebration that marks the British monarch's birthday.

However, “The Crown” gets the timeline of Philip and Knatchbull’s friendship right, according to Seward’s book. Their friendship began after Leonora’s death: “Philip befriended her when her life began to fall apart … and encouraged her to take up carriage driving,” Seward wrote.

Royals Palace Balcony
Leonora Romsey with Princess Diana on the balcony At Buckingham Palace For Trooping The Color on June 15, 1991.Tim Graham / Getty Images

She was close to both Philip and Elizabeth

“The Crown” dramatizes the optics of Philip’s public friendship with a woman many years his junior. 

According to Seward, Knatchbull was close to both Elizabeth and Philip, and is a friend to their son, now-King Charles III. Seward called her a “touchstone of royal life,” writing, “She (provided) a touchstone to the outside world and (told) both Philip and the queen about what’s going on.” 

She remained a close companion to Philip for his whole life. According to Seward, Knatchbull was part of the difficult conversation following Philip’s car accident about giving up driving.  

Penelope Knatchbull, Countess Mountbatten of Burma and Queen Elizabeth II
Penelope Knatchbull, Countess Mountbatten of Burma and Queen Elizabeth II attend The Royal Windsor Horse Show at Home Park on May 13, 2022.Chris Jackson / Getty Images

She’s played by Natascha McElhone in ‘The Crown’

The British actor also appeared in “The Truman Show,” “Solaris” and “The Other Boleyn Girl.”