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Everything you need to know about Penny Knatchbull ahead of The Crown Season 5

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As we eagerly await the arrival of Season 5 of The Crown to see how the newest cast members take on the iconic royal roles, there is one addition who is set to take centre stage in the series: Penelope Knatchbull.

Penny was widely regarded as Prince Philip’s closest friend and confidante and is going to be played by British actress Natasha McElhone in the critically-acclaimed Netflix series, which is set to detail the pair's close friendship.

Here we break down everything you need to know about the Duke's closest confidante:

She was educated in Switzerland:

Known as the Countess Mountbatten of Burma, Penelope Knatchbull (nicknamed Penny) is one of the royal family's closest friends. Born Penelope Meredith Mary Eastwood on April 16, 1953, she is the only daughter of a wealthy business owner and grew up in Switzerland before going on to graduate from the London School of Economics in 1976.

She married into aristocracy:

On October 20 1979 Penny married Norton Knatchbull, Lord Romsey at Romsey Abbey in Hampshire. Norton is the son of Patricia Knatchbull, 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma, and John Knatchbull, 7th Baron Brabourne.

Norton is also the grandson of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, who was sadly assassinated in an IRA attack shortly before the couple's wedding, along with his younger brother, Nicholas Knatchbull and his grandmother, Doreen Knatchbull, Baroness Brabourne.

Photo credit: Ian Tyas - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ian Tyas - Getty Images

She has a royal title:

Upon her marriage Penelope was given the title Lady Romsey, later becoming The Lady Brabourne in 2017 and has now inherited the title of Countess Mountbatten of Burma. Penelope has also served as High Steward of Romsey since 2010.

She has three children:

Penelope and Norton have three children together, their eldest Nicholas Knatchbull, Lord Brabourne was born in 1981, their first daughter Lady Alexandra Hooper was born in 1982 and their youngest, The Hon. Leonora Knatchbull was born in 1986. Sadly Leonora passed away from kidney cancer when she was just five years old. This inspired the couple to start the Leonora Children's Cancer Fund in her honour, which ran from 1994 until 2010.

She is related to the Prince of Wales through marriage:

Prince Charles and Penelope's husband Norton are second cousins and are extremely close, with Charles serving as best man at the couple's wedding. The Prince of Wales even walked the couple's daughter, Lady Alexandra Hooper, down the aisle at her 2016 wedding. Charles' uncle Louis Mountbatten is also Norton's grandfather and was like a second father to Charles, who affectionally called him 'Uncle Dickie', (who fans will remember from the last season of The Crown).

Photo credit: Tim Graham - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tim Graham - Getty Images

You can visit her stately English home:

The Mountbatten family home is nestled in the civil parish of Romsey Extra in Hampshire, England. Known as Broadlands, the English country house is a grade II listed manor and was built in 1767. In the summertime, the property is open to the public for guided tours on weekday afternoons. Fun fact: Prince Philip and a then-Princess Elizabeth spent part of their honeymoon at Broadlands in 1947, as did Princess Diana and Prince Charles in 1981.

Photo credit: Anwar Hussein - Getty Images
Photo credit: Anwar Hussein - Getty Images

She met Prince Philip through her husband:

Penelope became a fixture in royal circles when she married Norton in 1976 and frequently attends royal events such as the Granting of the Royal Charter and is a regular guest at royal weddings. Penelope and Philip became friends in the 1990s after he taught her the sport of carriage driving, according to The Sun, with the two going on to have a life-long friendship.

Photo credit: Anwar Hussein Collection/ROTA - Getty Images
Photo credit: Anwar Hussein Collection/ROTA - Getty Images

Prince Philip called her his closest friend:

Penny was the "second-most important woman in the Duke of Edinburgh's life" according to journalist Caroline Graham.

Despite their 32 year age gap, the pair shared a deep and powerful bond, a cheeky sense of humour and a mutual love of carriage driving and were often photographed riding motorbikes together. This eventually led to Penny being referred to as Prince Philip's "keeper of secrets".

Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images

Royal household staff recall that Penny became so ingrained in royal life, that they nicknamed her "And Also". With The Sun reporting that when Prince Philip would list guests for a royal event he would always end with "and also Penny".

The pair were so close in fact, that when the Duke was involved in a car accident near Sandringham in 2019, it was reported that the Queen summoned Penny to encourage Philip to give up his driver's licence.

As Prince Philip's biographer Ingrid Seward reveals: “The Queen had enlisted the help of the Countess Mountbatten of Burma, who visited Philip and helped convince him to give up driving.”

During his retirement, Penny visited the Duke regularly at his Wood Farm cottage at Sandringham, with the two remaining dear friends up until his passing in April this year.

Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images

She has a close relationship with the Queen:

Penny is also a close friend of the Queen, with the pair sharing a mutual love of horse riding. Penny is frequently photographed attending events as a guest of the royal family, including the Royal Windsor Horse Show, which the pair attended together in July this year.

Photo credit: Mark Cuthbert - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mark Cuthbert - Getty Images

Penny was the only non-royal to attend Prince Philip's funeral:

The Duke of Edinburgh's funeral was largely scaled back due to Covid restrictions with only a handful of mourners in attendance. However, Penny was the only non-Royal invited to attend the service, which was held at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle in April. "She looked heartbroken when she arrived at the funeral and she is heartbroken," royal aides reportedly told the Express.

Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images


Season 5 of The Crown is streaming on Netflix soon.


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