PRINCE Philip was married to the Queen for 73 years and the royal couple were by each other's side until the end.
But Netflix's The Crown also shared Philip's extraordinary friendship with close confidence Penny Knatchbull in the TV drama.
The Countess Mountbatten of Burma — 32 years younger than the late Duke of Edinburgh, who died in April 2021 aged 99 — has been a trusted member of the Royal Family’s inner circle for years and bonded with Philip through their love of carriage driving.
She was the only non-family member at Philip’s small, Covid-restricted funeral, except for his personal secretary.
Indeed, she has been so much a part of royal life, household staff nicknamed her “And Also”, because whenever Philip listed guests who were to be invited to a royal do, he would end with “and also Penny”.
When Philip was involved in a car accident near the Queen’s Norfolk retreat of Sandringham in January 2019, Her Majesty dispatched Penny to encourage the duke to surrender his driver’s licence.
More on the royals
Inside crumbling palace owned by Prince Philip's family & left frozen in time
The Queen's final resting place with Philip pictured as names carved on tombstone
Ingrid Seward, author of biography Prince Philip Revealed: A Man Of His Century, said: “The Queen had enlisted the help of the Countess Mountbatten of Burma, who visited Philip and helped convince him to give up driving.”
Three weeks after the accident, which Philip blamed on him being blinded by the low winter sun, it was announced he had stopped driving.
The Truman Show actress Natascha McElhone plays Penny in The Crown, with veteran actor Jonathan Pryce taking over from Tobias Menzies as Philip.
A TV insider said: “The highly personal relationship is unlikely to be welcomed as a storyline by the Queen or the rest of the Royal Family.”
Most read in The Sun
PM orders major tightening on protest laws after London blighted by day of hate
Hunt for thugs including woman who shouted ‘death to Jews’ in protest chaos
‘BAYING FOR BLOOD’
Our seaside town is being ravaged by drug dealers and packs of ASBO kids
Chloe Madeley reunites with ex James Haskell after wild night out
Penny was introduced to Philip at age 20 while dating husband-to-be Norton Knatchbull, Philip’s godson and grandson of the duke’s uncle Lord Mountbatten.
Norton had been a year above the then-Prince Charles at Scottish boarding school Gordonstoun and the Queen and Philip never forgot his kindness in looking after their eldest child during his challenging time there.
Back then, Penny was simply Penelope Eastwood, daughter of Reg Eastwood, a wealthy butcher turned businessman who founded the Angus Steakhouse restaurants.
Tragedy befell the family in 1979 when Lord Mountbatten — affectionately known by the royals as Uncle Dickie — was assassinated by the IRA.
The bomb blast on board his fishing boat off County Sligo, Ireland, which featured in the last series of The Crown, also killed Norton’s 14-year-old brother Nicholas and his grandmother, Lady Brabourne.
Devastated by this horror, Penny and Norton decided to postpone their wedding for two months.
When they did tie the knot, with Charles as best man, they inherited Mountbatten’s 18th-century, 60-room Broadlands estate near Romsey, Hants, where Charles and Di would spend part of their honeymoon two years later.
With Philip and Penny, who was previously known as Lady Romsey then Lady Brabourne, it was a meeting of the minds.
Educated in Switzerland, and with a business degree from the London School of Economics, friends describe her as being “outgoing, engaged, clever and well-read”.
She and the duke also both shared a “boisterous sense of humour”, according to Ingrid. But it was after Penny’s five-year-old daughter Leonora died of kidney cancer in 1991 that Philip really began to take her under his wing.
One source said: “He was a tremendous support during a time of unimaginable grief.”
He encouraged Penny to take up his sport of carriage driving, to distract her, and got his head groom Micky Flynn to show her the ropes.
For Philip, it meant he gained an attractive companion to events such as the Royal Windsor Horse Show and at numerous social gatherings associated with the sport and beyond.
They were even spotted dancing together at the Royal Yacht Squadron Ball during one Cowes Week. Of course, incidents like this on the Isle of Wight only fuelled whispers that they may have been more than just good friends.
It was even rumoured Prince Charles had cut off his friendship with Penny after someone close to him shared their suspicion that his father was having an affair with her.
But author Ingrid said: “We’ll never know how the Queen felt about it all. Philip always was a flirt and the Queen used to joke about his lascivious nature. If she had been hurt by rumours of supposed dalliances, she would never let on.”
Philip himself would simply laugh off any suggestion of impropriety. He told journalist Jeremy Paxman: “Every time I talk to a woman they say I’ve been to bed with her. It’s absolutely cuckoo.”
Penny’s marriage broke down in 2010, after 31 years and three children. Her husband Norton, now the 3rd Earl Mountbatten of Burma, fled to the Caribbean to be with fashion designer Eugenie Nuttall. Jeannie, as she is known, is the sister of former Bahamas Attorney General Sean McWeeney.
Penny, left to manage her and Norton’s 5,000-acre Hampshire estate alone, reportedly gathered together all the staff while her estranged husband was mid-flight and told them he had gone but everything else would stay the same.
One source said at the time: “Not for a moment would Penny allow her husband’s departure to interrupt the smooth running of the estate.”
There was never any question she would leave Broadlands, where every day she visits the tall stone monument, about 100 yards from the house, which stands above her daughter Leonora’s grave.
The Royal Family, in particular The Queen, were full of admiration for Penny’s stoicism. She did allow Norton back to Broadlands in 2014, not to the marital home, but to a converted barn there.
Her marriage troubles came on top of worry about their son, Nicholas, who was a year above Prince William at Eton, and had spent years hooked on crack cocaine and heroin. It was only when he feared he would be cut off from the family’s £100million fortune that he checked into rehab and kicked his habits.
In May 2021, tattooed Nicholas, 40, a music producer and gardener, married Ambre Pouzet, a French former fire-eating mermaid performer. The civil ceremony at Broadlands was a far cry from his sister Alexandra’s lavish 2016 wedding at Romsey Abbey, in which she was given away by the now-King Charles, as her father, The Queen and Philip watched.
A family friend said: “It’s very unusual to be given away by someone else at your wedding, even if it is by the Prince of Wales. Alexandra was at the time furious with her father for leaving her mother, but of course she still wanted him at the wedding.”
Alexandra, a financial analyst known as Knatch, chose to marry Thomas Hooper, an entrepreneur, on what would have been her sister Leonora’s 30th birthday. By coincidence, Leonora shared the same birthday as Uncle Dickie.
The day after Philip was laid to rest at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, Irish republican party Sinn Fein — the political wing of the IRA — apologised for Mountbatten’s assassination. Penny continued to visit Philip until he died on April 9.
She was one of the only people apart from family members who he saw at Wood Farm, the five-bedroom home on the Sandringham estate where he spent most of his time after he retired from royal duties in 2017.
Ingrid says: “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 not only of his secrets but those of the family.”
Read More on The Sun
Strictly star crashes out of the competition as fans claim result is a 'fix'
I found £2,000 free cash in lost bank accounts thanks to handy Martin Lewis tip
Penny returned to the Royal Windsor Horse Show without her decades-long comp-anion for the first time. She was seen standing behind the Queen, broad grins on both their faces.
If Philip had been looking down on them, he surely would have been smiling too.
Source: Read Full Article