Penny Knatchbull: Who is Prince Philip's Longtime Friend Featured in 'The Crown' Season 5?

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Portrayed by Natascha McElhone, Penny Knatchbull is that latest real-life figure and friend of the royal family to be featured on The Crown. As creator Peter Morgan's historical drama about the British monarchy led by Queen Elizabeth II moves into the 1990s, season 5 shines a light on Penelope's friendship -- and possible romance -- with Prince Philip, which lasted until the Duke of Edinburgh's death in April 2021.  

Also known as Lady Romsey from 1979 to 2005, Penelope first became associated with the royal family after marrying Norton Knatchbull (also known as Lord Romsey at the time), who is second cousins with King Charles and was the godson of Philip. Lord Romsey is also the godfather of Prince William. 

The couple had three children, including Nicholas, Alexandra, who was a goddaughter to Princess Diana, and the late Leonora, who died at the age of five in 1991. The youngest of the three was subsequently buried on the grounds of her family's home, Broadlands, in Hampshire, England. 

As part of the royal orbit, Penelope became friends with Philip in the early '90s, when he taught her how to ride a motorcycle and carriage driving, a competitive sport popularized by the queen's husband in the decades prior. The two became so close that she was reportedly nicknamed "And Also" by Palace insiders because she became a fixture on Philip's guest list for royal events and often accompanied him to the Royal Windsor Horse Show and other sports gatherings. 

According to The Sun, despite their 30-year age gap there were rumors of an affair between the two. And such suspicions even led Charles to cut ties with Penelope. But Penelope was also one of many women suspected of having an inappropriate relationship with Philip over the course of his marriage to the queen. 

The paper even quoted Ingrid Seward, author of Prince Philip Revealed: A Man of His Century, as saying, "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." 

Despite those rumors, their friendship lasted until the end, with the queen even reportedly calling on Penelope to help her to encourage Philip to give up his driver's license after his 2019 car accident. And upon his death, Penelope became the only non-royal invited to his funeral

According to the queen's spokesman, Dicki Arbiter, "Penny was a long-time friend of the whole family." 

The Crown
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"What happened is true. He had a friendship with Penny," actor Jonathan Pryce, who takes over the role of Prince Philip in seasons 5 and 6, tells ET about the subplot focused on his and Penny's relationship. "And as the story is told in The Crown, it's a friendship based on companionship. It says a lot about what he gave up when he became the consort to the queen and the way he was always questioning and searching for a life beyond the folds of the enclosure, as it were." 

On season 5 of the series, Philip's friendship with Penny is the focus of two episodes, "The System" and "Ipatiev House," which depict how he encouraged her to take up carriage driving to help through the grieving process following the death of her youngest daughter. 

Later, the relationship is revisited, with the queen confronting Penelope over the bond she has with her husband, explaining that she's worried about the appearance of an affair. However, nothing illicit is ever seen happening between Philip and Penelope, who seem to largely bond over family loss and their involvement in the same sport. 

"But I think, as you will see, it's a very benign friendship and a friendship that lasted up to beyond his death. Because there are very few people who were invited to Philip's funeral," Pryce says, referring to the private ceremony that took place in 2021. "Penny was one of the mourners and that says a lot for the queen's relationship with Penny and Penny's relationship with Philip. It was familial. And I think if people tried to draw any other conclusions, that's down to them, really." 


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