The Crown Season Five: Who Is Penelope Knatchbull Aka Lady Romsey?

She was played by Natascha McElhone.

penelope-knatchbull-in The Crown

by Marianna Manson |
Updated on

The fifth season of The Crown brought a lot of drama – whether historical fiction or not – including a storyline involving a close friend of Prince Phillip, Lady Penelope Knatchbull.

The fifth series focused on the royals during the turbulent 90s, and several new names were introduced, including Penelope Knatchbull, aka Lady Romsey, the wife of Norton Knatchbull, 3rd Earl Mountbatten of Burma and confidante of the late Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh.

The role was played by veteran actress Natascha McElhone and even though you may not have heard of Penelope Knatchbull, the part was by no means a small one.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - MAY 11: Queen Elizabeth II and Lady Penny Romsey attend the Royal Windsor Horse Show at Home Park on May 11, 2018 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)

Who Is Penelope Knatchbull aka Lady Romsey?

Born Penelope Mary Meredith Eastwood (known to her friends as Penny), the future Countess Mountbatten of Burma was born in London to a successful businessman Reginald Eastwood and Marian Hood (what successful business, you may ask? Penny’s dad Reginald was the founder of steakhouse chain Angus Steakhouse).

Her privileged start in life saw her primarily educated in Switzerland before going onto study at the prestigious London School of Economics.

Who is Penelope’s husband Norton Knatchbull?

While Penny may not have been born into nobility, her marriage to Norton Knatchbull, the 3rd Earl Mountbatten of Burma in 1979 swiftly propelled her into Royal circles. Norton was the grandson of Lord Louis Mountbatten, maternal uncle of Prince Philip and great uncle of Charles, who has already played a major role in seasons 1-4 of The Crown, portrayed by Greg Wise and Charles Dance respectively. As fans of The Crown will know, toward the end of the last season, Lord Mountbatten was assassinated off the coast of Ireland.

Who are Penelope Knatchbull's children?

Penelope and Norton had three children: Nicholas Louis Charles Norton (born 1981), Alexandra Victoria Edwina Diana (born 1982) and Leonora Louise Marie Elizabeth (born 1986). Leonora, who was a goddaughter to Princess Diana, tragically died aged five of kidney cancer. The charity Leonora Children's Cancer Fund was founded in her memory.

What happened to Leonora Knatchbull?

Leonora was the youngest child of Nortona and Penelope Knatchbull. She first became unwell whilst holidaying in Majorca with her family and the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1990, and upon arriving back in England was diagnosed with a kidney tumour.

Despite appearing on the balcony during a 1991 trooping the colour ceremony, 14 months after her diagnosis and following a gruelling treatment plan, Leonora sadly died from the disease.

The Scottish Herald wrote at the time, 'Little more than two months ago, Leonora and her 10-year-old brother Nicholas, sister Alexandra, eight, and their parents joined the Prince and Princess of Wales on their summer Mediterranean cruise. They set off with high hopes after an improvement in her condition, but she became unwell again when the family returned to Broadlands, the Romsey estate in Hampshire.'

Penelope Knatchbull and Prince Philip

Season five of The Crown provided insight into Penny’s close friendship with Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh. Long considered to be one of his best friends, the late Duke was forced to deny rumours of any romantic entanglement for years.

WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 14: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, and Lady Penny Brabourne (Formerly Lady Penny Romsey) watch the driven dressage from the Prince's Landrover during day three of the Royal Windsor Horse Show 2009 on May 14, 2009 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Indigo/Getty Images)

According to Royal biographer and editor of Majesty Magazine, Ingrid Seward, the Queen ‘would have approved’ of her husband’s close friendship with Penny and she ‘never minded her husband being around pretty women’.

‘Questions may be raised about Philip’s other female "friendships," but I’m certain nothing would have happened with Penny,’ she wrote recently for The Sun. ‘Personally, I believe Philip and Penny had a somewhat symbiotic relationship.

‘He was almost a grandfather figure, someone able to advise and counsel her during difficult times. And Penny gave him company and mentally engaged him during lonely moments that could only be understood when married to the monarch.

‘There's no doubt in my mind, I’m certain she was never his mistress, yet in a rather macabre way, I imagine Philip would have found talk of such a scandal very flattering.’

Who is playing Penelope Knatchbull in The Crown?

Penelope also known as Lady Romsey was played by respected British actor Natascha McElhone, who has previously starred in The Truman Show, Solaris, Designated Survivor and The Other Boleyn Girl.

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