Penelope Knatchbull grew close to royals after tragic loss of daughter and husband

Prince Philip funeral: Expert slams thought of Queen sat alone

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Penelope, 68, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, Lady Brabourne and Penny to her friends, was a surprise addition to the guest list, but she has become very close to both the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh over the past few decades. She shares the royals’ love of the outdoors, was the Duke’s carriage-driving partner after he taught her the skill and competed with him since 1994. Born the only daughter of butcher-turned businessman Reginald Eastwood, the Countess first entered royal circles after marrying Norton Knatchbull, the grandson of Prince Philip’s uncle and mentor Lord Mountbatten.

An immediate hit with the royals, Penelope particularly impressed the Queen when Norton first introduced her in 1975, and the couple were good friends with the family for years.

Norton, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, had been at Gordonstoun with Prince Charles as a child and the Prince of Wales was best man when the couple tied the knot.

The wedding took place just two months after the assassination of her husband’s grandfather Lord Mountbatten in an IRA bomb explosion that also killed Norton’s younger brother Nicholas, his grandmother Lady Brabourne and a teenage boat hand Paul Maxwell.

Between 1981 and 1986, Penelope gave birth to three children: Nicholas, Alexandra and Leonora.

Lady Brabourne became especially close with both Philip and the Queen after suffering several losses in her life.

The first devastating loss was her daughter Leonora contracting liver cancer and dying at the age of five in 1991.

The second was when her husband of 31 years left her for a Bahamian fashion designer in 2010.

Her strength, following the exposure of his affair, reportedly impressed Her Majesty and their companionship became more public.

Penelope was often seen in public riding alongside the Duke and saw the Queen regularly in private.

Despite an age difference of 26 and 31 years to the Queen and Philip respectively, Penelope has proved to be a treasured companion for them both.

She was a regular guest at the weekend house parties Philip held at Wood Farm on the Sandringham Estate, where he lived after retiring from public duties before the coronavirus pandemic.

Royal sources said she was the prince’s confidante and shares his boisterous sense of humour.

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Lady Brabourne always topped any Palace party guest list.

With the ongoing coronavirus restrictions, only 30 people will be in attendance at Prince Philip’s funeral and in a heartwarming tribute to their friendship, Penelope has been given a place alongside family members.

Also in attendance will be the Queen, of course, and Philip’s children and their partners: Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Anne and Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

Other guests will be the Duke’s grandchildren and their partners: Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, Peter Phillips, Zara Tindall and Mike Tindall, Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.

Princess Margaret’s children: The Earl of Snowdon and Lady Sarah Chatto with her husband Daniel Chatto, are invited also.

The Queen’s cousins will also be there: the Duke of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra.

Finally, three of Philip’s German relatives will be there: Bernhard, Hereditary Prince of Baden, Prince Donatus, Landgrave of Hesse, Prince Philipp of Hohenlohe-Langenburg.

All four of Philip’s sisters married Germans and the presence of these German princes is especially poignant, given that this side of the family was not invited to Philip’s wedding to the Queen.

The 1947 royal wedding took place so soon after the end of the war that it was not seen as appropriate to have them there, especially as several of his sisters’ husbands had Nazi links.

Prince Philip will be laid to rest in St George’s Chapel after a very short procession from the State Entrance of Windsor Castle.

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