"The Crown," which depicts a fictionalised version of Queen Elizabeth II's reign over the United Kingdom, is reportedly all set to upset the British royal family once again by delving into another controversial topic.
In its upcoming season, the hit Netflix series is reportedly planning to explore the alleged relationship between the Queen's husband Prince Philip and Countess Mountbatten of Burma Penny Knatchbull, who was 30 years his junior. The fifth and sixth seasons of the show will see Jonathan Pryce portraying the royal who passed away at the age of 99 in April this year, while Natasha McElhone is joining the cast to play Knatchbull, who is currently 68 years old. The Queen, currently 95, will be played by Imelda Staunton.
According to reports, it is "unlikely" that the exploration of Prince Philip and Penny's relationship would be welcomed by the royal family. The series had already shown the late royal's alleged extra-marital relations causing trouble in his marriage with the then-pregnant Queen in its second season, but never appeared to confirm the affairs.
A source told The Sun about the show's new choice of topic, "This is a relationship which naturally raised a few eyebrows and sparked quite a few whispers, but Philip and Penny maintained they were just friends. The makers of The Crown believe it is a relationship worthy of exploring and casting a veteran actor like Natascha is a reflection of how high profile the role is."
"But the highly personal relationship is unlikely to be welcomed as a storyline by Her Majesty or the rest of the Royal Family," the insider added.
Penny a.k.a. Penelope Meredith Mary Knatchbull is the only daughter of Reginald Eastwood, a butcher-turned-wealthy businessman. Penny was educated in Switzerland before taking a business degree at the London School of Economics.
She is thought to have met Prince Philip in 1974, when she was dating Norton Knatchbull, now the 3rd Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Knatchbull is the grandson of Lord Louis Mountbatten, Prince Philip's beloved uncle, and one of the closest friends of the royal's eldest son Prince Charles from the time they studied together at Gordonstoun School in Scotland. His family seat is Broadlands in Hampshire, where the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh spent their honeymoon.
Penny, who married Knatchbull in 1979 with Prince Charles as the best man, reportedly bonded with Prince Philip when her youngest daughter Leonora died of kidney cancer at the age of five. They started getting together for carriage driving, which a sport one aide described as one of Philip's "big loves of his life after the Queen." Penny went on to become a close confidante of the royal, his loyal companion, and "keeper of secrets."
Meanwhile, Penny's marriage with Knatchbull was destroyed when he left her in 2010 to live with his mistress in the Bahamas, though Penny remained at his family seat and continued to run it. Her husband returned within a couple of years to live at a cottage on the Broadlands estate, but she continues to run the house even today.
She allowed her husband to move back into the 60-room mansion after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The Earl has not been seen in public for several years, while Penny has devoted her life to raising money for a charity in her deceased daughter's name.
Penny also continued to frequently visit the Prince Consort when he retired from public duties and started living at Wood Farm on the Sandringham estate in 2017. She was the only friend of the royal present at his funeral in April this year, which was attended by only 30 people due to coronavirus restrictions.