The Duke of Edinburgh‘s carriage-driving companion – one of his closest confidantes – Countess Mountbatten of Burma will join mourners at Philip’s funeral.
Penny Romsey, 67, who is 32 years younger than Philip, remained close to the Duke for years after he took it upon himself in 1994 to teach her carriage driving.
For years, no private royal event is complete without an invitation to Penny Brabourne. Around Buckingham Palace she is known simply as ‘and also…’ because of the automatic way her name is added to the guest list.
Now the 67-year-old countess – Penelope ‘Penny’ Knatchbull, previously known as Lady Romsey and later Lady Brabourne – will join the monarch, the Queen and Philip’s four children and eight grandchildren and their respective spouses at the service in St George’s Chapel on Saturday.
Buckingham Palace said the Queen faced ‘some very difficult’ decisions as she selected the 30 guests permitted under Covid-19 rules, from the original 800-strong congregation, and had tried to ensure all branches of the duke’s family were there.
But who is the striking blonde, whose misfortunes never seem to end: from a daughter lost in childhood; a son lost to drugs and her husband of 30 years, Lord Brabourne, who left her for several years for a care-free new life in the Bahamas with another woman.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s carriage-driving companion – one of his closest confidantes – Countess Mountbatten of Burma will join mourners at Philip’s funeral (pictured together in 1975)
Formerly Penelope Meredith Eastwood, Lady Brabourne is the daughter of a retired major.
Penny’s father left school at 15 and became a butcher, like his father and grandfather before him but died a wealthy man having founded the Angus Steakhouse chain of restaurants which he sold for several millions.
She first met the Duke – who is 30 years her senior – at a polo match when she was 20 and in a relationship with Lord Romsey, Earl Mountbatten’s grandson Norton Knatchbull.
Penny’s father, the short, dapper Reg Eastwood, had sold his steakhouse chain to the Golden Egg company and was living with his wife in Majorca when his daughter — a graduate of the London School of Economics – married Norton.
She first met the Duke – who is 30 years her senior – at a polo match when she was 20 and in a relationship with Lord Romsey, Earl Mountbatten’s grandson Norton Knatchbull (pictured the trio together in 2009)
FULL GUEST LIST FOR THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH’S FUNERAL
1. The Queen
2. The Prince of Wales
3. The Duchess of Cornwall
4. The Duke of Cambridge
5. The Duchess of Cambridge
6. The Duke of Sussex
7. The Duke of York
8. Princess Beatrice
9. Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi
10. Princess Eugenie
11. Jack Brooksbank
12. The Earl of Wessex
13. The Countess of Wessex
14. Lady Louise Windsor
15. Viscount Severn
16. The Princess Royal
17. Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence
18. Peter Phillips
19. Zara Phillips
20. Mike Tindall
21. Earl of Snowdon
22. Lady Sarah Chatto
23. Daniel Chatto
24. Duke of Gloucester
25. Duke of Kent
26. Princess Alexandra
27. Bernhard, Hereditary Prince of Baden
28. Prince Donatus, Landgrave of Hesse
29. Prince Philipp of Hohenlohe-Langenburg
30. The Countess Mountbatten of Burma
The wedding had been delayed for eight weeks because five months earlier, on August 25, IRA bombers blew up a small boat in the sea off Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo, where Lord Mountbatten had a holiday home.
It killed Mountbatten, Norton’s 14-year-old younger brother Nicholas (after whom he was to name his own son), his paternal grandmother the Dowager Lady Brabourne and a local boy who was with the family.
Nicholas’s twin brother, Timothy, and his parents were all injured. It was an intensely moving moment as the couple arrived in an ambulance for their son’s wedding.
Mountbatten’s murder meant that Broadlands became the newlyweds’ first and only home. Brought up in his parents’ comfortable 18th century country house in Kent, Norton dreaded it. He never wanted the burden of Broadlands and knew he could hardly live up to his illustrious grandfather as the local ‘lord of the manor’.
Duke of Edinburgh took it upon himself in 1994 to teach Penny carriage driving and the pair travelled the country together
A family friend previously revealed: ‘On the other hand, Penny was always comfortable there because she knew it was their duty.’
But Norton fell out with the locals when, in the Eighties, he tried to get planning permission for Tesco to build a superstore on the estate.
Feelings ran so high that opponents of the development carried a burning effigy of their High Steward through the streets of Romsey. The supermarket was never built.
Meanwhile the family’s original closeness to those in The Firm came through Norton’s friendship with Prince Charles.
This went back to when they were schoolboys together at Gordonstoun and Norton, a year older, was deputed to show Charles the ropes.
She welcomed a son Nicholas in 1981 and a daughter Lady Alexandra a year later.
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh attended Penny’s wedding to her husband Norton at Romsey Abbey in Hampshire
In 1986, she gave birth to daughter, who had kidney cancer and died aged five nearly 20 years ago.
Just like his father and Charles, Nicholas was a year older than Prince William and was given the responsibility of showing him the ropes at Eton.
However, starting as a teenager, Nicholas’s life has been devastated by drugs. He has spent years on crack cocaine and heroin, living in drug dens and bedsits, is covered in tattoos and has found occasional work as a club DJ under the name ‘Minimal Criminal’.
Several years ago, he became engaged to single mother-of-two Zeaphena Badley, a dreadlocked Anglo-Jamaican girl from a shabby London council estate.
Meanwhile in 2010, Norton moved to the Bahamas to embark on a new life with Lady Nuttall, 60.
Royal expert Ingrid Seward previously said Prince Philip supported Penny when her husband Norton left her in 2010
At that time, Brabourne gave up all public duties and his estranged wife took over many of his responsibilities.
Royal expert Ingrid Seward previously said Prince Philip supported Penny when Norton left her.
However, their affair fizzled out and he returned in 2014 to Broadlands, where the Queen began her honeymoon.
One of her oldest family friends previously revealed: ‘I often wonder how their mother, Penny, copes with all the tragedy she has suffered.
‘But she’s a strong character – much stronger than Norton. I think Penny gets it from her father. He was a man who always seemed to know where he was going.’
Now the 67-year-old countess – Penelope ‘Penny’ Knatchbull, previously known as Lady Romsey and later Lady Brabourne – will join the monarch at the service in St George’s Chapel on Saturday.
She has always been close to the royal family, as one friend who has known her since those early days previously recalled: ‘She was one of the most natural young women I have ever met, outgoing but not brash or flirty.’
In later years, she became one of the Duke of Edinburgh’s regular companion at carriage-driving events, and painted watercolours together.
She has been a regular guest at the weekend house parties he holds at secluded Wood Farm on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. She never stays when the Queen is there.
She has been a decorative and determined carriage-driving companion of Prince Philip (which has made her the talk of countless gossip columns).
Penny has been a regular guest at the weekend house parties he holds at secluded Wood Farm on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. She never stays when the Queen is there (pictured together in 2009)
Gossip about them has never been allowed to spoil their relationship. It was said that Penny’s enthusiasm for the sport was crucial in keeping Philip’s aged hands on the reins.
Of all the women’s names that have been linked with Philip, Penny’s is easily the most enduring, the one that even now so late in his life, continues to raise unwelcome attention.
There was a time, indeed, when courtiers referred to the ‘Penny Romsey situation’ — this before her now-estranged husband succeeded to his father’s title of Baron Brabourne a decade ago.
The phrase had emerged in royal corridors some years earlier, after details of a lengthy and rambling telephone conversation between Penny and Prince Philip were leaked by an electronic eavesdropper.
She has been a decorative and determined carriage-driving companion of Prince Philip (pictured together in 2015)
Meanwhile Prince Charles is also a close friend of the family, giving away Penny’s daughter Alexandra at her 2018 wedding
With a warm familiarity, they were overheard chewing over some of the Royal Family’s most private and pressing issues, from Charles and Diana’s divorce, to Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles. Even the Queen Mother’s hip operation was discussed.
Prince Philip valued her thoughts and opinions. After all, Penny was the first person to suggest that Charles and Diana were ill-suited because they had virtually nothing in common. The full details of that late-night call have never been revealed.
But after the Squidgygate and Camillagate affairs — when telephone calls between Diana and her friend James Gilbey, and Charles and his then mistress Camilla Parker Bowles were intercepted and then leaked — the taped conversation was inevitably dubbed ‘Dukegate’, much to Philip’s understandable anger.
Even though their conversation had little in common with the intimacies and implications of the others, some interpreted it as an indication of their closeness.
Penny has lived with Norton at Broadlands throughout their marriage (pictured, the Queen and Prince Philip at the estate in 1947)
Writing last year, Seward commented: ‘When I saw Philip and Penny gliding around the dance floor at the Royal Yacht Squadron Ball during Cowes Week one year, neither of them gave a damn who saw them or what anyone might say. ‘
‘I noticed that Philip was completely in rhythm with the beautiful Penny. He’s undoubtedly close to her and is a supportive friend and mentor.’
Meanwhile Penny was also credited with persuading him to give up his driving licence after his 2019 accident.
The Queen was said to be ‘relaxed’ about the constant topic of Philip and Penny. As a figure close to the royals previously said: ‘She shrugs her shoulders and says: ‘Philip likes to have her around.”
As for Philip, he ‘didn’t believe he had anything to feel guilty about as he didn’t give a damn what the world thinks’.