One of Prince Philip’s closest confidantes mourned the loss of her carriage-driving companion today, as she arrived for the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh.
Penelope Knatchbull, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, 67, looked demure in a black pillbox hat, round-neck dress and delicate pearl earrings as she arrived at Windsor Castle in the back of a car.
Also known as Lady Romsey and Lady Brabourne, Penny was a regular visitor at Wood Farm, the cottage on the edge of the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk where the Prince spent much of his time after retiring from public life in August 2017.
Penelope Knatchbull, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, 67, looked demure in a black pillbox hat, round-neck dress and delicate pearl earrings as she arrived at Windsor Castle in the back of a car
Penny wore a coat dress with a fern brooch, chunky necklace, pillbox hat and a delicate pair of earrings for the funeral
Despite their 32 years age difference, the pair were firm friends for decades and shared a love for the equestrian sport of carriage-driving.
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 Penny was a clear choice, due to her close companionship with the duke.
For years, no private royal event is complete without an invitation to Penny.
Around Buckingham Palace she is known simply as ‘and also…’ because of the automatic way her name is added to the guest list.
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)
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)
Penny’s inclusion in the small group of 30 is an indication as to how close she and Philip remained.
Formerly Penelope Meredith Eastwood, Lady Brabourne is the daughter of a retired army major.
Penny’s father left school at 15 and became a butcher, like his father and grandfather before him.
He founded the Angus Steakhouse chain of restaurants which he sold for several millions, giving Penny a privileged childhood.
The guests who will be involved in Prince Philip’s funeral procession (left) and those who will be St George’s Chapel (right). Penny will be in St George’s Chapel
Duke of Edinburgh took it upon himself in 1994 to teach Penny carriage driving and the pair travelled the country together
She grew up and was educated in Switzerland before attending the London School of Economics.
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.
Norton, 73, is the grandson of Lord Mountbatten – who was famously close to his nephew Prince Philip.
Philip was Norton’s godson, while Norton is the godfather of Prince William.
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh attended Penny’s wedding to her husband Norton at Romsey Abbey in Hampshire
Royal expert Ingrid Seward previously said Prince Philip supported Penny when her husband Norton left her in 2010
Penny’s father, Reg Eastwood, had sold his steakhouse chain to the Golden Egg company and was living with his wife in Majorca when his daughter married Norton.
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 Paul Maxwell, a 15-year-old local.
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.
Meanwhile Prince Charles is also a close friend of the family, giving away Penny’s daughter Alexandra at her 2018 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’.
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.
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)
Penny Brabourne, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, pictured right, with her husband Norton Knatchbull, left, was a close friend of Prince Philip
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 asked to show Charles the ropes.
This went back to when they were schoolboys together at Gordonstoun and Norton, a year older, was deputed to show Charles the ropes.
In 1981, Penny and Norton welcomes their first child Nicholas Louis Charles Norton Knatchbull and a daughter Lady Alexandra a year later.
In 1986, she gave birth to daughter, who had kidney cancer and died aged five in 1991.
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.
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 Norton left her.
However, their affair fizzled out and he returned in 2014 to Broadlands estate in Hampshire.
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.’
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.’
Penny joined the Queen and Philip’s four children and eight grandchildren and their respective spouses at the service in St George’s Chapel today.
Also invited is Jack Brooksbank, the husband of Eugenie, daughter of the Duke and the Duchess of York, and Beatrice’s husband Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.
Three German relatives – whose ancestors were denied a place at Princess Elizabeth and Philip’s wedding because of anti-German feeling after the second war – have been included.
Others on the guest list include the Queen’s first cousins Princess Alexandra, the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent, who loyally supported the monarch and Philip by carrying out royal duties over the decades.
But the most prominent name missing from the list is Prince Harry’s wife Meghan, who has stayed at home in Los Angeles as she is unable to fly as she is expecting her second child.
Also is missing is the Queen’s cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, 78, who is not a working royal.
There was also not room for the spouses of the Queen’s cousins – the Duchess of Gloucester and the Duchess of Kent, nor Prince Michael’s often controversial wife, Princess Michael of Kent.