One guest at Prince Philip’s funeral no one predicted - but who is Penelope Knatchbull?

Penelope Knatchbull and Prince Philip sat inside a car
(Image credit: Getty)

One guest at Prince Philip's funeral no one predicted has been revealed - but just who is Penelope Knatchbull and what's her relationship with the Duke of Edinburgh?

Buckingham Palace announced the full list of 30 guests (opens in new tab) invited to attend Prince Philip's funeral (opens in new tab) this weekend and while many predictions were made on which members of the royal family were likely to attend, one invitee has shocked the nation.

Countess Mountbatten of Burma, Penelope Knatchbull has been a close friend of Prince Philip's for years but despite their close friendship, she is someone who was off the radar when it comes to likely funeral attendees, following his death (opens in new tab) on 9th April, aged 99.

Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and roadmap out of lockdown (opens in new tab), the numbers of guests allowed to attend funerals have to be restricted to 30 people, and while the royal family is no exception to that rule, her Majesty the Queen will no doubt have found it difficult to scale down the number of those attending - especially as she has such a large number of close family members.

This is why the revelation that Penelope Knatchbull is to attend has come as a surprise to many - despite being a close companion to both the Queen (opens in new tab) and the Duke of Edinburgh over the years.

Who is Prince Philip's funeral guest Penelope Knatchbull?

Penelope Knatchbull, the Queen and Prince Philip

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Penelope Knatchbull is known in royal circles simply as Penny. As the only daughter of butcher-turned-businessman Reginald Eastwood she became close to the royal family through her relationship with Norton Knatchbull, 3rd Earl of Mountbatten, who she went on to marry.

The wedding (opens in new tab) took place two months after the assassination of her husband's grandfather Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, by an IRA bomb which also killed three others, Knatchbull's younger brother Hon. Nicholas Knatchbull (1964–1979), his grandmother Lady Brabourne, and Irish friend Paul Maxwell.

A royal insider remembered her as "one of the most natural young women I have ever met, outgoing but not brash or flirty".

Penelope Knatchbull and Norton Knatchbull, Earl Mountbatten of Burma

(Image credit: Getty)

Penelope gave birth to three children between 1981 and 1986, Nicholas, Alexandra and Leonora, but in 1991, Leonora contracted liver cancer and died aged five.

Her husband went on to have an affair (opens in new tab) in 2010, and refusing to let his departure interrupt royal duty, the Countess took over the running of the Broadlands estate.

What was Penelope Knatchbull's relationship with Prince Philip?

Prince Philip and Penelope Knatchbull

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Having become close to the royal family through her relationship with Norton Knatchbull, 3rd Earl of Mountbatten, Penelope hit it off immediately with the royals but it was the Queen and Philip who were particularly impressed with the Countess when Norton introduced her in 1975.

And it is understood Norton's close friendship with the major royals allowed Penelope to get closer to the family, after all, he attended the prestigious Gordonstoun school with Prince Charles as a child, and the Prince of Wales was even best man when she married Norton in 1979.

Despite an age difference of more than 30 years, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Countess shared a love of the outdoors and their friendship blossomed. Prince Philip had many hobbies throughout his life from playing polo to taking an interest in the environment, but his favourite pastime was carriage driving and he even taught Penelope how to drive a carriage in 1994.

Penelope Knatchbull and Prince Philip carriage driving

(Image credit: Getty)

Despite being seen in public with Prince Philip, it's understood the Queen had a strong bond with her in private and their public socialising even after her husband's affair showed the strength of the Queen and Philip's 73 year marriage (opens in new tab).

They even watched the driven dressage from the Prince's Landrover during day three of the Royal Windsor Horse Show 2009.

Despite the family connection between Norton and the royals, a friend close to the family said that "the Queen and Phillip [couldn't] forgive him for what he did to Penny".

Penelope, the Queen, and Prince Philip were pictured at Royal Windsor Horse Show on May 11, 2018. The Royal Windsor Horse Show is hosted on the private grounds of Windsor Castle and is attended by members of the Royal family.