Prince Philip: who is Penny, the second lady in his life?

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The Duke of Edinburgh died on April 9 at the age of 99. Although he had been married for more than 70 years to Queen Elizabeth II, since 1994 he had maintained a unique relationship with Countess Mountbatten... With the agreement of Her Majesty.

When the bells of Westminter Abbey rang on November 20, 1947, to celebrate the marriage of Elizabeth II, Philip was already losing his splendour and his purpose. As Buckingham Palace revealed in a press release, Prince Philip became 'the husband of'. The man in the shadows. He still dreamed of a military career and thought he had at least twenty years ahead of him to achieve it. Sadly, George VI died suddenly in 1952 and Elizabeth became Queen of England. In front of the whole world, he knelt before her, swearing to serve her until death. The coronation was watched by millions around the world and was considered a great success although some drama was caused by the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret. Prince Philip now had to walk three steps behind her, could not give his name to his children, and only had a ceremonial role. He didn’t take it well. He obviously felt emasculated and had a hard time not being considered the king. Throughout London, rumours started circulating about the Duke of Edinburgh's drunken lunches at the Thursday Club of which he had been a member since 1946, in the presence of pretty young women, and the vulgar joke competitions which took place there every Thursday. Fact or fiction? The prince was certainly a charmer and loved the company of women.

Were there thirty mistresses?

Tall, handsome, funny, cultured… It’s no wonder Prince Philip was very popular. He was credited with many mistresses, around thirty names even appearing in what is called the "royal collection" including the actresses Zsa Zsa Gabor and Shirley Maclaine. He was also surrounded by very tender friends including the very chic and elegant Penelope Romsey known as Penny, Lady Brabourne, Countess of Mountbatten. Since 1994, he had taught her his passion for carriage racing. Thirty years his junior, she became his partner in equestrian competitions. Together, they laughed at the same jokes, had the same tastes, the same culture, the same passion for the great outdoors and nature. Thanks to her, the duke continued to practice driving which allowed him to keep in astonishing physical shape for 98! They said the pair were inseparable, to the point that people talked about the “Penny Romsey situation” within the palace.

Some people cringed to see her join the royal family…

For a long time, she was invited to parties organised at weekends at Wood Farm on the royal estate of Sandringham in Norfolk and disappeared when the Queen appeared. However, the two women had known each other since 1975 and liked each other. You could often see the silhouette of Penny behind the sovereign in official ceremonies. Smiling. Elegant. She is described as “a natural, joyful, extroverted woman”. A commoner from London, she is the daughter of Reginal Wray Eastwood, a butcher who made his fortune by founding the “Angus Steakhouse” chain. Her beauty and charm seduced Northon Knatchbull, son of Countess Patricia Mountbatten, cousin of the Duke of Edinburgh. Northon is also the godson of Prince Philip and studied with Prince Charles. For her wedding, Penelope wore the Mountbatten family tiara. Some people cringed to see her join the royal family, but not Prince Philip. Penny now belonged to the Windsors' inner circle. But always remained in the shadows. She devoted herself to her three children, Nicholas, whose godfather is the Prince of Wales, Alexandra, whose godmother is the Princess of Wales, and finally Leonora.

The prince supports her after the death of her daughter

Seemingly trouble-free, Lady Romsey's life took a tragic turn when it is discovered that the youngest of the family, Leonora, has leukemia. Despite treatment, she died in 1991, barely five years old. Penny is bereft, her relationship is suffering. The Duke of Edinburgh was very present during this ordeal and wanted to find a way to bring some joy back to this young woman's life. He decided to introduce her to horses and driving competitions. Alongside the prince, she finds a form of serenity in the sport. Their friendship is deep and pure. Is there anything more to it? The prince's alleged infidelity has caused a lot of chatter but no extramarital relationship has been proven. As Dickie Arbiter, the Queen's former spokesperson and now royal columnist, puts it: "Prince Philip has always liked to window shop, but he doesn't buy." A pleasant pastime that gives free rein to all fantasies. There can be no doubting Prince Philip's loyalties though as shown with his last request to Charles before he died.

© Ken Goff

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