Royal historian: Prince Philip probably wasn’t ‘strictly faithful’ to his wife

Prince Philip was most likely a serial philanderer, despite whatever horsesh-t royal biographers want to say now. Philip was probably more of an indiscriminate philanderer in his younger years, back during the time when the British media simply gave privacy and discretion to most men of a certain class. In his later years, it’s been pretty well established that Philip was very close to Penelope Knatchbull. Penny was something of his best friend, lover and companion for the last three decades of his life. Queen Elizabeth seemed mostly fine with the arrangement, and for what it’s worth, QEII seemed quite fond of Penny too. Some of Philip and Penny’s relationship is dramatized in The Crown, much to the Windsors’ chagrin. There have been a number of royalists huffing and puffing about how dare Netflix show Philip engaging in a consensual affair with a younger woman! After the initial performative outrage, at least there are some royalists who are back to speaking in barely veiled euphemisms.

The Queen ‘cut Prince Philip some slack over his friendships with women’ as the late monarch was aware her husband was made to ‘walk a tightrope’ as her consort, a royal expert has claimed. Historian Dr Tessa Dunlop – who has penned the biography Elizabeth and Philip: A Story of Young Love, Marriage and Monarchy – says the late royal couple ‘clearly had an enduring and loving marriage’.

Appearing on the Mail Plus’ Palace Confidential series, the royal expert commented on a storyline in the new series of the The Crown which will see Prince Philip pursuing an extra-marital relationship with Penny Knatchbull. Countess Mountbatten of Burma became the Duke’s ‘closest confidante’ and was one of the 30 mourners who attended his funeral in April 2021.

The Netflix hit series is reported to have filmed ‘intimate scenes’ between Prince Philip and Penny Knatchbull – who had a 32-year age difference – which lands on screens tomorrow, just over two months after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Speaking to host Jo Elvin, Dr Dunlop said: ‘The inference is that he wasn’t sexually faithful – that’s what people have inferred. But whether he was or not, the Queen and him clearly had a loving and enduring marriage and a partnership that she leant on and he leant on. They both depended on each other.’

What’s more, the expert said that it is well-known that high-profile aristocratic couples of the time weren’t always strictly faithful to each other. She added: ‘Monogamy didn’t have the high currency it does in today’s world.’

[From The Daily Mail]

I’m of the same opinion, especially with regard to Philip’s relationship with Penny. They likely had a decades-long affair and relationship. I doubt it was purely carnal, especially given that Penny was still his loving companion in his final years at Wood Farm, when his health was failing. I think the Queen accepted it in the end, although I doubt she was all that forgiving in the early years of her marriage. But towards the end… Elizabeth and Philip lived apart and Elizabeth accepted Penny and was quite close to Penny on her own. I also think Philip and Elizabeth adored each other and they were both part of a generation which… yeah, didn’t put the highest premium on fidelity and monogamy.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid, Netflix/The Crown.

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66 Responses to “Royal historian: Prince Philip probably wasn’t ‘strictly faithful’ to his wife”

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  1. BayTampaBay says:

    Until I see a certified DNA test, I believe, and will continue to believe, Penelope “Penny” Knatchbull is Philip’s daughter. This explains, and is the only workable explanation, why QEII had no problem with the closeness of this 32 year relationship.

    • Amy Bee says:

      Andrew Parker Bowles had no problem with Camilla and Charles affair until it was made public. It is accepted that aristos cheat on their spouses. It’s the reason the Queen couldn’t understand why Diana was upset the Charles was cheating on her. Penny was Philip’s girlfriend and the Queen accepted that.

      • Div says:

        It’s not just that, though. It’s that her family had a very average, sort of common Middleton esque background and yet she was fully educated in Switzerland and made a super aristo marriage which was…unusual…considering how snobby the aristos are and were even more so back then. Also her father didn’t become wealthy well into her teens, the man was a normal, former butcher, so for her to be so easily embraced by the aristo set….it’s telling.

        Also, there’s a difference between not caring about monogamy and being so open like Phil was. I think Liz probably wasn’t happy about it, but he threatened to go public (journos have heavily insinuated he had more than one kid out of marriage)…and she thought it was more ‘shameful’ for it to come out he fathered kids with other women while he was married to her versus letting the public believe Penny was his mistress.

    • Mcmmom says:

      I’m going with that theory, too, mainly because a barely hidden daughter is much more interesting than a long term mistress.

      • Debbie says:

        Yes, but this family doesn’t usually shower their children with attention, so why would Philip have spent so much time with her if she was his daughter?

    • Couch potato says:

      Thank you! I’ve been thinking the same for years!

    • Div says:

      I 100% believe this rumor. While aristos generally don’t care about monogamy, to be that open about it…is sus. I think Liz preferred for people to see Penny as his mistress rather than the idea that he fathered children will married to her, as she found the latter more embarrassing because that is considered more scandalous than a ‘typical’ affair. It’s also heavily rumored that he had a second child out of marriage, I believe, and I think that’s the secret some journos have hinted at versus him just being a philanderer.

      Also her background…aristos are snobby asf (and even more so back then) and her father was a former butcher (his restaurant group didn’t take off until she was well into her teens). The fact that she was educated in Switzerland & made a super aristo marriage in her early mid 20s…that smacks of Phillip being her dad imo.

    • Jaded says:

      She’s actually the spitting image of her father.

      • BayTampaBay says:

        Her father Reginald Eastwood of her Philip Glücksburg? LOL! LOL!

        Reginald Eastwood and Philip Glücksburg could pass for brothers!

    • Sunday says:

      100% agree!

    • Cairidh says:

      The queen and Philip broke up in the 50s. Anything that happened after that was not adultery, or affairs. I doubt the queen cared if the man she separated from 70 years ago was in a relationship with someone else.

      • GirlMonday says:

        Say what now?

      • Feeshalori says:

        Huh? The Queen and Philip weren’t divorced so any affairs that may have occurred during their period of separation would definitely have been adultery committed by either of them. Despite how the Queen may or may not have cared about her husband’s philandering.

      • Cairidh says:

        Legally it’s considered adultery by the divorce courts.
        Morally and ethically the idea of it being cheating is ridiculous.
        My parents were separated for 16 years before they bothered applying for a divorce. If anyone had suggested to my mother that her ex dating another woman was him cheating on her she’d have laughed at them.

      • Serena says:

        Charles cheated from the start, everybody knows that. I believe Philiph did too because it was ‘common’ for aristocratic men to do so, I think TQ had enough and they ‘separated’ or more like fought for a while, because the rumors were out of control.

    • Thelma says:

      This theory makes a lot more sense to me.

    • The Recluse says:

      I remember reading/hearing decades ago from one of these royal observers that he knew of a young woman who was the twin of Princess Anne – so Philip likely did have his relationships and they’re still hiding it.

    • Caitlin C says:

      His long time Blonde Ballarina mistress has twins that look exactly like Philip

    • Agreatreckoning says:

      Cosign @BayTampaBay.

  2. Rapunzel says:

    Who is throwing Phil under the bus by having this publicly admitted? Because this is convenient timing.

    • bettyrose says:

      This well known non-secret is a ridiculous reveal, but I knocked off episode 2 before work this morning, and Philip comes across very sympathetically. In fact, he’s the most sympathetic character thus far. Probably gets worse, but so far the show is perfectly good PR for his memory.

    • usavgjoe says:

      I’ve heard some stories, and QE2 was not all that faithful towards Philip, either. People need to stop building the Royals up… they are fallible humans like the rest of us — not gods.
      Before the “Magna Carta” and sometimes afterwards the Royals were more ruthless… killing their subjects with abandonment because they could, and killing one another (regicide) to sit on the thrones of Europe. Marrying other royals for power grabs. They used both the Protestant and Catholic churches to validate them as being on the same level as God, so the people would think that they only had their best interest in mind — to pacify them not to overthrow them and their family lines. Alot of SINS go along with those thrones.

  3. Amy Bee says:

    The press had no difficulty in talking about Philip and Penny’s “friendship” over the years so why are they outraged that it’s being portrayed in the Crown?

  4. Pumpkin (Was Sofia) says:

    Affairs don’t have to be physical. So they may have been sleeping together or they may not have. But I do believe they had an emotional affair at least.

  5. Becks1 says:

    Of course they were more than friends and of course the Queen was okay with it. Was she always okay with his affairs? Maybe, maybe not, but I believe by the 90s she was probably like “meh I’ve got bigger fish to fry than who Philip goes carriage driving with.” They seemed to have a solid marriage even with the affairs so 🤷‍♀️

    We saw the Queen reward Kate for keeping quiet when the Rose Hanbury story broke (although the irony of that is that the reason the story broke was bc Kate could NOT accept the affair and tried to ice out Rose), so its clear that there is an expectation that affairs are to be tolerated.

    • ShazBot says:

      I know it was totally dramatized, but I always think of that scene in the crown (season 2 I think) where their marriage was rough and she asked him “what do you need in order for this to work? because it has to work at all costs”
      Until now I guess, the crown tiptoed around it after that, but it was always sort of hinted at (like when Philip wasn’t there when that man broke into her bedroom).
      But it would make sense if what he needed was some flexible freedom where he could be himself and be the main character or at least a co-lead, so that he could always be there to support her main character. Because he was never a co-lead with her – try as they might, they all knew it.

    • Harper says:

      While Philip’s affairs were wink-wink acknowledged, and Charles’ affairs were actually public knowledge, along with Sarah’s and Anne’s extracurriculars, it’s interesting to me how violently William reacted to any hint of infidelity on his end. He went straight to court so no press could talk about him in that way. It’s not that he is loving and protective of Kate in real life from what we see. Makes me think there is some kind of clause in their marriage agreement where Kate is to be kept from being embarrassed by him and, if she is, it triggers a payout.

      • Cairidh says:

        I think will reacted strongly And the press have covered for him because they all know what happened to Charles. He was popular before it was revealed he was with camilla, he was ripped apart by the press, and his reputation has never recovered. He’s been unpopular ever since.

        Williams lost most of his own popularity due to laziness, also the fact he chose to marry a work shy stalker made many people think there must be something wrong with him/his judgement. But he’s never been torn apart by the press and he doesn’t want to be.

        Plus he and the palace and press all believe that if this generation repeats the scandal of the last Generation it will be the end of the monarchy.
        That’s why the press is constantly propping up will and Kate and painting their marriage as perfect. They think they have to to preserve the monarchy.

      • Becks1 says:

        oooh good theory. My thought was just that it was about protecting his perfect family man image, but maybe there is something in their marriage contract that means more money for Kate if he’s caught publicly cheating or something.

        i also think so much of his image is built on being the anti-Charles, and he can’t be that if he’s sleeping around on his wife.

      • Cairidh says:

        I do believe Charles was broken up with Diana before he went back to camilla. Ditto William and Kate before rose, and certainly the queen and Philip before penny. So in each case it wasn’t really an affair or adultery. It was people who were separated, pretending to still be couples, for the sake of preserving the monarchy, avoiding the scandal of divorce, and the married ins keeping their royal positions.

        However in Williams case he was probably cheating with other women whilst he was still with Kate. He certainly did whilst they were dating, and there were always rumours after the wedding of him cheating with office staff and Kate refusing to go to royal events as punishment.

      • Harper says:

        When Meghan said she was told that the Duchess of Cambridge could not be drawn into public gossip, I always thought that was a little clue from Meghan that there was an arrangement in existence for Kate that didn’t exist for Meghan. We always comment on how the palace was quick to refute Kate’s botox or extensions. The quickness with which Kate is defended says something. It’s interesting when you consider that the personal lives of the Queen’s husband and children and wives have been gossiped about regularly. But the middle-class daughter who married in elicits an instant, vocal defense by the palace. It’s a head-scratcher to me.

      • Becks1 says:

        If you’re married and sleeping with someone else, that’s an affair. Your spouse may be okay with it, but its still an affair. I think Diana certainly considered it cheating and problematic and was not okay with it.

        And even if William and Kate are essentially separated now, he was definitely cheating on her while he was still “with her.” remember that the crying story happened while Kate was either very pregnant with Louis or had just given birth. And if she had been okay with the cheating she would not have tried to cut out Rose the way she did.

  6. Sascha says:

    Yes, he was a philanderer. But she is clearly his daughter. They did him a favor by acting like she’s a lover DNA it’s needed.

  7. Sarita says:

    I doubt Philip adored Elizabeth. I think she loved him and he had a title with no money so he committed to the family life.
    I believe he adored Penny and I think his wife accepted it and had probably found other loves of her own over the years after a few heartbreaks by her husband and his glamorous women.
    I think her horse trainer was the love of her life, and her favorite son looks suspiciously like him.

    • Gabby says:

      I agree with you here, Sarita. I believe that Philip wanted to divorce and was ready to walk, but the RF tolerated his affairs and paid him an annual stipend to get him to remain in the marriage.

  8. Tina Loman says:

    Her husband is Prince Phillips first cousin once removed isn’t he? I saw that pointed out before. Is he Lord Louis Mountbatten’s grandson or great-grandson. I say grandson. I think I’m not sure. She is absolutely not Phillips daughter. Where did you get that from? Her husband lives in the barn after he ran off to Jamaica with another woman. I don’t know why she lives in the house and he didn’t kick her out. She has always been his rumored mistress. Always. Daughter? Have you seen Princess Anne? That woman looks nothing like the Mountbattens. Those genes! She was very attractive in her younger years. I think the Queen and Prince Phillip were companions since their 50s and partners in life and the Crown. The pandemic brought them both to Windsor Castle for the last year of his life. He was living at Wood Farm wrecking and doing what he wanted. I think she was his companion too, they were seen carriage driving regularly in Sandringham. The Queen was a very practical for loss of a better word person.

    • BayTampaBay says:

      “I don’t know why she lives in the house and he didn’t kick her out.”

      Her husband had (has??/) a drug problem and had a mental breakdown. When her husband ran off with his whatever to Jamaica, Penny Knatchbull stepped in, ran the estate and kept it self-supporting. Penny had the unending support of both her Mother-in-Law, the late Countess Mountbatten of Burma and the current Charles III. The Mountbatten family LOVED and respected Penny Knatchbull for doing all she did with respect to her husband, Norton Knatchbull, 3rd Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Penny did NOT divorce her husband. Penny just made do and got on with being the de facto head of the Mountbatten of Burma.

    • Cairidh says:

      She refused to ever leave the house because her child is buried there.

  9. Eurydice says:

    I can’t get past the DM’s grammar to get to the content. I don’t think Historian Dr Tessa Dunlop would have said “the Queen and him…”

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I don’t think that Penny is his daughter; I do believe that she was his companion, especially in his later years, and the Queen accepted it because, by the time he hooked up with Penny, they had been married for thirty-something years. It was well known that during the early years of their marriage, Prince Philip hung out with a louche group of aristocrats and hangers-on that included Stephen Ward, who was part of the Profumo scandal. Towards the end of the fifties, the Queen and Philip reconciled, and they had a second family.

    • SarahCS says:

      I’m also very much in this camp, on all counts. I would absolutely accept that he has illegitimate children (and probably a trail of illegal abortions from him early life) but I don’t believe Penny is one of them.

      • Becks1 says:

        I think if he had an illegitimate child (and he might), that child would be kept out of the spotlight as much as possible so no one could put two and two together. No way would he be as publicly close to that child as he was with Penny.

      • EBS says:

        I 100% believe that Philip has at least one illegitimate child, that’s why his will is sealed for so long. I doubt it’s Penny though, Philip would have had no reason to know her mother.

      • Lucky Charm says:

        “Philip would have had no reason to know her mother.”
        @EBS, that’s assuming her mother is actually her birth mother. If she is Phillip’s daughter (which we do not know), who’s to say she wasn’t placed with the couple after she was born, to be raised by them as their own. That wasn’t unheard of in those days.

  11. It Really Is You, Not Me says:

    So is “carriage driving” joining “trimming the rose bushes” in the popular lexicon?

  12. A says:

    I don’t think Penny is his daughter, or someone he was having an affair with. I don’t think this means that Philip had no affairs at all. I think he just didn’t sh-t where he eats, i.e., f-ck around with people in his close family circle like this, at that point in his life. There are fairly credible rumours that he’d had a long standing affair with Princess Alexandra, the Queen’s first cousin, and the Queen was furious and extremely upset about it.

    I think Philip had a combo of both affairs and intense emotional “””friendships””” with young, attractive women, who provided him the sort of fulfillment the Queen couldn’t for various reasons.

    Philip needed attention, not necessarily just sex or romance. I think he was similar to the Queen Mother, who reportedly loved having young, handsome men around her, making her the absolute undecided center of attention. He wanted to be the center of attention. Fussed over, put on a pedestal etc. I feel like a lot of people know a man like that in their life, and I think Philip was very much that sort of man, and the Queen couldn’t meet those needs, for obvious reasons.

    I am not far enough into The Crown to see how they play out the affair here. I’m only on the first episode. Knowing Peter Morgan though, he’s absolutely going to do f-ck all with showing anything substantial on this. He’ll hint at it vaguely, but that will be about it. He softballs literally ALL of the controversial subjects covered in The Crown, and is literally doing overtime in churning out the best propaganda for the British monarchy. And yet, the ingrates over at the monarchy, and the media that enables them, continue to whine about it. You couldn’t find a more ungrateful lot of people if you tried.

    I’ll update my comment and eat my words if I’m proven wrong abt the show. Again, only on the first episode. So far, everything is extremely mild, and very tactfully handled. The really painful parts, and the people who should have any comments about it, are Norton and Penny Knatchbull themselves. I imagine that even after all these years, the death of their daughter still affects them deeply, and having it mentioned, even in the way it was on the show, would have been very hard for Penny Knatchbull in particular.

    The rumour is that one of the biggest reasons she refused to divorce Norton after he ran out on her with his mistress to Jamaica is bc her youngest daughter, who died from cancer at the age of 5, is buried on the Broadland estate. You can see the memorial from the sitting room of their home, and it’s said Penny Knatchbull will never leave the estate, or the house, if she can help it. When her husband came crawling back after his mistress dumped him, she threw him out of the big house, and last I heard, he’s still living on a cottage on the grounds of the estate. She refused to live with her husband, but she also refused to leave the home herself, for this reason.

    • A says:

      I’m ~halfway through episode 7, and I can’t speak for the rest of the season obviously, but from what I’ve seen so far, I was absolutely right that Peter Morgan softballed both the stuff with Philip and Penny Knatchbull, and also with Charles.

      Charles comes off VERY nicely this season. More so even than the last season. And to say absolutely nothing of how they’ve treated whatever there was between Philip and Penny Knatchbull as nothing but an extremely elevated friendship based on common interests. That might have been the actual reality, as far as I know, but given all the incessant caterwauling from the tabloid press about The Crown and what it portrayed, you’d think they’d have shown something quite different from the incredibly tame stuff that was actually there.

      So all in all, The Crown was, and continues to be, nothing more than just highly elevated propaganda for the royal family. Charles should be grateful. But chances are, people are annoyed and fed up with him bc they know what’s portrayed on the screen is not nearly as nice as the reality at the time. It’s not often that that happens, where the truth is actually much more harsh and difficult than the softened, airbrushed, fictional depiction. If Charles didn’t continuously show his ass all the damn time, and if the RF hadn’t treated Meghan and Harry the way they did, the last three seasons would have gone further in rehabbing Charles and Camilla’s image than all those years of PR efforts.

      It’s a testament to the RF and their particular talent for fumbling the bag and f-cking themselves over, each and every time, in the same way, over and over again, that they squandered the fantastic opportunity that The Crown gave them to not only remake their own image, but also the image of British history after WW2. If they had any sense, they’d shut up and let Peter Morgan do his job, and reap the benefits, but they can just never seem to do that, huh.

  13. aquarius64 says:

    When it was announced that Phillip’s will will be sealed for 99 years to spare the queen embarrassment, it’s practically implies Phil left something for a mistress or an outside child. The Merry Wives of Windsor, blood or married in, are expected to tolerate side chicks. It doesn’t matter if you’re publicly humiliated or not. Meghan and Sophie so far are the only royal wives that have not been shamed.

    • sparrow says:

      The sealing of their wills from freedom of information is a disgrace. As is their belief that they can withhold historic royal documents from the public who ask to see them. The royal family is pretty much a public institution; we have a right to its (our) record.

  14. sparrow says:

    Everyone knew about what he was up to. He was blessed to be doing it at a time of more deferential press.

  15. QuiteContrary says:

    I cannot stand the whitewashing of Phee-lip. He was a racist ignoramus.

  16. Bobbi says:

    Is it possible Queen Elizabeth didn’t care? That they had an arrangement. Maybe she was relived some other woman stepped in. Maybe she was tired of him. Who knows?

  17. Tina Loman says:

    She ran the estate for three years a miracle. He ran it for how long before that? I’ve always been surprised and not surprised they didn’t divorce. Now that the Queen and Prince Phillip are dead I wonder if that will change. She supposedly had a thirty-year affair with his cousin. We’ll see.

  18. Dillesca says:

    Royal historians: water is wet.

  19. Jean says:

    Don’t understand for the life of me why anyone would care whether a man of that stature from another century had affairs! They all did, move on

  20. jferber says:

    You don’t say? So not “strictly” faithful means maybe only hundreds of other women (with and without childbirth) instead of thousands, which might be styled “not terribly faithful?” Or “terribly unfaithful?” Who would have thought?

  21. Well Wisher says:

    Love can be complicated.

  22. Serena says:

    ‘Monogamy didn’t have the high currency it does in today’s world.’ That’s horsesht, it was just more accepted (as it is today if you’re a very rich and white man). There’s nothing wrong with polygamy, if both partners are equal in the relationship and accept it, which I doubt was the case. It was (mostly) a man’s right, if women did it they would be labeled a certain way.
    Even if it was an open secret they still liked to pretend and celebrate the exclusivity and sanctity of their marriage to the public, always rebutted media who spoke of it.. I could go on forever *rolls eyes* please this is just hypocrisy as its finest.

  23. Tina Loman says:

    If Penny was Prince Phillip’s daughter she would be her husband’s second cousin. She is not his daughter. The Earl of Burma’s mother and Prince Phillip are first cousins through Lord Louis Mountbatten. KCIII’s mentor and favorite uncle. That would be weird.

  24. Agreatreckoning says:

    It would be/is weird for a lot of people. We’re talking about royals. Queen Victoria married her first cousin. Her husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, was the son of her mother’s brother. Let that sink in. They had 8/9 children. QE2 and Philip were third cousins. Marrying/banging a relative seems to be a family tradition. I’m beginning to believe the saying of ‘keep it in the family’ started with royal families.