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.
Royal expert Dr Tessa Dunlop says Her Majesty ‘cut the Duke of Edinburgh some slack’ as she was aware he had to ‘walk a tightrope’ as her Consort. The Queen and Prince Philip pictured on their 60th wedding anniversary in November 2007.
Penny Knatchbull became one of Prince Philip’s ‘closest confidantes’ in the last 30 years of his life after the Duke helped the Countess through her grief over losing her child to cancer. The pair pictured at the Royal Windsor Horse show in May 2007
‘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.’
In 1947, Prince Philip renounced his claim to the Greek and Danish thrones so he could step into the role of the Queen’s Consort.
The new series of the Crown will show Prince Philip pursuing an affair with Penny Knatchbull. Pictured Jonathan Pryce and Natasha McElhone as Penny Knatchbull
The Queen and Prince Philip pictured on their wedding day in 1947. Prince Philip renounced his claim to the Greek and Danish thrones so he could step into the role of the Queen’s Consort that year
When The Queen inherited the throne in 1952, it was confirmed that the Royal Household would be known as ‘Windsor’ – before the couple decided eight years later that their descendants without HRH status would have the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.
Despite hoping that they could remain in Clarence House, Prime Minister Winston Churchill – who was in office when King VI passed away – was adamant the young couple take up residence in Buckingham Palace.
Commenting on the impact this had on their marriage, Dr Dunlop continued: ‘I think the Queen understood Philip’s need for freedom. She was asking a lot of an alpha male to step in behind her and support her. To relinquish his name. To relinquish his home.’
Addressing the Duke of Edinburgh’s alleged infidelity, the expert said: ‘I think the Queen absolutely understood the tightrope Prince Philip was asked to walk and she cut him some slack.
Penny Knatchbull and The Queen pictured at the Royal Windsor Horse show in May 2018. In the Netflix series, Prince Philip is seen telling Penny that him and his wife have ‘grown in separate directions’
Penny Knatchbull was one of just 30 mourners who attended Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021. Pictured leaving Windsor after the funeral
‘Whatever that means about his behaviour with women, I don’t know. He didn’t want us to know and the Queen didn’t want us to know and was seemingly at peace with whatever happened.’
Netflix uses the death of Penny’s daughter from cancer at the age of five in 1991 as a jumping off point for relationship her Philip.
In the programme, the Duke – played by Jonathan Pryce – is portrayed telling Lady Mountbatten -played by Natasha McElhone – that he and the Queen have ‘grown in separate directions’.
And in another episode, the Duke explains he is looking for ‘companionship’, before the Queen summons Lady Mountbatten to Windsor.
Dickie Arbiter, who was Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s spokesman from 1988 to 2000, previously told how it was distasteful that scenes involving Penny and Philip would be played out only weeks after her funeral.
‘Coming just weeks after the nation laid Her Majesty to rest next to Prince Philip, this is very distasteful and, quite frankly, cruel rubbish,’ he said.
‘The truth is that Penny was a long-time friend of the whole family. Netflix are not interested in people’s feelings.’
Majesty magazine editor-in-chief Ingrid Seward added: ‘It’s in exceedingly bad taste.
‘This is fiction. There’s no way in a million years he’d discuss his marriage with anybody. The royals probably won’t watch it for their own sanity.’
In the second season of the hit royal drama, writers implied that Prince Philip had a secret romance with Russian ballerina Galina Ulanova in the 1950s after The Queen – played by Claire Foy – found a picture of the dancer in her husband’s briefcase.
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