‘The Crown’ reignites Prince Philip’s infidelity rumours; royal observers reveal how Queen Elizabeth II reacted

Throughout her 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II could not escape persistent rumors of infidelity about her “strength and steadfastness.”

Months after her death on September 8 at the age of 96, The Crown season five hinted that her husband Prince Philip’s relationship with trusted confidante Penelope Knatchbull was more than just a friendship. The storyline has sparked a backlash from those who have known and worked with the Duke of Edinburgh over the years.

British author Andrew Morton has addressed the gossip in his new book about Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, entitled The Queen: Her Life. He worked with the Princess of Wales on her 1992 reveal film entitled Diana: Her True Story.

Prince Philip and then Princess Elizabeth said “Yes, I do” in 1947. The couple stayed together until Philipp’s death in 2021 at the age of 99.
(Getty Images)

“I think the biggest misunderstanding [about the royal family] is that Prince Philip was playing all along,” Morton told Fox News Digital. “I remember when I first started writing about the royal family in 1982. Within a year I was told that Prince Philip had secret families in Norfolk, Malta. Melbourne and Germany. The only thing you learn is that the royal family is always shrouded in gossip, hearsay and rumor. And I think people have been looking for Philip’s lover for years and haven’t found anything.”

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Morton said the rumors were “very hurtful” to the Queen, who has been married to Philip for more than seven decades. He died in 2021 at the age of 99.

How did the mother of four deal with the exam? She just kept going.

Season 5 of The Crown, now streaming on Netflix, implied that Prince Philip's relationship, played by Jonathan Pryce, with his confidante Penelope Knatchbull, played by Natascha McElhone, could have been more than just friendship.  The act has sparked a backlash.

Season 5 of The Crown, now streaming on Netflix, implied that Prince Philip’s relationship, played by Jonathan Pryce, with his confidante Penelope Knatchbull, played by Natascha McElhone, could have been more than just friendship. The act has sparked a backlash.
(netflix)

“[The year] 1956 was a classic example,” explained Morton. “She was the one who suggested Prince Philip travel the world on the Royal Britannia to put the yacht through its paces because he had helped with the design. And he got to see some of the most remote places in the Commonwealth… and open the Melbourne Olympics, which he did. He made a documentary about the trip.”

Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, later HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, circa 1947. The press portrayed the dashing king as

Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, later HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, circa 1947. The press portrayed the dashing King as a “ladies’ man”.
(Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“Nevertheless, there were all sorts of rumors pointing to it [were] wild parties on board,” he continued. “And then his good friend, his private secretary Michael Parker, got divorced and left the ship early. And so began all sorts of rumors about Prince Philip’s relationships with women in London… the Queen was so upset that she made a statement about Buckingham Palace for the first time in history… and denied her marriage was in trouble.

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While the rumors were being spread in front of the glaring cameras of the paparazzi or today’s social media, Morton said that “the mainstream media” was still “fueling this frenzy.”

Penelope Knatchbull and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh are seen here attending Day 3 of the Royal Windsor Horse Show at Home Park on May 12, 2007 in Windsor, England.  Knatchbull, 69, was one of just 30 mourners invited to Philip's private funeral in April 2021.

Penelope Knatchbull and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh are seen here attending Day 3 of the Royal Windsor Horse Show at Home Park on May 12, 2007 in Windsor, England. Knatchbull, 69, was one of just 30 mourners invited to Philip’s private funeral in April 2021.
(Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

Dick Arbiter, who was Queen’s spokesman from 1988 to 2000, was one of the first to criticize The Crown for this season’s plot.

“Just weeks after the nation laid Her Majesty to rest alongside Prince Philip, this is very distasteful and, frankly, rubbish,” Arbiter said, as quoted by The Sun. “The truth is that Penny was a longtime family friend. Netflix [is] not interested in people’s feelings.”

“It’s extremely tasteless,” added Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine.

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Queen Elizabeth described Prince Philip as her

Queen Elizabeth described Prince Philip as her “strength and endurance” and her “rock”.
(Getty Images)

In an episode of the hit royal drama, Philip, played by Jonathan Pryce, tells Knatchbull, played by Natascha McElhone, that his marriage is facing “trouble” as he and the queen have “grown in separate directions.” Morton stressed that while Philip has been called a “womanizer” by the press, there is no evidence that he was ever unfaithful to his wife.

This isn’t the first time the scripted series has hinted that Philip had a wandering eye. In 2017, The Crown hinted that Philip may have had an affair with Russian ballerina Galina Ulanova in the ’50s. However, there is no evidence that the relationship ever happened.

“People have said a lot, ‘He must have been unfaithful,’ but there’s no solid evidence of that,” Robert Lacey, the show’s historical advisor, told People magazine at the time. “After watching the episodes, you get a sense of why people made that assumption. But there is no evidence of that.”

Pat Kirkwood's legs have been described as

Pat Kirkwood’s legs have been described as “the eighth wonder of the world.” The “Beauty of the Blitz” met Prince Philip several times.
(Photo by Toronto Star Archives/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Philip was also linked to Pat Kirkwood, a stage actress whose legs have been dubbed “the eighth wonder of the world” in the ’30s and ’40s. Philip and Kirkwood reportedly met on seven separate occasions, with Philip reportedly first going into her dressing room in 1948 before a performance in London. That first meeting reportedly resulted in dinner and dancing until dawn. Elizabeth, who was then a princess, was eight months pregnant with Prince Charles. Kirkwood denied claims of an illicit relationship with the prince until her death in 2007 at the age of 86.

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Besides Kirkwood, Philip has also been linked to other actresses including Helene Cordet, Merle Oberon and Anna Massey. People magazine previously reported that rumors persisted that Philip was the father – not godfather – of Cordet’s two children. She called the paternity gossip “ridiculous” and claimed they were fathered by French fighter pilot Marcel Boisot.

In 2019, Seward told Fox News Digital that there were “many stories” but “none of them have been proven.” She said that despite all the gossip and scandals Elizabeth and Philip have faced over the years, their bond endured.

Prince Philip was also linked to prima ballerina Galina Ulanova.  However, there was no evidence to support the claim.

Prince Philip was also linked to prima ballerina Galina Ulanova. However, there was no evidence to support the claim.
(Getty Images)

“It’s really quite extraordinary,” Seward said at the time. “…She never really looked at anyone else when she met them. He was gorgeous. He was so handsome, tall, blond and very funny. And you know, women love funny men.

“…I think women just adored him because he was such a handsome specimen. … And he has an amazing charm, when he wants to use it, an amazing charm. He’s a very interesting character. … Whatever he may have been doing in his personal life, no one has really put their finger on it. He has always put his duty to the Queen first.

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Philip saw his only role as supporting his wife, who began her reign at the age of 25. In the ’70s, Parker said, “He told me the first day he offered me my job that his job — first, second, and last — should never fail her.” In public, the Queen called the longest-serving wife in British history her “rock”.

Princess Elizabeth, future Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband Philip Mountbatten study their wedding photographs on their honeymoon in Romsey, Hampshire, November 1947.

Princess Elizabeth, future Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband Philip Mountbatten study their wedding photographs on their honeymoon in Romsey, Hampshire, November 1947.
(Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“I hope that [people] will take away the fact that [the queen] is someone who has been a staunch defender of Britain,” Morton said. “Someone who cared about his family, considerate of others, [who had a] wicked sense of humor and someone riddled with duties [veins]… The Queen was essentially a four-letter word — duty.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Stephanie Nolasco covers entertainment at Foxnews.com.

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