What Was The Relationship Philip Shared With Penny Knatchbull In ‘The Crown’? Why Was Elizabeth Envious?

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In the Netflix series, “The Crown,” Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were the epitome of a perfect, at least for the world. On the inside, behind the large ornate story, their relationship was going through a shift. Philip, though, was the right consort for Elizabeth when they married, and they have stayed in love ever since, despite going through various ups and downs throughout their decades of marriage. Any long-term relationship reaches a point when the parties realize what is new can we give to this relationship. It becomes very difficult to maintain individuality in a relationship when both are dependent on each other for practically everything, emotionally and physically. Elizabeth and Philip somewhat reached this rut when they crossed 60 years of age. While Elizabeth was busy with her engagements all year round, Philip felt left out and started feeling aloof from his wife.

The first instance of aloofness showed up in the first episode of the season, “The Crown,” when Elizabeth was talking about Charles and Diana while Philip kept talking about something wrong with the ship they were sailing as he could hear odd noises. Philip, who is well versed in his 60s as well, starts realizing he is losing touch with his marriage. He can no longer find any similarities between him and Elizabeth. As his age catches up, there are a lot of activities he cannot do anymore, like flying, and he starts finding content in reading and immersing himself in carriage driving with his group of friends. He soon gets in touch with Penny Knatchbull, who is the wife of Philip’s godson, Norton Knatchbull. Penny and Norton lose their child to cancer, and Philip decides to be there for her and her husband in this time of grief. Penny shows him an old carriage that her husband owns, which Philip decides to refurbish. The refurbished carriage impresses Penny, and Philip starts teaching Penny about carriage driving. Penny soon finds solace in it and starts enjoying Philip’s company.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth starts noticing Philip is not present in his room most of the time, as he is spending time either traveling for the Worldwide Fund for Nature or busy with his friends traveling for carriage driving competitions. Elizabeth is happy to see him occupied but is upset about the fact that he doesn’t want to spend time with her and starts wondering if they are becoming two different people at this age. She was aware from the beginning of how an alpha male Philip is and knows that he gave a lot so that Elizabeth can take center stage. But his aloofness makes her feel strange. “The Crown” Seasons 1 and 2 proved that Philip was the only one to have sacrificed a lot for his love and marriage, but Elizabeth always stood with him and his choices. Before their much-awaited trip to Russia, Elizabeth realizes how different they have become since Philip is aware of the type of DNA test that will be done to find out more about the Romanovs, and he also explains why his role is important. Elizabeth is surprised by the kind of vast knowledge Philip harbors, to which Philip slyly responds that he reads, and she doesn’t.

In the sixth episode of “The Crown” in Season 5, Elizabeth reveals she was upset with no involvement of Philip during their Russian trip, to which Philip responds that he doesn’t think he and Elizabeth have anything in common anymore. Philip reveals his budding friendship with Penny and stresses the fact that she is just a friend, and they seem to have a lot in common. Elizabeth angrily responds by asking if they are having an affair. Philip comes to terms with the fact that he and Elizabeth have nothing in common except their royal heritage. Philip is an educated, well-read person, while Elizabeth was home-schooled and never interested in knowing world affairs, not more than what she read in newspapers or television news. Philip, being an alpha male, believed in contributing, knowing, seeking, and spreading knowledge. This common trait he found in Penny, who was as curious as he was in seeking knowledge and indulging in finding out more. Penny is a well-read person who would help Philip find answers he might not know and challenge his opinions. Philip found her companionship rather comforting, which Elizabeth had an issue with. Elizabeth always believed she was the one for him, and now it seems both are going different ways. She was envious of the fact that Penny was far better read, smarter, and younger than Elizabeth, which made her jealous. Elizabeth perceives this relationship to be an affair that is dismissed by Philip, for he says at this age he wants to feel useful because he missed out on plenty of aspects, and in Penny, he found a friend with whom he can talk about any topic in the world. They both are nerds who love to talk in-depth about various subjects, which Elizabeth is put off by in the beginning but soon accepts.

Elizabeth always indulged in gossiping with her sister and mother, and if, in a parallel universe, she was not the Queen, she would have been a socialite perhaps or a typical homemaker who indulges in gossip from time to time. Elizabeth has no interest in knowing worldly affairs, for she was taught to be a sovereign who needs to know just enough. Philip, on the other hand, wanted to be productive, make his life meaningful, and fulfill his long-lost interests just to keep himself busy. He wanted something that would satisfy and gratify his mind and soul. Elizabeth and Philip are like any other couple who reached a point in their marriage where they don’t find anything interesting about each other but would stay with one another because deep down in their hearts, there is mutual love and respect, which would never go. The authentic portrayal of a long-term marriage is what makes “The Crown” relatable, something many of us have experienced through various stages of a long-term relationship.


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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti has started to believe in a fictional world called cinema that is much more than real life itself. Cinema brings her joy. She believed in herself, and now she has become a full-time cinephile who enjoys writing about films and their characters, who have inevitably become a part of her world. From time to time, she likes to explore more about films and television series and indulge herself in fan theories around them.

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