‘The Crown’ rekindles rumors of Prince Philip’s infidelity; royal watchers reveal how Queen Elizabeth II reacted
During her 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II could not escape persistent rumors of infidelity over her “strength and stability”.
Months after her death on September 8 at age 96, season 5 of “The Crown” hinted that her husband Prince Philip’s relationship with trusted confidante Penelope Knatchbull was more than just a friendship. The storyline sparked a backlash among those who have known and worked with the Duke of Edinburgh over the years.
British author Andrew Morton has tackled the gossip in his new book about Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, ‘The Queen: Her Life’. He worked with the Princess of Wales on her 1992 story, ‘Diana: Her True Story’.
“I think the biggest misconception [about the royal family] is that Prince Philip was playing all the time,” Morton told Fox News Digital. “I remember when I started writing about the royal family in 1982. Within a year, I was says Prince Philip had secret families in Norfolk, Malta, Melbourne and Germany. The only thing you learn is that the royal family is always surrounded by gossip, hearsay and rumours. And I think people have been looking for Philip’s mistress 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 handle the exam? She just continued.
“[The year] 1956 was a classic example,” Morton explained. “She was the one who suggested that Prince Philip sail around the world on the Royal Britannia, to put the yacht through its paces because he helped design it. 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.”
“But even so, there were all sorts of rumors suggesting that there was [were] crazy parties on board,” he continued. “And then his great friend, his private secretary Michael Parker, got divorced and jumped ship early. And that’s how all sorts of rumors arose about Prince Philip’s relationships with women in London…the Queen was so upset she released a statement through Buckingham Palace, the first time in history…denying that their marriage was in trouble.”
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While the rumors were tossed around in front of the glaring paparazzi or social media cameras of today, Morton said “the mainstream media” continues to “stir this frenzy”.
Dick Arbiter, who was the Queen’s spokesperson from 1988 to 2000, was among the first to criticize ‘The Crown’ for the storyline featured in this season.
“Coming just weeks after the nation deposed Her Majesty alongside Prince Philip, this is very unpleasant and, frankly, hogwash,” Arbiter said as quoted by The Sun. “The truth is, Penny was a longtime friend to the whole family. Netflix [is] doesn’t care about people’s feelings.”
“It’s in very bad taste,” Majesty magazine editor Ingrid Seward added.
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In an episode of the hit royal drama, Philip, played by Jonathan Pryce, tells Knatchbull, played by Natascha McElhone, that his marriage is facing “problems” as he and the Queen have “moved in different directions”. Morton pointed out that although Philip has been called “a ladies’ man” 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 implied Philip has a wandering eye. In 2017, ‘The Crown’ suggested Philip may have had an affair with Russian ballerina Galina Ulanova in the 1950s. However, there is no evidence the relationship ever took place.
“People have often said, ‘He must have been unfaithful,’ but there’s no solid evidence for that,” Robert Lacey, the show’s historical consultant, told People magazine at the time. “When you’ve seen the episodes, you understand why people made that assumption. But there’s no evidence for it.”
Philip was also linked in the 1930s and 1940s to Pat Kirkwood, a stage actress whose legs have been dubbed “the eighth wonder of the world”. Philip and Kirkwood are said to have met on seven different occasions, the first of which Philip is said to have gone to his dressing room before a performance in London in 1948. This first meeting is said to have led to dinner and dancing until dawn. Elizabeth, then a princess, was eight months pregnant with Prince Charles. Kirkwood denied allegations of any illicit relationship with the prince until his death in 2007 at the age of 86.
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As well as 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 it was spawned by French fighter pilot Marcel Boisot.
In 2019, Seward told Fox News Digital that there were “many stories” but “none have been proven”. She said that despite all the gossip and scandal Elizabeth and Philip have faced over the years, their bond has endured.
“It’s really extraordinary,” Seward said at the time. “…She never really looked at anyone else once she met him. He was just gorgeous. He was so handsome, tall, blond and very funny. And you know, women like funny men.
“…I think the women loved him because he was such a handsome specimen. …And he has an incredible charm when he wants to use it, an incredible charm. He’s a very interesting character. … Whatever he could have done in his private life, no one really put their finger on it, he always put his duty to the queen first.
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Philip saw his only role as providing support to his wife, who began her reign at 25. In the 1970s, Parker said, “He told me the first day he offered me my job, that his job – first, second and last – was never to let her down.” In public, the Queen called the oldest wife in British history her “rock”.
“I hope that [people] will remove the fact that [the queen] is someone who was a strong supporter of Britain,” Morton said. “Someone who cared about his family, who thought of others, [who had a] bad sense of humor and someone who had a duty to go through it [veins]… Queen was basically a four letter word – duty.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.