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The Tragic True Story of Leonora Knatchbull, as Seen in ‘The Crown’ Season 5

Netflix’s The Crown doesn’t just dive into the lives of the British royal family; we also steadily get introduced to many members of the British nobility who are close to the royals, in various capacities. Earlier seasons have examined the Queen’s own friendship with racing manager Porchie. Now, Season 5 is touching on another royal-adjacent connection.

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Warning: spoilers ahead for season 5 of The Crown.

The Knatchbull family features several times throughout the latest season of the royal drama, made up of parents Norton and Penelope (then known as Lord and Lady Romsey) and their three children Leonora, Nicholas, and Alexandra. The audience meets the entire family while holidaying with Charles and Camilla, but the youngest child, Leonora, is who will play a more pivotal—and tragic—role in the show. Here’s who she was in real life.

Leonora Knatchbull's funeral in The Crown

Who Is Leonora Knatchbull in ‘The Crown’?

Born in 1986, Leonora was the youngest child of the family and the great-granddaughter of Lord Mountbatten. You might remember the royal family referring to him affectionately as ‘Uncle Dickie,’ making Leonara a distant cousin of both Prince Philip and King Charles.

What’s more, she wasn’t just connected to the British royals. She was also the goddaughter of King Juan Carlos of Spain, with her parents running in various aristocratic circles across Europe. In the show, Diana mentions that she is Leonora’s godmother, so this may have been changed for the purposes of the TV series.

Sadly, at the age of just four, Leonora started showing signs of illness. It was soon confirmed that she was suffering from a tumor in her kidney. Nonetheless, Leonora was well enough to be popular with the British public, appearing on the Buckingham Palace balcony roughly a year after her diagnosis alongside Princess Diana, a young Prince Harry, and Princess Beatrice.

Reports around the time of the Meditteranean cruise she and her family went on with Charles and Camilla’s young family showed that she was in good spirits and improving physically. However, just a few months later, the young girl returned to the hospital.

The Crown Season 5's Leonara Knatchbull and Prince Philip

On October 21, 1991, Leonora passed away at the age of just five, after 14 months battling cancer. In the wake of her death, her parents created the Leonora Children’s Cancer Fund which is dedicated to “the relief of sick, distressed, or needy children in any part of the world”. Both Penelope and Leonora’s older sister Alexandra remain trustees of the charity today.

As seen in The Crown, the death of Leonora sparked a budding friendship between Prince Philip and Penelope. The pair were very close, with Penelope believed to have been one of Prince Philip’s closest friends and advisors in later years.

(featured image: Netflix)

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