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'The Crown's Leonora Knatchbull Was Only 5 Years Old When She Died

Women's Health 12/13/2022 Korin Miller
Leonora Knatchbull, 5, appears on the newest season of 'The Crown.' All about the little girl, Penny, and her relationship with her godmother, Princess Diana. © Getty Images Leonora Knatchbull, 5, appears on the newest season of 'The Crown.' All about the little girl, Penny, and her relationship with her godmother, Princess Diana.

The Crown's tumultuous and much-anticipated fifth season finally hit Netflix this month, and everyone's favorite drama about the British royal family continues its slow progression towards the current day, rehashing real events that occurred decades ago, with a fictionalized spin. And, while there are some major plot lines to follow, like the unraveling of Princess Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles, there are some lesser known characters in the mix this time.

In the first episode, viewers meet the young, vibrant Leonora Knatchbull, Princess Diana's 5-year-old goddaughter who is sick with cancer. Everyone wants to know if Leonora was a real person, and if so, what were her ties to the royal family? Here’s everything you need to know.

Who was Leonora Knatchbull?

Leonora was the daughter of Penelope Knatchbull, a.k.a. the Countess Mountbatten of Burma, according to The Independent. She had an older brother, Nicholas, and sister, Alexandra.

Leonora’s family is related to the British royal family on the Mountbatten side (in case you forgot, Prince Philip was a Mountbatten, and King Charles and his descendants share the last name “Mountbatten-Windsor,” per Royal.uk). Plus, her godfather was King Juan Carlos of Spain, according to her obituary in The Herald.

Who was Leonora's mother, Penny Knatchbull?

Penelope “Penny” Knatchbull was not just related to Prince Phillip by marriage, but she was also a close friend of the Duke of Edinburgh, and Queen Elizabeth II, according to Vogue. She has been called the “second-most important woman in the Duke of Edinburgh's life,” per People.

The relationship extended beyond Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, though, as Charles served as best man at her wedding to Norton Knatchbull (Philip’s godson) in 1979. Together, Penny and Norton had three children, including Leonora. Their other children, a son, Nicholas, 41, and a daughter, Lady Alexandra, 39, are still alive.

Penny was one of only 30 guests who attended Philip's funeral in 2021 (attendance was limited due to COVID restrictions), per People. She also attended the Queen Elizabeth's funeral in September of 2022, but she is technically retired from public life.

Fun fact: Penny's father actually started the Angus Steakhouse chain, which he later sold, according to the Daily Mail.

How was Leonora related to Princess Diana?

She was Princess Diana’s goddaughter. Diana often visited her in the hospital during her cancer treatments, The Independent reported.

What happened to her?

Leonora died from kidney cancer on October 22, 1991, per The Independent. She was actually diagnosed with the disease 14 months earlier after she felt sick during a vacation in Spain with other royals, including Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Scotland’s The Herald reports. She was just five years old at the time of her death, and she underwent radiation and chemotherapy for more than a year before succumbing to the disease.

After her their little girl's death, Penny and her husband founded a charity called the Leonora Children’s Cancer Fund in her memory, per The Independent. It was later merged with another fund and is now called The Edwina Mountbatten And Leonora Children’s Foundation.

Where is her grave?

Leonora is buried on the grounds of her family estate in Hampshire, England, according to Clayton News-Daily.

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