Who is Leonora in The Crown? The tragic true story of Leonora Knatchbull, Princess Diana’s goddaughter

We reveal more about Leonora in The Crown and the devastating true story of Leonora Knatchbull that inspired her storyline in season 5

Leonora in The Crown explained, seen here with the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London for the Trooping the Colour ceremony
(Image credit: Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)

If you’re intrigued to know more about Leonora in The Crown after watching her heartbreaking story in season 5 then we have you covered with what you need to know about Leonora Knatchbull. 

Avid The Crown fans have been introduced to plenty of new characters in season 5 as the Royal Family navigate the events of the Queen’s Annus Horribilis, including the Windsor Castle fire and the breakdown of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s relationship. One such character is young Leonora in The Crown, who is played by child actor Clara Graham and was based on the real-life Leonora Knatchbull. Shown as the daughter of Penny and Norton in The Crown, hers was a devastating story that likely left many fans in tears at the start of the season.  

Here we reveal the tragic true story that inspired the storyline for Leonora in The Crown and who Leonora Knatchbull really was. 

*Warning: Spoilers ahead*

Who is Leonora in The Crown? 

Leonora Knatchbull was the daughter of Norton and Penny Knatchbull. They are now known as Earl and Countess Mountbatten of Burma but at the time of her birth in 1986 were Lord and Lady Romsey. She was the couple’s youngest child and had two older siblings - Nicholas Knatchbull, Lord Brabourne and Lady Alexandra Hooper. Leonora’s family had major royal connections as her great-grandfather was Lord Louis Mountbatten. 

Lord Romsey, with his wife Penelope seated in the Wedgwood Room of Broadlands

(Image credit: Photo by Ian Tyas/Keystone/Getty Images)

Lord Mountbatten’s position as Prince Charles’ mentor was showcased  in The Crown, where he was played by the brilliant Charles Dance. He was Prince Philip’s uncle and the now-King Charles’ great-uncle, making Leonora and His Majesty cousins. She was raised at the family home in Broadlands in Hampshire - the destination of choice for the Queen and Prince Philip for their honeymoon. 

As we saw with Leonora in The Crown season 5, the Knatchbull family and Prince Charles and Princess Diana holidayed together during her childhood. In 1991 she even stood on the Buckingham Palace balcony alongside both the immediate and extended Royal Family for the Queen’s Trooping the Color birthday parade wearing a red hat. 

Broadlands, Hampshire, Home Of Lord And Lady Romsey

(Image credit: Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

This appearance came a year after Leonora Knatchbull began to experience signs of being ill whilst on a vacation in Majorca, according to Town&Country (opens in new tab). Norton and Penny’s daughter was later diagnosed with kidney cancer and is understood to have undergone extensive treatment. 

As reported by The Telegraph (opens in new tab), feeling she was showing signs of improvement, Lord and Lady Romsey are said to have taken all three of their children on vacation with Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Prince William and Prince Harry.

Leonora Romsey Lady Rose Windsor, Prince Harry And Lady Davina Windsor On The Balcony At Buckingham Palace

(Image credit: Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

Tragically, months later, Leonora passed away aged 5 on October 22, 1991, leaving Norton and Penny devastated. As we’ve seen in The Crown season 5, Prince Philip especially was a huge source of support for Leonora Knatchbull’s mother at this terrible time. 

“He was a tremendous support during a time of unimaginable grief,” a source previously claimed to The Sun (opens in new tab)

Following her passing, Lord and Lady Romsey established the Leonora Children’s Cancer Fund charity which later merged with The Edwina Mountbatten Trust. 

Jonathan Pryce, Natascha McElhone in The Crown season 5

(Image credit: Keith Bernstein/Netflix)

Now The Edwina Mountbatten and Leonora Children’s Foundation, this vital charity’s mission is to promote nurses, support them caring for children living with cancer, as well as relief for sick or distressed children across the world and pediatric cancer research.

How was Leonora Knatchbull connected to Princess Diana?  

For anyone wondering how Leonora in The Crown is connected to Princess Diana after seeing them and their families together, the answer is a very sweet one. Leonora Knatchbull was the goddaughter of the Princess of Wales, making her one of 17 godchildren overall. Princess Diana is understood to have visited Leonora at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London before she passed away.

Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with six years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.