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The real reason Countess Mountbatten of Burma attended Prince Philip's funeral

The Duke of Edinburgh died on 9 April

The Duke of Edinburgh was laid to rest on Saturday 17 April with only 30 royals attending the service due to coronavirus restrictions.

Among them was the Countess Mountbatten of Burma, Penelope Knatchbull, who was always one of the closest companions of both the Queen and Prince Philip.

MORE: Prince William and Kate depart Kensington Palace for Prince Philip's royal funeral

Known informally as Penny, the Countess is the only daughter of butcher-turned-businessman Reginald Eastwood and she became close to the royal family through her marriage to Norton Knatchbull, 3rd Earl of Mountbatten of Burma.

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WATCH: The Queen arrives for Prince Philip's funeral

However, HELLO! understands that the real reason behind her attendance is to stand as a representative for her husband, who could no longer attend the funeral due to ill health.

The Earl is the grandson of Admiral of the Fleet Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, a British Royal Navy officer and statesman and uncle of Prince Philip.

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Penny pictured arriving in Windsor for the funeral

Penelope was an immediate hit with the royals, but particularly impressed the Queen and Philip when she was first introduced by Norton Knatchbull in 1975.

MORE: The most emotional photos from Prince Philip's funeral

MORE: Who is Peter Phillips who walked between Princes William and Harry during procession?

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The Countess and Prince Philip were close friends

Despite an age difference of more than 30 years, a shared love of the outdoors allowed their friendship to flourish, which only strengthened after Philip taught the Countess to drive carriages in 1994.

The Queen and the four children she shared with her husband of 73 years – Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward – led the royal family in paying their respects at St George's Chapel.

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The Countess has been pictured with the royals at many events

Other royals in attendance included Charles, Anne and Edward's spouses – the Duchess of Cornwall, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence and the Countess of Wessex respectively – as well as Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Harry, Peter Phillips, Zara and Mike Tindall, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.

They celebrated Prince Philip's incredible life and legacy at Saturday's service. The Duke died peacefully aged 99 last Friday 9 April at home in Windsor Castle.

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