Who was Leonora in 'The Crown'? The true story behind the character

Since season five stretches the truth, viewers have asked "Who was Leonora in 'The Crown' and wondered if she really existed

prince charles and penny at a grave in the crown on netflix
(Image credit: Keith Bernstein/Netflix)

Who was Leonora in The Crown? 

The Netflix historical drama finally released its fifth season, much to royal fans' delight. But those who are familiar with the real story of the British monarchy aren't terribly pleased with the series' loose interpretation of actual events. 

Given that plenty of scenes don't have a basis in reality, people questioned whether or not Leonora was simply made up for a fictional storyline, or if she was in fact real and had ties to the royal family.

Like Elizabeth Debicki (Princess Diana), Clara Graham (Leonora) is a new addition to the show, and yes, she existed in real life. In fact, she was very close to the Princess of Wales. Unfortunately, they both share a tragic stories. 

Who was Leonora in 'The Crown'

Clara plays the role of 5-year-old Leonora Knatchbull, who was Princess Diana's goddaughter. She hails from the Mountbatten side of the British royal family and is the daughter of Penelope Penny Knatchbull, a.k.a. the Countess Mountbatten of Burma, per The Independent

What had people questioning Leonora's basis in reality is the fact that her mother, Penny, seemingly had an affair with Prince Charles in the show. However, that is believed to be false in real life.

Little Leonora's time on The Crown was cut short, sadly, like the real Leonora's life. She died in October 1991 of kidney cancer, a sickness she had been diagnosed with about a year earlier. In her final days, Princess Diana went to stay by her side in the hospital. 

To honor her legacy, the Knatchbull family founded Leonora Children's Cancer Fund (now called The Edwina Mountbatten And Leonora Children’s Foundation). She's survived by a brother and sister, now 41 and 39, respectively. She is buried at the family home, Broadlands, in Hampshire, England.

Leonora's mother Penny might remain out of the limelight now, however, she did attend both Queen Elizabeth's funeral in 2022 and Prince Philip's funeral in 2021, hinting that the family does still remain in close contact with one another.

The most recent season of The Crown focuses on the royal family during the 90s, when the Queen's children underwent public divorces and Princess Diana split from Prince Charles (and later participated in a now groundbreaking, infamous interview with the BBC).

Yes, the show appears to stretch the truth on several occasions, but it's still shining light on plenty of stories we might not be aware of, like Leonora's.

The Crown season 5 is streaming on Netflix. Here's what the royally-obsessed need to know about The Crown season 6.

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.