Mysterious Personality Of Princess Diana’s Father John Spencer
Our dear Princess Diana of Wales, it just seems that even in death we can't get enough of her, right? She was the media's darling and the perfect princess in the eyes of many. These days we love covering the lives of her two amazing sons. Especially more so now that they're both dukes with families of their own.
However, we're switching things up this time. This time around we're taking a look further into the past, and back to the John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, the father of Princess Diana. How well do you know the father of one the most beloved royals ever? Did you know he was a war hero? Prepare to find out.
PRINCESS DIANA OF WALES
You'd have to be living under a rock for over three decades to not have come across the tragic tale of the beautiful Diana, Princess of Wales. She was Prince Charles' ex-wife, she's also the mother of Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex. She died in a car accident in Paris, 1997.
That's all you need to know about her tragic tale, for now. What you should know is that Princess Diana was the apple of everyone's eye. She was beautiful, elegant, and stylish. She was a global phenomenon and a fashion icon as well. Before she was married and a mother, she was Lady Diana of the Spencer family.
As you can guess, Diana came from a family of nobility. Her family, the Spencers are one of the oldest noble families in Britain's history. This also meant she grew up close to the royal family on their Sandringham estate. Diana was the youngest daughter of Frances Ruth Roche and John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, who you'll meet later.
Diana grew up with three siblings. Today, those siblings are Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Cynthia Jane Fellowes, Baroness Fellowes, and Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer. Lady Sarah has been married to Neil McCorquodale for 38 years. They have three children who you'll get to meet later.
THE SPENCER SIBLINGS, AND THE REST OF THE CLAN
Baroness Fellowes, married Sir Robert Fellowes, Baron Fellowes, in 1978. He was Private Secretary to the Queen from 1990-1999. They also have three children. Charles inherited the Earl Spencer title from his father. Making him 9th Earl Spencer. He has been married thrice and has seven children.
This means that Prince William and Prince Harry have thirteen cousins who round up the rest of the Spencer clan. All of them are of noble birth. Some of the ladies are models and bombshells like cousins Lady Kitty, Lady Amelia and Lady Eliza. Their cousin, Louis Spencer, Viscount Althorp has been dubbed Tatler's most eligible bachelor.
Diana's mother was Frances Ruth Roche was born on Jan. 20, 1936. She was born in Park House, an estate that her family had been leasing from King George VI. She was the daughter of Maurice Roche, 4th Baron Fermoy, and Ruth Sylvia Gill, Baroness Fermoy. Which means that Diana had nobility from both sides of the family.
Diana’s mother married Peter Shand Kydd, a wallpaper fortune heir, in 1969. This marriage also ended in divorce in 1990. Frances mother died on June 3, 2004, after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease and brain cancer. She did bear another child with her second husband, Diana's half-brother, John Shand Kydd.
THE LONGING FOR A MALE HEIR
Prior to Diana's birth, Frances had bore John Spencer, then-Viscount Althorp, two daughters. He desperately wanted a male heir to continue the line of Spencers. It was reported that her parents were very unhappy in their marriage because of this. Their hopes were raised when Frances was pregnant with their first male child, John.
Unfortunately for the Spencers, John was born deformed in January of 1960, he died 10 soon after he came to life. The woes of Viscount Althorp not having a male heir only continued when Diana was born. When she was six years old, her mother and father divorced, the Viscount then remarried Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, in 1976.
PRINCESS DIANA'S FATHER
John Spencer was born January 24, 1924, in London, England, to Albert Spencer, the 7th Earl Spencer, and Lady Cynthia Hamilton. He was the Viscount Althorp, up until he inherited the title of Earl Spencer when his father died in 1975. Viscount is an honorary peerage title given to the heir of an Earldom.
Althorp is a 13,000-acre estate in Northhamptonshire that has been under the care of the Spencer family since 1508. It serves as the ancestral home of the Spencer clan. This is where John, his children, Diana, and her siblings, lived and grew up for a good part of their lives.
AS VISCOUNT ALTHORP
John Spencer was the only son and younger child of Albert Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer. He was educated at Eton, the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, and the Royal Agricultural College. He was called Johnnie Althorp by friends, he served as a Captain in the Royal Scots Greys during WWII.
John Spencer, Viscount Althorp, and Frances Ruth Roche married at Westminster Abbey in 1954. The ceremony was attended by many members of the royal family, which reinforces their families' close relations to the crown. As a matter of fact, Frances' mother was a very close confidant of Queen Elizabeth I.
THE WAR HERO
In 2019, Twenty-two years after Princess Diana's death, her brother, Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer began promoting what he calls "an untold story" about their father's heroic exploits during the second world war. In an exclusive, Charles who is a former on-air correspondent for "Today," said that he received a letter out of the blue.
The letter-writer told him that his father had led a British Army unit to "liberate" two French towns, La Neuve-Lyre and La Vieille-Lyre. He explains: "I got this letter out of the blue a few years ago. Totally surprised – ‘Do you know who a Lt. Althorp was? Because we have records he was involved in our liberation.’"
A DELIGHTFUL SURPRISE
And I wrote back and said ‘Yes, Lt. Althorp would have been my father.’ My family and I really didn’t know anything about my father’s war stories beyond the bare minimum, so I always had this question mark as to what he had done," He continued telling Today.
DUTIES AFTER THE WAR
Following his return to England after World War II, John Spencer worked as Equerry to King George VI and then Queen Elizabeth II after she ascended to the throne. An equerry is a personal attendant to a senior member of the royal family and holds one of the most important positions in the household.
During this time Spencer held the office of County Councillor for Northamptonshire and was invested as a member of the Royal Victorian Order. By 1959, he was the High Sheriff of Northamptonshire and in 1970 the Justice of the Peace for Norfolk, and a member of the House of Lords from 1975 until his death from a heart attack in 1992.
CHARLES, 9TH EARL SPENCER
Since John's death, Diana's young brother, Charles inherited the Spencer Earldom. This includes Althorp, which is also Diana's final resting place. She is buried on an island in an artificial lake on the grounds of the estate. Her grave is off limits but tourists may pay respects at a memorial garden temple and museum built across from the lake.
Under Charles' care, Althorp has been made to become a flourishing estate and popular tourist destination for English heritage and Diana fans. He restored the roof and exterior, started a handmade fine-furniture line reproducing pieces from the Althorp collection, wrote a series of books about Althorp and his family history, and founded the Althorp Literary Festival.
ANOTHER SURPRISE AT THE LITERARY FESTIVAL
In 2018, 9th Earl Spencer shared a surprising photo of his and Diana's father as a young soldier on Twitter. In the post, he thanked digital colorist Marina Amaral for "turning one of my favorite black and white pictures of my father into this beautiful color image." Amaral was a guest at the Althorp Literary Festival that year.
Thanks so much @marinamaral2 for turning one of my favourite black and white pictures of my father into this beautiful colour image. Can’t wait to meet you at @AlthorpLitFest in October - and many congratulations on your #ColourofTime bestseller with @dgjones pic.twitter.com/uUv6MNx7zo— Charles Spencer (@cspencer1508) August 17, 2018
Good Housekeeping also shared one of the tweets from the literary festival's official account. The post revealed the original photo that Amaral had altered. Upon saturating the image, John's blonde hair and blue eyes which he shared with his youngest daughter, Princess Diana, were revealed. A side-by-side photo of 8th Earl Spencer and his daughter was shown, and the similarities are striking.
The magic of @marinamaral2 comes to life in this portrait of John, 8th Earl Spencer and father of @cspencer1508. @marinamaral2 and @dgjones will present their new book ‘The Colour of Time’ at the @AlthorpLitFest this October https://t.co/icETWXM7zc #literaryfestival #althorp pic.twitter.com/PxX5LgLEM5— Althorp Lit Fest (@AlthorpLitFest) August 17, 2018
THE SPENCER LEGACY
John famously walked Diana down the aisle at her 1981 wedding only a few years after suffering a debilitating stroke, showing his resilience. "There are times I wish she was marrying an ordinary chap, so I could have her and my son-in-law living here with me in the park," he said on Diana's engagement to Prince Charles.
In 1992, the Princess of Wales would lose her father and in a few short years the world would lose a beloved icon. Despite this, the Spencer's legacy lives on in Charles, his siblings and their children. Moreover, Diana's sons, William and Harry have just started their own families which means more fragments of Diana and John are to come.
Do you feel like you know Princess Diana and her better now thanks to all of that? What other parts of the Princess of Wales' life do you wish to know about? Let us know in the comment section and make sure to follow Amomama for more amazing content on your favorite royals and celebrities.