The Truth About Princess Diana's Brother Charles Spencer

When people refer to the late Princess Diana and Charles, they typically mean her ex-husband, the Prince of Wales. There was, however, another important Charles in her life: Her younger brother, Charles Edward Maurice Spencer, now the 9th Earl of Spencer (via Pantheon). Spencer — who was styled as Viscount Althorp between 1975 and 1992 —  is a prominent figure in his own right. He is a British peer, best-selling author, journalist, and broadcaster with a large public presence, boasting over four million page views on Wikipedia alone. 

Earl Spencer has also pursued charity work in the family tradition, spending four years in South Africa supporting various causes (via London Speaker Bureau). He's loyal to his original family unit, as well as to the large family of his own, which includes his seven children. But there is more to the Earl of Spencer than a simple biography.

Representing a British family with centuries of history, Spencer has led significant roles in famous events of our time, in addition to crafting a legacy for generations to come. To understand more about the Earl of Spencer, we must first visit the family's history prior to the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, when the Spencers were first thrust into the spotlight.

Charles Spencer's early years

The Spencer family has been prominent in British royal society since the 15th and 16th centuries (via Oprah Daily). The Spencer family was frequently included in royal society circles, and eventually established a close relationship with the Queen. Charles Spencer was born to Viscount and Viscountess Althorp John and Frances Spencer in 1964 (per IMDb). John would later become the 8th Earl of Spencer, and together he and Frances had five children in total, including Charles' older sisters Lady Sarah and Lady Jane, as well as Princess Diana. The Viscount and Viscountess also had a son John, who died shortly after birth (via PopSugar). When Charles was 2-years-old, his parents divorced, creating a messy custody battle. 

When speaking of his family life, Charles said, "Our father was a quiet and constant source of love, but our mother wasn't cut out for maternity. Not her fault, she couldn't do it. She was in love with someone else — infatuated, really," (via The Sunday Times). Upon the death of the children's grandfather, the children would be introduced to the Althorp Mansion. "The children rarely visited the big house as a family when the old Earl was alive. Growing up they knew nothing about their heritage," author Tina Brown writes in "The Diana Chronicles" (via Oprah Daily). At this time, Lady Diana was 14-years-old and would meet a Prince named Charles about two years later (via Insider), propelling her family into the spotlight.

By 1992, Charles Spencer would inherit Althorp, and the Earldom, at the age of 27 (via Tennessean).

The brother to Princess Diana

Charles Spencer and his older sister, Princess Diana, were close in their youth as they were only three years apart in age. As Charles reflected during an interview in 2020, "Diana and I had two older sisters who were away at school, so she and I were very much in it together," (via The Sunday Times). Charles has often stated that Diana was like a maternal figure to him, as the children reportedly saw little of their mother post-divorce, and were not close with their stepmother (via Oprah Daily). While the children would gain some distance through social ties, as adults do, Spencer's loyalty remained strongly tied to his beloved sister, Diana. 

Spencer's eulogy at Princess Diana's funeral was, however, deemed somewhat controversial. In part, Spencer referred to Diana as "Someone with a natural nobility who was classless and who proved in the last year that she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic." He also promised to dedicate himself to her sons, Princes William and Harry, going forward, which was viewed more favorably (via Town and Country). 

Even decades after Princess Diana's death, the Earl has continued to preserve his sister's legacy, including a rededication of Diana's resting place at Althorp on the 20th anniversary of her death (via Tennessean). Spencer has also undertaken the task of holding parties accountable for her treatment while she was alive, such as BBC's role in Diana's famous "Panorama" interview (via Town and Country).

The Spencer legacy in the UK

The Spencer legacy lives on through the still very active Charles Spencer, as well as his children, nieces, and nephews. The Earl of Spencer has been married three times: The first to Victoria Aitken, whom he divorced in 1997, then to Caroline Freud, whom he divorced in 2007, followed by his current marriage to Karen Villeneuve in 2011 (via Pure Wow). Through these marriages, Spencer has a total of seven children, the most famous of whom is Lady Kitty Spencer, who recently married billionaire fashion tycoon Michael Lewis (via Daily Mail). 

The elder Spencer sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes, have retreated from public life, but still appear together for important occasions, such as Harry and Megan's wedding and young Archie's baptism portraits (via Town and Country).

And while the Earl of Spencer is not always a willing public figure, his dedicated restoration of the Althorp estate has helped preserve British history for future generations (via Tennessean). His leadership in service and charity recently saw him honored as the host of the 2021 Legacy Awards, which took place at Althorp House. Spencer also served as a host and judge for the Diana Award, which honors service and leadership in today's youth (via Twitter).