Princess Diana’s Brother, Charles Spencer, Details Their Shared Childhood Trauma in Rare Interview

Kayla Blanton
·3 mins read

From Prevention

  • In a new interview, Princess Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, shared how difficult the divorce of their parents was during childhood.

  • Their mother Frances ultimately lost parental custody and became an estranged figure in their lives.

  • He said Diana was “haunted by the crunch of the gravel as her mother departed.”

Long before Princess Diana struggled through her very public divorce from Prince Charles, she was traumatized by the separation of her parents, Frances and Johnnie Spencer. In a new interview with The Sunday Times, Diana’s brother Charles Spencer shared how difficult the split was for her to handle.

The pair separated in 1969 after Frances fell in love with another man, Peter Shand Kydd, per BBC News, and a custody battle for her children ensued. “Diana and I had two older sisters who were away at school, so she and I were very much in it together and I did talk to her about it,” Spencer explained to The Times. “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.” Frances ultimately lost parental custody and became an estranged figure in their lives.

“While she was packing her stuff to leave, she promised Diana [then aged five] she’d come back to see her,” Charles recounted. “Diana used to wait on the doorstep for her, but she never came.” In The Royal House of Windsor, a Netflix documentary tracing royal family roots, narrator Gwilym Lee revealed that even in her adulthood, Diana was “haunted by the crunch of the gravel as her mother departed.”

Charles was also crushed by the split. “[Diana] could hear me crying down the corridor but was too scared of the dark to come to me,” he said, referring to their home at Althorp, the Spencer family estate. “I don’t blame anyone. It was ignorance rather than malice. The thing I’ve learnt through all the stuff I’ve tackled is that very few people set out to be destructive.”

Sadly, Diana didn’t live long enough to fully resolve the bitterness she may’ve had for her past, but Charles has spent “20 years in therapy” doing just that. “I did a lot of very profound work on my unhappy childhood last year, which was agonizing and horrible,” he said. “I don’t say that out of self-pity, it was intriguing to me that it was so desperately unpleasant. But the result has been cathartic. Coming out the other side has been good.”

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