Lady Diana’s brother is having a very bad year

Count Charles Spencer shocked the country earlier this year with revelations about sexual abuse he suffered at his boarding school as a child.watson/getty

Between writing a “cathartic” book about the traumas he suffered in his childhood and the fresh announcement of his third divorce, the last few months have been trying for Charles Spencer. A look back at the adventures of the highly publicized Earl of Spencer.

Common mortals know him as “Lady Di’s brother”, the one who in 1997 accused the royal family and the tabloids of his sister’s death.

Aristocrats know him best as the godson of the late Queen of England, Elizabeth II. A handful of British scholars prefer him as a prolific historian and author. Social networks know that he is an enthusiastic purveyor of photos of his sumptuous Althorp estate. A castle in the heart of England, with ducks, six hectares of soft grass and 500 year old stones.

Whatever the case, Charles, 9th Duke of Spencer, still arouses fascination and regular gossip in the British press. The “immensely sad” announcement of his third divorce last Sunday in the columns of Mail On Sundaycould not fail to make the headlines.

An astonishing choice of lawyer

“Never two without three,” says the adage. The Count is no stranger to the divorce courts. After a first union with the ex-model Victoria Lockwood which ended in 1997, with whom the count shares four children, he remarried in 2001 to Caroline Freud, with whom he had two children. Charles and his third wife, Karen Gordon, a Canadian philanthropist, were married in Althorp on June 18, 2011. They had a 12-year-old daughter, Charlotte Diana, in tribute to his late aunt.

Viscount Althorp (earl Spencer) and his wife Victoria with their 3 daughters: Kitty Eleanor, Eliza Victoria and Katya Amelia, attending a horse show at Althorp house, Northamptonshire. (Photo by Math...

Earl Spencer and his first wife, Victoria, on the family estate at Althorp. Image: Sygma

No offense to his nobility of tone (“I wish Karen all the happiness for the future,” he proclaims in the Email this Sunday), the divorce is, on the contrary, far from peaceful. Proof, Count Spencer has just hired the pudding of the pudding of the British bar. A “demonic” negotiator.

‘Britain’s most feared and revered divorce lawyer’


We have named: the venerable Baroness Fiona Shackleton, 68 years old, by her nickname “the Steel Magnolia”.

With fees ranging from £700 to £1200 per hour, this shark is the first choice of royals, stars and the super-rich. Among his clients? Madonna during her divorce from Guy Ritchie and Liam Gallagher. Personal lawyer for King Charles until 2005, she still represents Princes William and Harry today – to whose wedding she was a guest.

If the choice of Charles Spencer portends a split that is both costly and complex, it is also unique. Indeed, in 1996, during the battle between her sister Diana and Prince Charles, the Baroness took the side of the Prince of Wales. Successfully: she obtained a “severe” settlement for Princess Diana and the withdrawal of her title of Royal Highness.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: Karen Spencer (L) and Earl Spencer attend the Argento Ball for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in association with BVLGARI & Bob and Tamar Manoukian on June 27, 2018 in ...

The couple announced their impending divorce to staff at Althorp, the Spencer family estate in Northamptonshire, in March.Getty Images Europe

While waiting to discover in what sauce the future ex-wife will be eaten, we know more about the reasons which led to the separation of the couple, who still proclaimed their eternal love in the pages of the London Times, in 2020. The writing of the count’s memoirs. A work that “deeply affected” him and pushed him to begin yet another therapy. The book’s acknowledgments also mention his future ex-wife and her family. for having put up with it, even though he was “irritable and exhausted”.

Shocking memories

Earlier this year, Charles Spencer made headlines with the publication of his first shocking autobiography, A Very Private School. A brutal, poignant and critically acclaimed account of the physical, verbal and sexual abuse he suffered at Maidwell Hall, one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the United Kingdom. The count details in particular a sexual assault by an assistant matron working at the boarding school, when he was only 11 years old.

9th September 1977: Thirteen-year-old Charles Spencer, Viscount Althorp, only son of the 8th Earl Spencer, with his beach buggy outside his home, Althorp House, Northamptonshire. The Viscount's o...

Charles Spencer, 13 years old, on the family estate, in 1977. Image: Hulton Archive

“She sat on the side of my bed. She was smiling, kind and talkative. (…),” he writes in particular. “She would choose one of us every quarter to share her bed and use them for sex.”

“The effect of what she did to me was profound and immediate, awakening in me fundamental desires that had no place in someone so young”

Earl Spencer, in his book A Very Private School.

“I felt the need to lose my virginity as soon as the opportunity presented itself,” continues the count, who at the age of 12 sought the services of a prostitute. He concludes with bitterness in his memoirs: “I am certain that certain things died for me between my eighth and thirteenth birthdays (…). Innocence, trust, joy – all this has been trampled on and thrown into this outdated, snobbish and vicious little world that English high society has built.”

Deeply marked by this abuse, which he never shared with his sister Diana, to whom he was very close, Charles Spencer would increase the number of therapies in the following years. “I have been in and out of therapy for 20 years,” he already confided to Times few years ago.

Undated family file picture of Lady Diana Spencer (Diana Princess of Wales) with her Brother Charles, Lord Alhorp (Earl Spencer) in 1968. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Charles, like his big sister Lady Diana and their three older sisters, all went through boarding school.PA Images

To these accusations which shocked the United Kingdom, Maidwell School responded that it was “sorry” and that “almost all facets of school life have evolved significantly since the 1970s”.

In a curious coincidence of timing, two days after the public announcement of the earl’s divorce on June 8, Northamptonshire police announced thata preliminary investigation had been opened, in the wake of the allegations of sexual abuse which would have taken place within the establishment. The beginning of justice, perhaps, for children victims of the particularly cruel treatment in force in boarding schools at the time.

As for Charles Spencer, rest assured: his year is not completely dramatic. According to Email, the count recently got closer to the Norwegian archaeologist Cat Jarman, with whom he hosts a historical podcast. Their friends say they look “very happy together” but it’s only the beginning. Yet another chapter in the media life of the 9th Earl Spencer.

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