The Story Behind Princess Diana’s Tumultuous Relationship With Her Sisters
Without Lady Sarah and Lady Jane, Diana Spencer might never have become a princess. Nevertheless, the relationship between the sisters was often complicated.
In the aftermath of the tragic death of Princess Diana, most of the attention shifted to Prince Charles and their sons, William and Harry. Even Diana’s younger brother, Charles, 9th Earl Spencer, has had the spotlight on him since he gave a heart-wrenching eulogy at her funeral. But not many remember Princess Diana’s older sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes.
Diana might have won hearts over around the world, but her outgoing sister Sarah is to thank for her princess status. Lady Sarah, who was six years older than Diana, actually dated Prince Charles first. But the oldest Spencer sister told a reporter in the late 1970s that she wouldn’t marry her then-boyfriend “if he were the dustman or the King of England,” according to the Mirror. Suffice to say, the relationship didn’t last long after that.
Later, Prince Charles would move his gaze to his ex’s sister, who was 16 when they met in 1977. Three years later, the two started a romance of their own, according to People.
By this time, Lady Jane, who was four years older than Diana, was already married to Robert Fellowes, who was assistant private secretary to Queen Elizabeth at the time. Jane and her husband invited Diana to join them on a visit to the Queen’s Scottish home, Balmoral. During that summer 1980 trip, Diana and Charles’s relationship went public, and the budding romance was in full swing.
In February, the two were engaged. (Here’s why Diana’s engagement ring infuriated palace officials.) Still, Sarah—who by then was married to Neil McCorquodale—called herself “Cupid” after Diana and Charles’s wedding plans were announced.
Despite the fact that her sister married her ex, Sarah stayed close with Princess Diana over the years. She sometimes travelled with Diana as an unofficial lady-in-waiting. As Diana and Charles’s relationship started falling to pieces, Sarah—known as the wildest of the sisters—actually cheered on her little sister’s own infidelity. “I think Sarah knew about Diana’s affairs,” royals author Judy Wade tells People. “In a way, she even encouraged Diana to be wild and to have lovers.” (Here are more Princess Diana facts most people don’t know.)
Meanwhile, Diana’s bad marriage put a strain on her relationship with her other sister. While Princess Diana became increasingly frustrated with the royal family, Jane’s husband was promoted to the Queen’s private secretary in 1990. Diana resented her brother-in-law and even accused him of participating in plans to monitor her phone calls, according to the Daily Mail. Jane was stuck in the middle, choosing between her sister and her husband. The sisters barely spoke during the last year and a half of Diana’s life. (Here’s how Diana spent the final weeks of her life.)
Still, after Diana’s deadly car crash in August 1997, both sisters (and Charles) went to Paris to bring the body back to the U.K. “I think I felt shock, but I don’t think I felt anything else,” says Sarah in a 2017 BBC documentary, Diana, 7 Days. “Just love and shock.”
Sarah later became president of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, which officially closed in 2012. She also gave evidence during an inquest into Diana’s death in 2007, helping to lead to the ruling that her sister was unlawfully killed.
On the other hand, Jane has stayed famously silent over her sister’s death. In her first interview after the tragedy, Lady Jane famously talked with The Lady magazine just about her youth crime charity Only Connect and didn’t mention anything about her late sister. She also chose not to be part of Diana, 7 Days.
Still, that doesn’t mean Jane has been holding any grudges. “It’s been terrible for Jane that Diana died before they could properly make it up,” an old family friend told the Daily Mail. Jane’s daughter, Laura, was even named a godparent of Diana’s granddaughter, Princess Charlotte. Next, get a look at these stunning, rarely seen photos of Diana.