Princess Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, is sharing heartbreaking details about the siblings’ history that many of us didn’t know — specifically as they pertain to the pair’s childhood and relationship with their late mother, Frances Shand Kydd. It’s well-known that things were rocky between Diana and her mother, and that they reportedly weren’t on speaking terms prior to Diana’s death in 1997. But in a rare interview about their past, Charles is giving poignant context to that troubled relationship.
By the time of her death in 2004 at the age of 68, Kydd had a long history of tension with her children. In 1969, she left Diana and Charles’ father, John Spencer, for wallpaper tycoon Peter Shand Kydd. Speaking to The Sunday Times over the weekend, 59-year-old Charles admitted that Kydd was never the maternal type. “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,” he said.
Charles went on to share one especially sad example of Kydd’s maternal aloofness, revealing, “While she was packing her stuff to leave, she promised Diana [then aged five] she’d come back to see her. Diana used to wait on the doorstep for her, but she never came.”
24 November 1980: Lady Diana Spencer and her brother, Charles Spencer are seen out together in Windsor, Berkshire pic.twitter.com/lkEmtDo9as
— ALL PRINCESS DIANA (@princessdibooks) November 23, 2018
Theirs was a shared trauma, though, explained Charles. Diana witnessed his pain, too. “She could hear me crying down the corridor but was too scared of the dark to come to me,” he said. And while they had other siblings — Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Lady Jane Fellowes and Earl Spencer — Charles noted that he and Diana had a special bond. “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,” he told the Times.
Diana hasn’t been Charles’ only outlet over the years. In fact, the father-of-seven has undergone extensive therapy to deal with their painful past. “I did a lot of very profound work on my unhappy childhood last year, which was agonizing and horrible,” he said, pointing to the fact their mother “left home when I was two and I was sent to boarding school at eight, so I had quite a ruptured childhood emotionally.”
Even with all of the mental health work he’s done, though, Charles admits she still struggles to accept Diana’s absence. Speaking on Radio 4 on Sunday, he said of the anniversary of her death, “I’m always surprised by how difficult August 31 is each year actually. I always slightly brace myself for it and it does take me out at the knees. It is a very poignant time.”
Before you go, click here to see some of Diana’s best photos with her royal sons.