Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer

Brother of Diana, Princess of Wales

Victoria Lockwood
(m. 1989; div. 1997)
Caroline Freud
(m. 2001; div. 2007)
(m. 2011; sep. 2024)
Children7, including Lady Kitty, and Louis, Viscount AlthorpParent(s)John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer
Frances Shand KyddRelatives

Charles Edward Maurice Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer, DL (born 20 May 1964), styled Viscount Althorp between 1975 and 1992, is a British peer, author, journalist, and broadcaster. He is the younger brother of Diana, Princess of Wales, and is the maternal uncle of William, Prince of Wales, and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex.

Early life and education

Charles Edward Maurice Spencer was born in London on 20 May 1964, the youngest of five children of John Spencer (1924–1992) and Frances Roche (1936–2004; later Shand Kydd). Due to his maternal family's close personal connection to the royal family, he was baptised in Westminster Abbey, with Queen Elizabeth II acting as one of his godmothers. He grew up with his three elder sisters, Sarah, Jane, and Diana, the latter with whom he was very close. His infant brother, John, was born four years before him, but died ten hours after his birth, thus leaving Charles as the eventual heir to the earldom.[1] Spencer was three years old when his parents' troubled marriage ended in divorce due to his mother's affair with Peter Shand Kydd. In 1975, Spencer became styled as Viscount Althorp when his father became Earl Spencer following the death of his paternal grandfather. He began his formal education at Silfield Private School in King's Lynn, Norfolk. From the age of eight, he was sent to the elite boy's private boarding school Maidwell Hall in Northamptonshire.[2] He was educated subsequently at Eton College and then read Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford.[3][4]

In his memoir A Very Private School, published in March 2024 just a few weeks before turning 60, Spencer opened up about the vicious beatings, sexual abuse, "culture of cruelty", "hopelessness and abandonment" and a total absence of love he was subjected to at Maidwell Hall school, one of England's most prestigious boarding schools.[5] Spencer recounts the trauma of being sent away from home at the age of just eight, how he was inflicted with beatings to the point of drawing blood and shares that he witnessed punishments including cutting naked "buttocks [of young children] several times with a cane and carrying on". During his research for the book former pupils he interviewed revealed that they had been raped multiple times at the school, while some had lost their siblings to self-neglect. One of Spencer's contemporaries, when terminally ill stipulated a refusal to see his parents in his living will, as he could not forgive them for his experience at the school. In an extract, Spencer detailed the sexual assaults and beatings he experienced at Maidwell, saying the school "sewed demons into the linings of the souls" of the abuse victims. Spencer revealed that after writing the book, he sought help at a "residential treatment centre" due to the "trauma" that resurfaced during the writing process which caused a "breakdown". Spencer argues the brutalising effect of boarding schools on people who have come to power has been devastating for society. The boarding school Maidwell Hall has reported itself to the council following Spencer's accusations.[2][6][7]


Spencer worked as an on-air correspondent with NBC News from 1986 to 1995, primarily for the network's morning programme, Today, and NBC Nightly News. He wrote and presented the 12-part documentary series Great Houses of the World (1994–1995) for NBC Super Channel. He also worked as a reporter for Granada Television from 1991 to 1993.

Spencer has written several book reviews for The Guardian and The Independent on Sunday as well as feature stories for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and American publications such as Vanity Fair, Verandah and Nest.

Upon his father's death on 29 March 1992, 27-year-old Spencer succeeded as 9th Earl Spencer, 9th Viscount Althorp, 9th Viscount Spencer of Althorp, 9th Baron Spencer of Althorp, and 4th Viscount Althorp. He also inherited Althorp, the family's ancestral seat in Northamptonshire. Since 2009, he has restored Althorp, re-roofing it and restoring its entire exterior for the first time since the 1780s. He has also helped establish Althorp Living History, a handmade fine-furniture line reproducing pieces from the collection at Althorp. The Spencer family's wealth derived from their profitable sheep farming in the Tudor era.[8][9]

On 31 August 1997, his older sister Diana died after a car crash in Paris and Spencer delivered the eulogy at her funeral service held at Westminster Abbey six days later. In his eulogy he rebuked both Britain's royal family and the press for their treatment of his sister.[10] Spencer ruled out conspiracy theories concerning his sister's death, and called the alleged letter she wrote 10 months before her death in which she discussed her fears of a planned accident "just a bizarre coincidence rather than tied in with reality."[11] Spencer received an apology from Tim Davie, the BBC's director general, in late 2020 for the unethical practices used by BBC staff to gain his sister's consent to be interviewed in November 1995 for the corporation's Panorama television programme.[12] He said a full inquiry should be conducted which Davie has said will happen.[13]

Spencer was a member of the House of Lords from 29 March 1992 (the day his father died and he inherited the peerage) until the House of Lords Act 1999 excluded most hereditary peers on 11 November 1999.[14]

On several occasions, Spencer has been accused of refusing to allow his sister Diana to live in a cottage on the Althorp estate, despite her request at the height of her emotional difficulties.[15] These allegations have repeatedly been proven to be untrue, as seen in an apology published by The Times in 2021, admitting that "having considered his sister's safety, and in line with police advice, the Earl offered the Princess of Wales a number of properties included Wormleighton Manor [in Warwickshire], the Spencer family's original ancestral home".[16]

Diana was buried on an island in a lake on Spencer's ancestral estate, Althorp, where he built a garden temple memorial and a museum to her memory, displaying her wedding dress and other personal effects. The museum was opened to the public in 1998 with all profits going to Diana's Memorial Fund, also set up by Spencer; the museum has since closed. At this stage, Spencer began writing a series of books dealing with the estate itself and with his family history, beginning with an account of his ancestral home, Althorp: the Story of an English House, published in 1998.

In 2003, Spencer founded the Althorp Literary Festival. Speakers at the annual event have included the authors Bill Bryson, Helen Fielding, Antonia Fraser, and Boris Johnson. In 2004, he presented two documentaries for the History Channel on Blenheim: Battle for Europe.[17]

Spencer was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Northamptonshire in November 2005; the Spencer family have had a long association with the county, the home of the family seat. Spencer is also a patron of the Northamptonshire County Cricket Club.[18] In 2021, Spencer authored an audiovisual walking tour for St. James's Park about the execution of King Charles I entitled Death of a King: The Path to Execution on the BARDEUM mobile app.[19] In 2023, he began presenting the podcast The Rabbit Hole Detectives with Richard Coles and Cat Jarman, in which each of them is given an obscure topic and then they discuss their findings.[20]

Personal life

The Earl Spencer has seven children from three marriages.

On 16 September 1989, Spencer, then known by the courtesy title of Viscount Althorp, married Victoria Lockwood (born 20 April 1965). Spencer and Lockwood were divorced on 3 December 1997, with Diana's death occurring while the case was in progress. After the divorce, Spencer returned to the United Kingdom from Cape Town, South Africa, where Spencer and Lockwood had relocated their family in 1995 to avoid media attention. They have four children:[21]

Spencer did not attend the weddings of his daughters Kitty and Amelia in 2021 and 2023, respectively, amid reports that his relationship with his elder children had "cooled".[25]

On 15 December 2001, he married Caroline Freud (née Hutton; born 16 October 1966), former wife of businessman Matthew Freud. They separated in 2007 and later divorced. They have two children:[26]

  • The Honourable Edmund Spencer (born 6 October 2003)
  • Lady Lara Caroline Spencer (born 16 March 2006)

On 18 June 2011 at Althorp, Spencer married Karen Gordon (née Villeneuve; born 6 June 1972), a Canadian philanthropist, the founder and chief executive of Whole Child International, a charity based in Los Angeles that works to improve the lot of orphaned, abandoned, or abused children.[26] They have a daughter:

  • Lady Charlotte Diana Spencer (born 30 July 2012)[27] named in honour of her aunt, Diana, Princess of Wales.[28]

In June 2024, it was announced that the Earl and Countess had separated in April 2024 and planned to divorce.[29] It was reported at the same time that the Earl had grown close to Cat Jarman, with whom he was co-hosting the podcast The Rabbit Hole Detectives.[29] Lord Spencer is to be represented by Baroness Shackleton, who represented the then-Prince of Wales in his divorce from Spencer's sister Diana.[30]


  • Althorp: The Story of an English House (1998). London: Viking ISBN 978-0-312-20833-2.
  • The Spencer Family (1999). London: Viking. US edition: The Spencers: a Personal History of an English Family (2000) ISBN 978-0-670-88323-3 & ISBN 978-0-312-26649-3.
  • Blenheim: Battle for Europe (2004). London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; paperback edition by Phoenix, 2005. ISBN 0-304-36704-4. This book was a Sunday Times best-seller, and was shortlisted for "History Book of the Year" at the 2005 National Book Awards.
  • Prince Rupert: The Last Cavalier (2007). London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson ISBN 978-0-297-84610-9.
  • Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I (2014). London: Bloomsbury ISBN 978-1-408-85170-8. This book was a Sunday Times best-seller.
  • Impressions of Althorp: Thoughts on My Spencer Heritage (2015). Spencer 1508 Ltd ISBN 978-0-957-27150-0.
  • To Catch A King: Charles II's Great Escape (2017). London: William Collins ISBN 978-0-008-15366-3
  • The White Ship: Conquest, Anarchy and the Wrecking of Henry I's Dream (2020). London: William Collins ISBN 978-0-008-29682-7
  • A Very Private School: A Memoir (2024). London: William Collins ISBN 978-0-008-666088-

Coat of arms

Coat of arms of Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer
A Coronet of an Earl
Out of a Ducal Coronet Or a Griffin's Head Azure gorged with a Bar Gemelle Gules between two Wings expanded of the second
Quarterly Argent and Gules in the 2nd and 3rd quarters a Fret Or over all on a Bend Sable three Escallops of the first
Dexter: A Griffin per fess Ermine and Erminois gorged with a Collar Sable the edges flory-counterflory and chained of the last and on the Collar three Escallops Argent; Sinister: A Wyvern Erect on his tail Ermine similarly collared and chained
Dieu défend le droit (God defend the right)


  1. ^ Brown, Tina (2007). The Diana Chronicles. London; New York: Doubleday. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-385-51708-9.
  2. ^ a b Starling, Boris (10 March 2024). "Charles Spencer's headmaster was a paedophilic villain – I remember him". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 10 March 2024. Retrieved 11 March 2024.
  3. ^ "Ken Dodd at Althorp's Literary Festival". Althorp. Archived from the original on 23 May 2009. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  4. ^ "Speaker Profile". London Speaker Bureau. Archived from the original on 18 November 2012. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  5. ^ "Charles Spencer Reveals He Was Sexually Abused by a Woman as a Child at Prestigious British Boarding School". People. 8 March 2024. Archived from the original on 18 March 2024. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  6. ^ "Boarding schools' impact devastating for society, says Charles Spencer". The Guardian. 17 March 2024. Archived from the original on 18 March 2024. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  7. ^ "The price of private education". New Statesman. 12 March 2024. Archived from the original on 19 March 2024. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  8. ^ The Tarnished Crown: Crisis in the House of Windsor, by Anthony Holden, London, Viking Publishers 1993.
  9. ^ "Almost alone among the great families who rose to affluence in the sixteenth century the Spencers owed their wealth not to the favour of a monarch or to the acquisition of monastery lands but to their own skill as farmers and businessmen." Georgina Battiscombe in The Spencers of Althorp, 1984
  10. ^ "Prince William's uncle Earl Spencer set to wed". BBC. 15 February 2011. Archived from the original on 30 November 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  11. ^ "Earl rules out Diana conspiracies". BBC. 22 October 2003. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  12. ^ Urwin, Rosamund (1 November 2020). "BBC says sorry to Diana's brother Earl Spencer for interview 'deceit'". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 6 May 2021. Retrieved 7 November 2020.(subscription required)
  13. ^ "Princess Diana interview: 'Dark cloud over BBC journalism' says Lord Grade". BBC News. 9 November 2020. Archived from the original on 22 May 2021. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  14. ^ Goodwin, Stephen (16 June 1993). "Inside Parliament: Peers given lesson in land access: Maiden speech by Earl Spencer focuses on responsible approach to use of the countryside – Bill attacks 'sleazy world of Tory finances'". The Independent. Archived from the original on 10 July 2018. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  15. ^ Davies, Caroline (23 October 2003). "Diana 'wept as she read brother's cruel words'". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 3 September 2015. He (Paul Burrell) launched a scathing attack on Lord Spencer, calling him a hypocrite, and said the letter that had most hurt Diana was one from her brother refusing her permission to move to the Althorp estate and dismissing the bulimia from which she suffered as "mental problems"
  16. ^ "'Deprived Diana of a Home': Princess Diana's brother Charles Spencer's legal victory". The New Zealand Herald. 29 July 2021. Archived from the original on 26 March 2023. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  17. ^ Jikhano (26 May 2006). "History Channel: Blenheim – Battle For Europe". Archived from the original on 8 August 2016. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  18. ^ "Board of Directors – Northants Cricket". Archived from the original on 4 August 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
  19. ^ "Charles Spencer". BARDEUM. Archived from the original on 6 September 2023. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  20. ^ Sawyer, Miranda (25 February 2023). "The week in audio: The Coldest Case in Laramie; Carol and Muriel; The Rabbit Hole Detectives and more". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 4 June 2023. Retrieved 28 February 2023.
  21. ^ Calvi, Nuala (25 April 2011). "Royal wedding clash of the titles! Spencers vs. Parker Bowles". CNN. Archived from the original on 11 September 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  22. ^ Tregaskes, Chandler (25 July 2021). "Dolce & Gabbana on creating Lady Kitty Spencer's stunning wedding dress". Tatler. Archived from the original on 25 July 2021. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  23. ^ Henni, Janine (16 March 2023). "All About Princess Diana's Niece Lady Amelia Spencer Ahead of Her Wedding". People. Archived from the original on 27 March 2023. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  24. ^ Wade, Prudence (28 March 2023). "Diana's niece Lady Amelia Spencer marries in opulent Versace gown". The Independent. Archived from the original on 31 March 2023. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  25. ^ Merrifield, Ryan (23 March 2023). "Charles Spencer breaks his silence after not attending daughter Lady Amelia's wedding". Daily Mirror. Archived from the original on 16 March 2024. Retrieved 16 March 2024.
  26. ^ a b Roya Nikkhah; Ben Leach (18 June 2011). "Earl Spencer marries for a third time". The Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  27. ^ "Princess Diana's Brother Names His Daughter in Her Memory". US Weekly. 6 August 2012. Archived from the original on 31 May 2016. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  28. ^ "Earl Spencer names baby daughter after Diana, Princess of Wales". The Telegraph. UK. 6 August 2012. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
  29. ^ a b Hill, Erin; Tauber, Michelle; Rice, Nicholas (8 June 2024). "Charles Spencer and Wife Karen Divorcing After 13 Years of Marriage: 'It Is Immensely Sad'". People. Retrieved 9 June 2024.
  30. ^ Masney, Kate (9 June 2024). "Earl Spencer hires leading divorce lawyer Baroness Shackleton". The Times. Retrieved 10 June 2024.


External links

  • Spencer of Althorp: Charles Spencer
  • Charles Spencer on X
  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer
  • Charles Spencer at IMDb
Court offices
Preceded by
Edward Gordon-Lennox
Page of Honour
Succeeded by
Tyrone Plunket
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by Earl Spencer
Louis Spencer, Viscount Althorp
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by
The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Radnor
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