Princess Di’s childhood nanny calls out Earl Spencer for lying about ‘unhappy childhood’

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Princess Diana and Earl of Spencer (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Princess Diana and Earl of Spencer (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

In an interview with the UK’s Sunday Times, Earl Charles Spencer revealed the emotional toll their parents’ divorce took on him and his siblings.

Their mother, Frances Shand Kydd, who died in 2004 aged 68, left their father, Earl John Spencer, for wallpaper tycoon Peter Shand Kydd in 1969 after 15 years of marriage.

During a court battle the previous year she’d lost custody of their kids – Diana, Charles, Jane and Sarah. She appealed the decision in 1971 but lost again. She was subsequently dubbed “the bolter” for leaving the family home and moving to Scotland to be with her new husband. At the time she left Charles was two and Diana was five.  

(Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Diana and her brother Charles Spencer as kids (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

However, Mary Clarke (70), their former nanny, told The Sunday Times that the court cases were handled “extremely well” and that Frances, who married John when she was just 18 and he was 30, loved her children dearly.“The mother loved those children. Would she have put herself through that horrendous second court case if it wasn’t that she really wanted them? It was handled extremely well by both parents.

“Those kids didn't know any of that trauma was going on. They were very sheltered. Those parents gave them a wonderful life,” Mary says.  

Mary – who was 21 when she started working at the Spencers’ Norfolk home on the queen's Sandringham estate – describes Diana, who she first met as a 10-year-old, as a “lovely child”. 

“She was a real English rose with rosy cheeks and that downward glance everyone got to know. I found her initially shy but soon she would warm to you. She was a happy child who loved being outside, loved all her pets. She also loved having her friends around.”

(Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Earl of Spencer (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

But 56-year-old Charles paints a different picture, describing his “desperately unhappy” childhood after his mother’s departure and that he had to undergo years of therapy to come to terms with it.“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."

While she was packing her stuff to leave, she promised Diana she’d come back to see her. Diana used to wait on the doorstep for her, but she never came.”He revealed he’s been “in and out of therapy for 20 years”, trying to resolve these emotional issues.“I don’t say that out of self-pity but the result has been cathartic.

Coming out the other side has been good.”For her part Mary, who these days works in tourism and splits her time between the UK and Canada, remembers Charles as an “amiable, amicable lad” with “a lot of friends” who loved reading and playing with toy soldiers.


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Read your favourite magazine in a convenient PDF form.
Read now