Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer

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The Earl Spencer

Charles Spencer 20171207 02.jpg
Spencer in 2017
Charles Edward Maurice Spencer

(1964-05-20) 20 May 1964 (age 56)
London, England
EducationEton College
Alma materMagdalen College, Oxford
Known forYounger brother of Diana, Princess of Wales
(m. 1989; div. 1997)
Caroline Freud
(m. 2001; div. 2007)
(m. 2011)
Children7, including Lady Kitty and Louis, Viscount Althorp
Parent(s)John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer
Frances Shand Kydd

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 Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex.

Early life and education[edit]

Charles Edward Maurice Spencer was born in London on 20 May 1964. Queen Elizabeth II is his godmother.[1] His parents were titled Viscount and Viscountess Althorp, as his paternal grandfather, Albert Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer, was still alive at the time of his birth.[1] Spencer grew up with three older sisters, Sarah, Jane, and Diana. Charles' infant brother, John, was born four years before him, but died within hours of his birth.[1] Charles and Diana were very close to each other in their childhood. His parents' troubled marriage ended in divorce when he was four years old. Spencer inherited the title Viscount Althorp when his father became Earl Spencer in 1975. He was educated at Eton College and read Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford.[2][3] He was a member of the Bullingdon Club.[4]


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 (1994–95) 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.[5][6]

On 31 August 1997, his elder 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.[7] 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."[8] 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.[9] The Earl said a full inquiry should be conducted which Davie has said will happen.[10]

The Earl 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.[11]

It was reported by The Daily Telegraph in 2003 that Spencer had refused to allow his sister Diana to live in a cottage on the Althorp estate, despite her request at the height of her emotional difficulties. It was also reported that Spencer had accused Diana of displaying "deceitful" and "manipulative" behaviour which were characteristics of the mental illness associated with bulimia nervosa which Diana herself had admitted she suffered.[12][13] Diana was eventually buried 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. 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.[14]

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.[15]

Personal life[edit]

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 November 1965). Spencer and Lockwood, who had moved to Cape Town, South Africa, were divorced on 3 December 1997. Diana's death occurred while the divorce case was in progress; shortly after his divorce, Spencer moved back to the United Kingdom. The Earl has four children by Victoria Lockwood, three daughters and one son:[16]

On 15 December 2001, he married Caroline Freud (née Hutton; born 16 October 1966), former wife of Matthew Freud. They separated in 2007 and later divorced. They have two children:[17]

  • The Hon. Edmund Spencer (born 6 October 2003)
  • Lady Lara Spencer (born 16 March 2006)

On 18 June 2011 at Althorp, Spencer married Karen Gordon (née Villeneuve; born 30 November 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.[17] They have one child together:

  • Lady Charlotte Diana Spencer (born 30 July 2012)[18]

Spencer chose his fifth daughter's middle name in honour of his sister, Diana, Princess of Wales.[18] Spencer was reported to have said, "We hadn't settled on a first name before the birth, but Charlotte is a name we both love, and it really suits her. We knew that as soon as we saw her. And though it's been 15 years since Diana died, I still miss her every day and I wanted her commemorated in the naming of our daughter."[19]

The Earl resides at Althorp House, Northamptonshire.


  • Althorp: the Story of an English House (1998) London: Viking.
  • The Spencers: a Personal History of an English Family (2000).
  • Blenheim, Battle for Europe (2004). 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). Bloomsbury ISBN 978-1-408-85170-8. This book was a Sunday Times best-seller.
  • To Catch A King: Charles II's Great Escape (2018) ISBN 978-0008153663
  • The White Ship: Conquest, Anarchy and the Wrecking of Henry I's Dream (2020) ISBN 9780008296827

Coat of arms[edit]

Coat of arms of Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer
Coronet of a British Earl.svg
Spencer Arms.svg
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 Defend Le Droit (God defend the right)



  1. ^ a b c "Biography for Earl Charles Spencer". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  2. ^ "Ken Dodd at Althorp's Literary Festival". Althorp. Archived from the original on 23 May 2009. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  3. ^ "Speaker Profile". London Speaker Bureau. Archived from the original on 18 November 2012. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  4. ^ Wheeler, Brian (4 May 2008). "The Boris Johnson Story". BBC News. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
  5. ^ The Tarnished Crown: Crisis in the House of Windsor, by Anthony Holden, London, Viking Publishers 1993.
  6. ^ "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
  7. ^ "Prince William's uncle Earl Spencer set to wed". BBC. 15 February 2011. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  8. ^ "Earl rules out Diana conspiracies". BBC. 22 October 2003. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  9. ^ Urwin, Rosamund (1 November 2020). "BBC says sorry to Diana's brother Earl Spencer for interview 'deceit'". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 7 November 2020. (subscription required)
  10. ^ "Princess Diana interview: 'Dark cloud over BBC journalism' says Lord Grade". BBC News. 9 November 2020. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  11. ^ 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. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  12. ^ Davies, Caroline (23 October 2003). "Diana 'wept as she read brother's cruel words'". The Daily Telegraph. 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"
  13. ^ A Heritage - Althorp Estate
  14. ^ Jikhano (26 May 2006). "History Channel: Blenheim – Battle For Europe". Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 August 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ Calvi, Nuala (25 April 2011). "Royal wedding clash of the titles! Spencers vs. Parker Bowles". CNN. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  17. ^ a b Roya Nikkhah; Ben Leach (18 June 2011). "Earl Spencer marries for a third time". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  18. ^ a b "Princess Diana's Brother Names His Daughter in Her Memory". US Weekly. 6 August 2012. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  19. ^ "Earl Spencer names baby daughter after Diana, Princess of Wales". The Telegraph. UK. 6 August 2012.
  20. ^ a b c d Williamson 1981a.
  21. ^ a b c d Williamson 1981b.


External links[edit]

Court offices
Preceded by
Edward Gordon-Lennox
Page of Honour
Succeeded by
Tyrone Plunket
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
Edward Spencer
Earl Spencer
Louis Spencer, Viscount Althorp
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by
The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Radnor
United Kingdom order of precedence
Succeeded by
The Rt. Hon. The Earl Bathurst