John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer

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The Earl Spencer

John Spencer, Viscount Althorp in 1967.jpg
Earl Spencer
Preceded byAlbert Spencer
Succeeded byCharles Spencer
Personal details
Edward John Spencer

(1924-01-24)24 January 1924
Bayswater, Paddington, London, England
Died29 March 1992(1992-03-29) (aged 68)
St John's Wood, London, England
(m. 1954; div. 1969)

(m. 1976)
ParentsAlbert Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer
Lady Cynthia Hamilton
EducationEton College
Royal Military College, Sandhurst
Royal Agricultural College
Known forFather of Diana, Princess of Wales

Edward John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, LVO (24 January 1924 – 29 March 1992), styled Viscount Althorp until June 1975, was a British peer and nobleman. He was the father of Diana, Princess of Wales, meaning he is the maternal grandfather of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, respectively second and sixth in the line of succession to the British throne.

Early life, education and military career[edit]

Lord Spencer was born Edward John Spencer, Viscount Althorp, the only son and younger child of Albert Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer, on 24 January 1924 in their family home at 24 Sussex Square Bayswater, London.[1] He was educated at Eton, the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, and the Royal Agricultural College. Popularly known to his family and friends as Johnnie Althorp, he served as a Captain in the Royal Scots Greys from 1944 to 1945, and was Mentioned in Despatches. He landed in France the day after D-Day. He led a British Army unit in an operation to liberate two French towns, La Neuve-Lyre and La Vieille-Lyre.[2][3][4] From 1947 to 1950, he served as Aide-de-Camp to His Excellency Lieutenant-General Sir Willoughby Norrie, then Governor of South Australia.[citation needed]

Spencer held the offices of County Councillor for Northamptonshire (1952), High Sheriff of Northamptonshire (1959) and Justice of the Peace for Norfolk (1970).[citation needed] He served as Equerry to King George VI (1950–52) and to Queen Elizabeth II (1952–54),[5] and was invested as a Member (fourth class) of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) in 1954.[6] Prior to 1984, the grades of Lieutenant and Member were classified as Members (fourth class) and Members (fifth class), respectively, but both with the post-nominals MVO. On 31 December of that year, Queen Elizabeth II declared that those in the grade of Member (fourth class) would henceforth be Lieutenants with the post-nominals LVO. He was known by the courtesy title Viscount Althorp until 1975 when he became the 8th Earl Spencer upon his father's death.[7] He was Member of the House of Lords from 9 June 1975 (the day his father died and he inherited the peerage) until his own death.

Family life[edit]

On 1 June 1954 Spencer and Frances Ruth Roche, the younger daughter of the 4th Baron Fermoy, were married in Westminster Abbey by Percy Herbert, Bishop of Norwich. Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family attended the wedding ceremony.[8] They had five children:

John and Frances Spencer were divorced in 1969. Immediately thereafter, Frances married Peter Shand Kydd, while John was granted custody of their children by the courts. In 1976, Lord Spencer married Raine McCorquodale, the former wife of the 9th Earl of Dartmouth and daughter of Capt. Alexander McCorquodale, a British Army officer, and the romantic novelist Barbara Cartland.

In 1978, Spencer suffered a severe stroke,[1] from which, at one stage, he was not expected to recover, and which kept him in hospital for eight months. He died of a heart attack in 1992, and was succeeded by his son Charles, the brother of Diana, Princess of Wales.[9]

Coat of arms[edit]

Coat of arms of John Spencer, 8th 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 "The 8th Earl Spencer, 68, Dies; Father of the Princess of Wales". The New York Times. 30 March 1992. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
  2. ^ Puente, Maria (4 September 2019). "Princess Diana's dad was WWII hero, her brother Charles Spencer reveals in 'Today' sitdown". USA Today. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  3. ^ Spencer, Charles (4 September 2019). "Charles Spencer, Princess Diana's brother, shares discovery of father's WWII heroism". Today. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  4. ^ Winston, George (24 September 2019). "Father of Princess Diana Was Hero Who Liberated Two Towns in WWII". Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  5. ^ "Diana, Princess of Wales biography". The official website of the British Monarchy. Archived from the original on 25 May 2014. Earl Spencer was Equerry to George VI from 1950 to 1952, and to The Queen from 1952 to 1954.
  6. ^ "No. 40181". The London Gazette. 25 May 1954. p. 3072.
  7. ^ "Princess Diana: The Earl's daughter, born to life of privilege". CNN. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  8. ^ "Queen heads lists guests at wedding". The Gazette. Montreal. 1 June 1954. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  9. ^ "Edward John Spencer; Earl Was Princess Diana's Father". Times Wire Services. London. 30 March 1992. Retrieved 29 May 2013.

External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir Gyles Isham, Bt
High Sheriff of Northamptonshire
Succeeded by
Evelyn Fanshawe
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
Albert Spencer
Earl Spencer
9 June 1975 – 29 March 1992
Succeeded by
Charles Spencer