Raine Spencer, Countess Spencer

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Raine, Countess Spencer
Born Raine McCorquodale
(1929-09-09) 9 September 1929 (age 86)
Occupation Socialite and politician
Spouse(s) Gerald Legge, 9th Earl of Dartmouth
(m. 1947; div. 1976)
John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer
(m. 1976; d. 1992)
Comte Jean-François Pineton de Chambrun
(m. 1993; div. 1995)
Children William Legge, 10th Earl of Dartmouth
Rupert Legge
Charlotte Paternó Castello, Duchess of Carcaci
Henry Legge
Parent(s) Alexander McCorquodale
Dame Barbara Cartland

Raine, Countess Spencer (née McCorquodale; born 9 September 1929) is a British socialite and local politician. Formerly known, by prior marriages, as the Comtesse Jean-François Pineton de Chambrun, Lady Dartmouth and Lady Lewisham, she is the daughter of Alexander McCorquodale and the noted novelist Dame Barbara Cartland.

Her taste has frequently been questioned and her relationship with her stepchildren much discussed. As Countess Spencer, Raine was unpopular with her stepdaughter, Diana, Princess of Wales.[1] Her three marriages have, at varying times, accorded her five titles: the Honourable Mrs. Gerald Legge, Viscountess Lewisham, Countess of Dartmouth, Countess Spencer, and Comtesse de Chambrun.

Early years[edit]

Raine Spencer's mother, the socialite and romantic novelist Dame Barbara Cartland.

Raine McCorquodale is the only child of novelist Dame Barbara Cartland and Alexander McCorquodale, an Army officer who was heir to a printing fortune. Her parents divorced in 1936 and her mother promptly married Alexander McCorquodale's cousin, Hugh McCorquodale, by whom she had two sons, Ian and Glen McCorquodale.

Countess of Dartmouth[edit]

In 1947, 18-year-old Raine McCorquodale was launched as a debutante into London high society. She had a successful season, not only being named "Deb of the Year," but becoming engaged to be married to the heir of an earldom, the Hon. Gerald Humphry Legge.[2] She and Legge married on 21 July 1948. He succeeded to the courtesy title Viscount Lewisham in 1958 and became the 9th Earl of Dartmouth in 1962. The couple had four children:

Following her marriage, Lady Dartmouth began to take a strong interest in politics. At age 23, she became the youngest member of Westminster City Council as a Conservative. As Lady Lewisham, and later Lady Dartmouth, she remained in local government for the following 17 years. She sat on Westminster's town planning, parks and personnel committees, and was later elected to represent Richmond on the Greater London Council. In this capacity she took a special interest in environmental planning and ancient buildings. She chaired the Covent Garden Development Committee and the government working party for the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm.[2]

In 1973 she began a relationship with John Spencer, Lord Althorp, her colleague on an architectural heritage committee. Lord and Lady Dartmouth were consequently divorced in 1976.[2]

Countess Spencer[edit]

Althorp House. Countess Spencer oversaw a large redecoration and restoration project of the Spencers' ancestral home.

Lord Althorp succeeded his father as the 8th Earl Spencer on 9 June 1975. Lord Spencer and Lady Dartmouth were married at Caxton Hall, London, on 14 July 1976. As Countess Spencer, Raine was unpopular with her stepdaughter Lady Diana Spencer and her siblings, who even went as far as referring to their stepmother as "Acid Raine".[1][3] However, media reports have suggested that at the time of her death, Diana was reconciled with her stepmother, while her relationship with her mother Frances Shand Kydd, had been strained.[4]

In 1978, Lord Spencer suffered a brain haemorrhage; his wife nursed him, and his recovery is credited to her care and devotion coupled with the use of an untested drug.[1] Following her husband's illness, Lady Spencer was widely criticised by the press and conservationists for her redecoration of Althorp, the Spencer family seat; it was felt that the heavy use of new gilding and wallpapers failed to compensate for the missing treasures, which included besides properties and land, works by Van Dyck and Gainsborough, furniture, china, porcelain, silver, gold, and family documents sold to fund the project and necessary restoration of the house.[1] The Earl fully endorsed and assisted in his wife's alteration to Althorp and fund-raising activities.[1] However, this was not enough to stop Earl Spencer's son and heir describing his stepmother's taste in decoration as having "the wedding cake vulgarity of a five-star hotel in Monaco."[2]

Lord and Lady Spencer led an opulent lifestyle, entertaining frequently and generously, and travelling greatly. In February 1981, they became globally known following the marriage of Lady Spencer's stepdaughter Diana to Charles, Prince of Wales.[1] When Lord Spencer died on 29 March 1992, the dowager Countess immediately left Althorp, as she and her stepson had a poor relationship.[5][6] The abrupt move from Althorp was, however, cushioned by a £4 million inheritance and a townhouse in London's Mayfair from her husband.[2]

Comtesse de Chambrun[edit]

In July 1993 Raine Spencer married a third husband, Count Jean-François Pineton de Chambrun (a descendant of the Marquis de La Fayette, a member of a prominent French family related to the American Roosevelt family), after a 33-day courtship.[7] They married in a civil ceremony in London.[3] The Count, a younger son of Jean-Pierre Pineton de Chambrun, Marquis de Chambrun (a deaf biochemist-artist), was previously married to American Josalee Douglas. The Countess again attracted charges of vulgarity in Britain when it was discovered that pictures of the wedding had been sold to Hello magazine for a reputed £70,000.[2] Her mother did not attend the wedding ceremony.[3] It was at this time that while none of her Spencer stepchildren attended this wedding, it was claimed that there was a rapprochement between her and the Princess of Wales.[2]

The de Chambruns' marriage was short-lived and the couple were divorced in 1995. Styled since the marriage as Comtesse Jean-François Pineton de Chambrun, Raine chose to revert to her previous surname and style of Raine, Countess Spencer, despite being against convention.[8]

Later life[edit]

In December 2007, Lady Spencer was again featured in the news, giving evidence[clarification needed] at the London inquest into the death of the Princess of Wales. Making a rare public comment on her relationship with her stepdaughter, she said: "[Diana] always said I had no hidden agenda. So many people, because she was so popular and so world famous, wanted something out of her. It was a very draining life." Later she told the court "Well, we all want the dark handsome gentleman to walk through the door."[9]

Today, Lady Spencer is a member of the board of directors of Harrods, and occasionally works in the store, although as she told the inquest "Ironically, I never went shopping in Harrods. It was my husband [Earl Spencer] who practically lived there."[9] Her principal home is in Mayfair, London, where she remains a regular part of the London social scene.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Spencer, (Edward) John by Hugo Vickers, Oxford DNB. 14 May 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Raine Spencer: Friend not foe The Independent, 15 December 2007
  3. ^ a b c "Di's stepmother marries French count". Point Pleasant Register. London. AP. 9 July 1993. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "Diana's Final Heartbreak: Fame & Scandal". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 11 November 2008. 
  5. ^ Kitty Kelley The Royals. (The reliability of Kelley's book has been questioned).
  6. ^ Tina Brown The Diana Chronicles
  7. ^ "Jean Pierre Pineton, marquis, dies at 101". Enquirer. Retrieved 11 November 2008. 
  8. ^ Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th edition, 2 volumes (Crans, Switzerland: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 1999), volume 2, p. 2674.
  9. ^ a b BBC News By Victoria Bone Thursday, 13 December 2007.