As a young girl, Princess Diana suffered during her parents’ break-up, waiting on the doorstep for her mother to return, said the deceased royal’s younger brother Charles Spencer in an interview describing an “agonizing and ruptured” childhood in the Sunday Times Magazine.
In 1966, their mom Frances Spencer abruptly walked out on the family for another man, promising her youngest daughter, the future Princess of Wales, that she would “come back to see her.”
Diana Spencer, then only 5-years-old, would “wait on the doorstep for her, but she never came,” said Charles.
Charles, who was 2-years-old when his parents separated, said that Diana would often hear him crying in his room at night, but she was “too scared of the dark” to come down the corridor to comfort him. Older sisters Sarah and Jane were at boarding school when their mother left the family estate at Althorp to be with her lover Peter Shand Kydd, heir to a wallpaper fortune.
Frances married Johnnie Spencer, the eighth Earl of Spencer, in 1954, when she was 18 and he was 30. The couple formally divorced in 1969, and Frances lost custody of her four children. She then married Shand Kydd.
Johnnie’s second wife, Raine McCorquodale, the daughter of the romantic novelist Dame Barbara Cartland, was unpopular with Diana and her siblings. The kids were quick to christen her with the nickname “Acid Rain,” said Charles, 56.
“Our father was a quiet, constant source of love, but our mother wasn’t cut out for maternity,” he told the newspaper. “She couldn’t do it. She was in love with someone else, infatuated really.”
The experience wasn’t enough to stop Diana from her own divorce. After marrying Prince Charles in 1981, the parents of Prince William and Prince Harry split in 1996.
Charles, who said he had undergone years of therapy in order to deal with what he described as a traumatic childhood, credited Diana at her 1997 funeral for attempting to replace his mother. He said that Diana, “was the big sister who mothered me as a baby… and endured those long train journeys between our parents’ homes with me at weekends.”
He’s currently married to his third wife, a Canadian philanthropist with whom he has an 8-year-old daughter. Charles has six children from his previous marriages.