John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer Biography

(British Nobleman and Father of Princess Diana)

Birthday: January 24, 1924 (Aquarius)

Born In: London, England, United Kingdom

John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, was a British nobleman, military officer, and courtier who is best recognized as the father of late royal family member Diana, Princess of Wales, as well as the maternal grandfather of William, Prince of Wales, and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. He was known as Viscount Althorp until he inherited his father’s earldom following the latter’s death in 1975. He had earlier served in the British Army during the World War II and was instrumental in liberating two French towns, La Neuve-Lyre and La Vieille-Lyre, as a captain in the regiment the Royal Scots Greys. He also served as aide to the governor of South Australia and was equerry to King George VI and then to Queen Elizabeth II for two years each. He was a member of the Royal Victorian Order, and since his father’s death to his own, was a Member of the House of Lords, the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. He was succeeded by his only surviving son Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer.

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British Celebrities Born In January

Also Known As: Viscount Althorp, Edward John Spencer

Died At Age: 68


Spouse/Ex-: Countess of Dartmouth ​ ​ (m. 1976), Frances Roche ​ ​ (m. 1954; div. 1969)​ Raine

father: Albert Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer

mother: Lady Cynthia Hamilton

children: Baroness Fellowes, Baroness Fellowes John Spencer, Charles Spencer; 9th Earl Spencer, Diana; Princess of Wales, Jane Fellowes, John Spencer, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Lady Sarah McCorquodale Jane Fellowes

Born Country: England

Noblemen British Men

Died on: March 29, 1992

place of death: London, England, United Kingdom

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education: Eton College, Royal Military College, Sandhurst Royal Agricultural College

Childhood & Early Life

John Spencer was born on January 24, 1924, in Bayswater, Paddington, London, England, to Albert Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer, and his wife the former Lady Cynthia Hamilton, second daughter of the 3rd Duke of Abercorn.

He was the younger of two children of his parents and their only son. His sister, Lady Anne Spencer, later married Captain Christopher Wake-Walker, the son of Admiral Sir Frederic Wake-Walker.

He was popularly known to his family and friends as Johnnie Althorp because of his courtesy title Viscount Althorp as the heir of the Spencer home in Northamptonshire that the family held since 1508. He first studied at the prestigious public school Eton, then went to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, and finally attended the Royal Agricultural College.

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John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, was a captain in the Royal Scots Greys from 1944 to 1945, and was Mentioned in Dispatches for his actions during this period. Lt. Althorp, as he was known, landed in France the day after D-Day and commanded a small troop that liberated two Norman villages, La Vieille-Lyre and La Neuve-Lyre, about 80 miles west of Paris.

From 1947 to 1950, he served as Aide-de-Camp, the personal assistant, to His Excellency Lieutenant-General Sir Willoughby Norrie, who was the Governor of South Australia at the time.

He next served as equerry to King George VI (1950–52), and Queen Elizabeth II (1952–54), following which he was invested as a Member (fourth class) of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) in 1954.

He next served as equerry to King George VI (1950–52), and Queen Elizabeth II (1952–54), following which he was invested as a Member (fourth class) of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) in 1954.

Family & Personal Life

John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, was first engaged to 1950's debutante of the year, Lady Anne Coke, who later became Anne Tennant, Baroness Glenconner, lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret. However, the engagement was broken off after his father objected to it on the grounds of "mad blood", a reference to her Trefusis ancestry which was shared by institutionalized relatives of the queen.

He was married to Frances Ruth Roche, the younger daughter of the 4th Baron Fermoy, on June 1, 1954 in Westminster Abbey by Percy Herbert, Bishop of Norwich, with Queen Elizabeth II in attendance. While the marriage was not a happy one, they welcomed five children before his wife left him in 1967 to be with Peter Shand Kydd, an heir to a wallpaper fortune in Australia.

Their two eldest daughters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Jane Fellowes, were married to Neil Edmund McCorquodale and Robert Fellowes, Baron Fellowes, respectively. Their third child, Hon. John Spencer, died hours after his birth, while Diana became Princess of Wales following her marriage to Charles III, and his youngest child, Charles Spencer, succeeded him as 9th Earl Spencer.

Following their separation, his wife took their two youngest children, Diana and Charles, with her, but he refused to let the children return to London with their mother during that year's Christmas holidays. They were divorced in 1969 and he was granted custody of all of his children after his mother-in-law, Lady Fermoy, testified against her own daughter, who married Kydd immediately after the divorce.

In 1973, he began a relationship with a colleague on an architectural heritage committee, Raine McCorquodale, who was the daughter of Capt. Alexander McCorquodale, a British Army officer, and the romantic novelist Barbara Cartland. However, at the time, she was still married to her first husband, the Hon. Gerald Humphry Legge, the 9th Earl of Dartmouth, from whom she got divorce before remarrying in 1976.

They married on June 9, 1975 at Caxton Hall, London, but Raine was unpopular among his children from his first marriage, particularly her stepdaughter Lady Diana Spencer, who referred to her as "Acid Raine". Nevertheless, he credited her care and devotion, apart from the use of an untested drug, for his unexpected recovery from a severe stroke he suffered in 1978.

He gained global attention in February 1981 after his youngest daughter Diana was engaged to Charles, Prince of Wales, the eldest child and heir of Queen Elizabeth II. Following the engagement, he had said, “There are times I wish she was marrying an ordinary chap, so I could have her and my son-in-law living here with me in the park”.

At the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer on July 29, 1981 at St Paul's Cathedral in London, he was seated opposite the Royal Family along with Mrs. Kydd and his other children. His new wife and the bride’s step-father, Mr. Shand Kydd, were seated in the congregation and the former did not appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace following the ceremony. He was admitted to Humana Wellington Hospital with pneumonia on March 21, 1992 and died of a heart attack at the age of 68 on March 29, 1992. While his son Charles succeeded his earldom following his death, his second wife received a £4 million inheritance and a townhouse in London's Mayfair from him.

However, his children, who were critical of Raine’s redecoration of Althorp by selling family treasures like works by Sir Anthony van Dyck and Thomas Gainsborough, threw her out of the manor house within two days. She was not allowed to take any item from the Spencer family, which Diana made sure by standing guard in person, but had reportedly reconciled with her before her own death in 1997.


Charles Spencer, the son of John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, revealed during an appearance on NBC's Today show that the family knew little about his father’s military exploits until he received a letter from France. He visited the French villages as they celebrated the 75th anniversary of their freedom from Germany and witnessed hundreds of people celebrating with flags and bagpipe music remembering his father’s regiment, the Royal Scots Greys.

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