Charles Spencer Shares Intimate Childhood Story of Sister Princess Diana Acting as His Protector

“Diana was very good to me as a child.”

charles spencer karen spencer universal
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

This month, Charles Spencer, brother of the late Princess Diana, released a memoir called, A Very Private School, in which he details the harrowing abuse he suffered as a young boy attending Maidwell Hall, a boarding school in the U.K.

Prior to being sent to Maidwell at the age of eight, Spencer is clear: His childhood, growing up alongside Diana at Park House, a property on Queen Elizabeth’s Sandringham estate, was complicated (his parents divorced when he was two years old), but it was also a respite—and a stark contrast to everything he endured at boarding school.

charles spencer princess diana first day of silfield school
Charles Spencer

In an exclusive chat on the Royally Obsessed podcast this week, Spencer talks about life before Maidwell—in particular the more laid-back nature of his early education in Norfolk at a local school called Silfield, where his older sister Diana was just a few classrooms away.

“I was very excited to be joining the school where my big sister was going,” Spencer recalls. “My father always had a camera on the go and he insisted on taking a photo of me back in 1968 when I was four, standing in my scarlet uniform with an ‘S’ on it for Silfield and Diana next to me. She looked like a big sister—half proud and half resentful that she’s sharing the stage with her younger [brother].”

Still, Spencer explains, his older sister always looked out for him. “Diana was very good to me as a child. Our mother left when I was quite young and Diana stepped in very kindly.”

princess diana and charles spencer at park house
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In particular, Spencer loves to think back on the moment when Diana was too jittery to focus as she worried about how her little brother was faring on his first day at Silfield. “I remember the old lady in charge of that school, Miss Lowe. She told me many, many years later after Diana had passed away that she remembers my first day so vividly because she had Diana in her class and Diana wasn’t concentrating at all. And Miss Lowe knew why and she just said, ‘It’s OK. You can go and check on him.’ And so [Diana] came just to see how I was doing in my class and then she went back and told Miss Lowe he’s doing fine.”

Spencer says his teacher remarked on the sweetness of this moment—how his big sister was always looking out for her little brother.

charles spencer a very private school
Simon & Schuster

Of course, things inevitably changed when he was sent off to Maidwell four years later and the transition from being a “happy, go-lucky kid,” as he describes it, with his sister by his side, to an 8-year-old terrified of living with strangers was earth-shattering. (Spencer says he can’t recall if he asked his big sister, who also went to boarding school, for any advice before being sent off.)

Unfortunately, the rest is history and, while Spencer’s boarding school experience at Maidwell was unique and the product of corrupt and sinister leadership, he says there’s still a major learning for modern parents: “I’m not anti-boarding school, but I’m dead against it for people before they’re a teenager,” he says.

Bottom line: Spencer’s book is a must-read.

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Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...