When Prince Charles made the sad journey to bring Princess Diana‘s body home to England after her death following a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris on August 31, 1997, he wasn’t alone. Her two sisters — Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes — accompanied him on the tragic trip.
Diana was four and six years younger than Jane and Sarah respectively, and as they spent much of Diana’s childhood away at boarding school, she didn’t grow up with them in the same way she did with her younger brother, Charles, 9th Earl Spencer, 53. Her brother also has been more vocal about losing his sister — most famously giving a powerful eulogy at her funeral at Westminster Abbey — making him Diana’s best-remembered sibling.
But who are Diana’s sisters, Lady Sarah, 62, and Lady Jane, 60? And have they ever opened up about their iconic sibling? The elder Spencer sisters were always closer with each other than they were with Diana, but their influence on her life is significant.
Lady Sarah is perhaps remembered as the woman who introduced Diana to her future husband, Prince Charles. Sarah was the first to date the heir to the throne, in a brief romance in the late ’70s, that, according to her, was never destined for marriage. She is reported to have said she wouldn’t marry Charles “if he were the dustman or the King of England.” After that comment got out, the romance quickly faded.
It wasn’t enough to deter Charles’s interest in Diana, which sparked again in 1980. At the time of their engagement in 1981, McCorquodale said, “I introduced them. I’m Cupid,” according to
At this point, McCorquodale was already married herself, to Neil McCorquodale, a second cousin once removed of her own stepmother, Raine Spencer. The couple has three children: George, Emily and Celia, who were always close with their cousins, Prince William and Prince Harry.
After Diana married Charles, Sarah would sometimes travel with her sister, serving as one of her ladies-in-waiting. Though they didn’t live near one another, they saw each other regularly and got even closer toward the end of Diana’s life. At one point, she called McCorquodale “the only person I know I can trust.”
Fellowes, Frances Shand-Kydd, Diana’s mother, and McCorquodale at Diana’s funeral
When she died, McCorquodale traveled to Paris with Prince Charles to take Diana’s body home. She attended the funeral at Westminster Abbey, where she gave a reading. In the years following, she worked to keep her sister’s memory alive by serving as the President of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund until its closure in 2012. She also handled Diana’s will and testified in the inquest into her sister’s death in 2008, where she discussed Diana’s relationship with Dodi Fayed, who also died in that fateful car crash in 1997.
She retains a close relationship with her nephew, Prince William, and his wife, Princess Kate. She attended their 2011 wedding and reportedly spent the 16th anniversary of Diana’s death with the couple.
McCorquodale doesn’t often speak about her sister, but has done so on select occasions. Most recently, she was interviewed in the BBC documentary
, about the week between Diana’s death and her funeral. She remembered the outpouring of devastation following her death, saying: “My sister’s dying has provoked this national, international reaction.”
She also said that one of the elements that continues to haunt her following her sister’s death is the fact that the night of the car crash, Diana wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
“She was religious in putting on her seatbelt,” McCorquodale said in the interview. “Why didn’t she put it on that night? I’ll never know.”
Only four years apart from Diana in age to McCorquodale’s six, Diana’s sister Lady Jane Fellowes married into the royal establishment before Diana did. She wed Robert Fellowes, who was then the assistant private secretary to Queen Elizabeth, in 1978. A then 16-year-old Diana was a bridesmaid at their wedding.
Fellowes on her wedding day, with Diana as a bridesmaid
Fellowes’s royal connection actually helped speed along Diana’s relationship with Charles. During the summer of 1980, when Charles and Diana were first seeing each other, Fellowes and her husband were set to head up to Balmoral, the Queen’s Scottish home, for a quick getaway. Due to both Diana’s blossoming romance with Charles and her sister’s presence at Balmoral, Diana was invited along. It was during this trip that Diana and Charles’s relationship was revealed to the press, making Diana the one to watch when it came to a potential royal wedding.
After the wedding, there were years of closeness between Fellowes’s family and Diana’s. Robert’s position on the Queen’s staff earned him a home on the grounds of Kensington Palace, which meant that Diana and her sister saw each other frequently, as did their children.
Eventually, though, Fellowes’s own ties to the royal family fractured her relationship with Diana. Her husband was promoted to the Queen’s private secretary in 1990, and as her marriage to Charles crumbled and then came to an end, Fellowes was stuck between her sister and her husband’s loyalty to the royal establishment. It is reported that they barely spoke in Diana’s last 18 months of life.
Of course, Jane was still there in Paris when her sister died. After Diana’s death, she stayed out of the public eye, though in 1999, her husband was given the title of Baron in thanks for his service to the Queen, making Fellowes herself a Baroness. She has three children, Laura, Alexander and Eleanor. Most recently, she became involved with a charity called Only Connect, which works to rehabilitate young people who have committed crimes.
Fellowes has never spoken publicly about her sister’s death. It wasn’t until 2013 that she gave her first post-1997 interview, to
magazine. In the interview, she exclusively spoke about her work with Only Connect — not her sister’s death.
However, her family’s connection to Diana’s children is clear: Her daughter Laura was named one of Princess Charlotte‘s godparents in 2015.
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