Charles Spencer on Childhood Trauma Alongside Sister Princess Diana: 'We Were In It Together'
"Our father was a quiet and constant source of love, but our mother wasn't cut out for maternity," Charles Spencer said in a new interview
Princess Diana and her brother Charles Spencer both went through a difficult time following their parents’ divorce.
In a new interview with The Sunday Times, Diana’s brother, 56, spoke about the pain he and his sister endured when their father, John Spencer, the 8th Earl Spencer and his first wife, Frances, split in 1969.
“Diana and I had two older sisters who were away at school, so she and I were very much in it together and I did talk to her about it,” said Charles, 9th Earl Spencer, a historian and author whose new book The White Ship, will be released on September 17.
“Our father was a quiet and constant source of love, but our mother wasn’t cut out for maternity. Not her fault, she couldn’t do it,” he continued. “While she was packing her stuff to leave, she promised Diana [then aged five] she’d come back to see her. Diana used to wait on the doorstep for her, but she never came.”
Previously speaking to PEOPLE, Charles said that the split was “was tough on Diana.”
As for his own journey, Charles told The Sunday Times that he’s been “in and out of therapy for 20 years” and has done “a lot of very profound work on my unhappy childhood.”
Calling the work “agonizing and horrible,” he noted that “the result has been cathartic.”
“Coming out the other side has been good,” he added. “The one thing I’ve learnt through all the stuff I’ve tackled is that very few people set out to be destructive.”
Charles, who has been married three times, went on to share that his childhood trauma “left me with a predisposition for rescuing people” — but by the time he met social entrepreneur Karen, whom he wed in 2011, his mindset had shifted.
“We got engaged quickly and I’m sure people thought, ‘Here he goes again,' but I was confident,” he added of Karen, the founder and CEO of Whole Child International and an advocate for relationship-centered childcare.
For her part, Karen, now the Countess Spencer, told the Times, "The most appealing thing about Charles for me was how willing he was to work on himself, and continue to do so."
"I love that we are a supportive partnership," she added. "We’re both ambitious, and there’s been a lot of give and take.”