Charles, 9th Earl Spencer, opens up about the courageous sister he loved and lost

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July 26, 2017 07:00 AM

Twenty years after her death, Princess Diana’s brother Charles Spencer and her close friends share personal memories of the beloved royal. Subscribe now for the EXCLUSIVE stories and photos – only in PEOPLE.

When Diana Spencer captured the world stage at just 19 years old, she was promptly nicknamed “Shy Di” by the press.

That nickname couldn’t have been more wrong.

“First of all, none of us ever called her ‘Di’ at home,” says her brother Charles, 9th Earl Spencer. “In fact, there are so many myths from our childhood that are just so ridiculous. That’s one of them. I just think she was never shy, but she was canny about people and she was reserved to start with. And she would take a judgment of somebody before reacting to them. So, that’s not shy . . . that’s actually quite clever.”

She was also an “incredibly brave” girl, as Spencer tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story.

On one childhood occasion, her brother recalls, the young siblings were staying with their mother in Scotland and set out to catch lobsters.

Copyright: Earl Spencer
Dom Savio/Maggievision Productions

“We pulled up [a pot] and there was a really massive conger eel,” says Spencer. “It was black and it had teeth was very long and it was flapping around the boat. And Diana just got a pen knife out and just dealt with it. It was hand-to-hand and she just got stuck in. This thing was really a creature from the deep. And she just dealt with it.”

RELATED VIDEO: Charles Spencer Discusses the Type of Grandmother Princess Diana Would Have Been

Spencer is joined by Diana’s friend Sir Richard Branson, her wedding dress designer Elizabeth Emanuel, charity partner Vivienne Parry and many others in remembering the late princess in PEOPLE’s cover story and on a two-night television event from PEOPLE and ABC, The Story of Diana, airing on ABC on Aug. 9 and 10 at 9 p.m. E.T.

FROM PEN: How Princess Kate Is Changing the Royal Parenting Rules

Along with his remembrances, Spencer is also sharing a previously unpublished childhood photo. The image, of him and Diana in 1967, appears in a limited-edition book version of the powerful eulogy Spencer delivered at Diana’s funeral on September 6, 1997 at Westminster Abbey. 100% of the proceeds will go to various charities, including Whole Child International, which will auction the first in the series of 100 leather-bound editions at a charity gala on October 26.

Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997, was beloved around the world and stands as one of the key figures of the 20th century. She had “a genius for people and she could connect with anyone,” Spencer notes — and that was never more apparent than through the way she broke down barriers on AIDS and HIV, tackled the terror of landmines and highlighted the plight of the homeless.

“She could make any person, whether they were the grandest or the most humble, totally at ease,” he says. “It’s an incredible gift.”

For full PEOPLE coverage of the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death:
•Pick up PEOPLE’s cover story on newsstands now
The Story of Diana, a two-part television event from PEOPLE and ABC, airs on ABC Aug. 9 and 10 at 9 p.m. E.T.
•PEOPLE’s special edition Diana: Her Life and Legacy is available now
Princess Diana: Behind the Headlines is streaming live on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. E.T. on the new People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to PEOPLE.com/PEN, or download the PEN app on your favorite mobile or connected TV device

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