Princess Diana's nieces describe how she protected them from paparazzi as young children

Victoria Ward
·4-min read
Lady Eliza and Lady Amelia Spencer spoke to Tatler magazine - Tatler
Lady Eliza and Lady Amelia Spencer spoke to Tatler magazine - Tatler

They were just five when their aunt, Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a Paris car crash, and so completely unaware of her standing on the global stage.

To Lady Amelia and Lady Eliza Spencer, she was simply an “'incredibly warm, maternal and loving” aunt.

But the twins, now 28, have described how they learnt about the Princess’s legacy as they grew older, realising how she had protected them from paparazzi without their knowledge and regaled with stories by staff at Althorp, the Spencer family seat in Northamptonshire.

In their first joint interview, the sisters, daughters of the Princess’s brother, Earl Spencer, recalled their memories of their aunt, as well as their upbringing in Cape Town, South Africa.

Lady Eliza told Tatler magazine that on one occasion, they had gone with the Princess to Noordhoek, a seaside town on the Western Cape known for its freezing water, and were approached by a photographer.

“Obviously it could have been quite terrifying for us, being so young and not understanding what was happening,” she said.

“But she turned it into a game of who could get back to the car first. It was amazing how she protected us in a way that made us feel safe and not frightened.”

 Lady Amelia and Lady Eliza Spencer  - Tatler
Lady Amelia and Lady Eliza Spencer - Tatler

She added: “We had no idea what she was doing at the time. As a child, I realised the enormity of the loss for my father and family.

“It was only later that I came to understand the significance of the loss of her as a figure in the world.”

Lady Eliza, who hopes to set herself up as an interior designer, remembers her aunt as “incredibly warm, maternal and loving,” adding: “She always made an effort to connect with us as children and had a talent for reading children’s hearts.'’

She reiterated that they only knew the Princess as an aunt, mother of their elder cousins, Prince William and Prince Harry, and had no concept that she was one of the most photographed women in the world.

“Growing up in South Africa, I really had very little idea of how significant she was in the world until I was much older,” she added.

The twins, their elder sister, Lady Kitty Spencer and younger brother, Louis, Viscount Althorp, are the children of Lord Spencer and his first wife, former model Victoria Lockwood.

They moved to Cape Town in 1995, and their father recently wrote in the Telegraph about how they blossomed in the sunny climate and relished the outdoors lifestyle.

Two years later, Princess Diana died and their parents’ marriage broke down amid a slew of allegations about their father’s infidelities and the mental health of her mother, who suffered from an eating disorder and drug and alcohol problems.

Lord Spencer returned to the UK but the children stayed in South Africa, returning to Althorp for school holidays.

Lady Eliza said: “It is a truly special and beautiful place. Having spent the first three years of our lives at Althorp, exploring and discovering it as children, and being part of a long heritage of Spencers that have lived there, it has always felt like another home.

“And of course it conjures up memories of family Christmases as children, with our extended family all together.”

Lady Amelia, an events planner who got engaged last summer to water polo instructor Greg Mallett, revealed that her father had offered the 16th century stately home as a wedding venue.

“It’s our family home, it’s beautiful,” she said.

“We would be very lucky to get married there, but Cape Town is where we grew up and there is a possibility that we might do it here, too.”

Like the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex, the Spencers are keenly aware of the importance of talking about mental health.

Although, perhaps unlike their cousins, they were encouraged to discuss their problems from an early age.

Lady Eliza said: “It was never something that we felt afraid to talk about when we had our own struggles. We were a very open family.”

Her sister agreed, adding: “We have come a long way in terms of the conversations, and I hope there will come a time when the stigma is completely removed and that people will be able to ask for help and not feel judged for having mental health issues or struggling emotionally.”

See the full feature in the March issue of Tatler available via digital download and newsstands on Monday 1st February.