British Nobility. Edward John Spencer was the Eighth Earl Spencer of Althorp and father of Diana, Princess of Wales. He was educated at Eton and Sandhurst. He had been an equerry (attendant) to King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth, from 1950-1952, and to the Queen herself in the first two years of her reign. He married the Hon. Frances Burke Ruth Roche in 1954 and the union produced five children: Sarah McCorquodale, Jane Fellows (wife of the Queen's private secretary, Sir Robert), John (who died within 24 hours of his birth), Diana, and Charles (who became the Ninth Earl of Spencer upon his father's death). Edward and Frances had a twelve-year age difference, the same age gap that would occur with their daughter Diana on her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales in 1981). They divorced in 1969, amidst much publicity and bad feelings and the fact that Frances's own mother Ruth, Lady Fermoy (who was a woman of the bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother) testified against her in court. It was reported that because of Lady Fermoy's testimony that Edward (then known as Viscount Althorp) was given custody of the children. His second wife was Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, daughter of romance novelist Barbara Cartland. It is well-documented how much the Earl's children did not like their stepmother (they referred to her as "Acid Raine") but Raine nursed him through a massive stroke he suffered in the late-1970's, the effects of which he was still feeling when he made the 3-1/2 minute walk up the nave at Saint Paul's Cathedral to give Diana away on July 29, 1981. The Spencer family can trace their lineage to Charles II and James II. The family fortune was made on 16th-century wool trading and it was because of that fortune that the family has had close ties with the British royal house ever since, but the family did not have the chance to marry into the royal house until the marriage of Diana in 1981. The Spencers almost married royalty in the early-1700's when the first Lady Diana Spencer (1710-1735) nearly married Frederick, Prince of Wales. The match was pushed by Diana's grandmother, Sarah Ferguson, but the union was called off by the wishes of King George II. In 1765, the Spencer title was created. Upon the death of his father, the 7th Earl of Spencer (born Albert Edward John, known as "Johnny") in 1975, Edward inherited the massive Althorp estate in Northamptonshire, in the English Midlands, built in 1508. He was proud of his ancestry and the connections it brought, but he endured negative publicity and pressure from his family when he sold family heirlooms from Althorp as a way of raising money for the estate's upkeep. According to the Times of London in their obituary of the Earl, "Althorp contains one of the largest private art collections in Europe, although not perhaps the most eclectic." He was said to have driven from Northamptonshire to London when he learned of the birth of Prince William in 1982 and he shouted from the balcony of the estate to the last of the day's visitors in 1984 on the birth of Prince Harry. He died at Humana Hospital in London of a heart attack.
Bio by: Donna Di Giacomo