The then-28-year-old was so angry that she not only berated Raine but also pushed her so hard that she ended up falling down the stairs.
One day in September 1989, when Princess Diana was living in her ancestral home of Althorp in Northamptonshire, England, she lost her calm. She was reportedly furious at her stepmother, the late Countess Raine Spencer, who had married her father Johnnie 13 years earlier.
The then-28-year-old was angry because Raine did not pay much attention to her mother, Frances Shand Kydd, who was at a party at Althorpe. She not only berated Raine but also pushed her with such force that Raine ended up falling down the stairs. "It happened on the top of the saloon stairs," said Raine’s former personal assistant Sue Howe in a new documentary, reports Royal Central.
"She had a furious row with Raine because Diana was so upset that her mother had been ignored in the ancestral home, and she pushed her, and Raine fell down the stairs...[Raine] was badly bruised and was dreadfully upset," added Howe. "It was not justified at all. It was a cruel, heartless thing to do, and I think it was Diana’s perception of how Raine was treating Mrs. Shand Kydd. I think Diana was very stressed. This sounds really wrong but she wasn’t the center of attention on this occasion."
The film Princess Diana’s ‘Wicked’ Stepmother lays bare the fraught relationship between the troubled Princess and her larger-than-life socialite stepmother which eventually changed bringing the two closer to each other.
Raine was the daughter of the exuberant British romance novelist Barbara Cartland who began dating Earl John Spencer, Diana's father following his divorce from her mother, Frances Shand Kydd, in 1969. She was extremely unpopular among her step-children, Charles, Jane, Sarah, and Diana, who went on to give her the nickname "Acid Raine."
"They were used to having their father to themselves, and when Raine came along it was a disaster," noted royal biographer Penny Junor. "And Raine was not sensitive about the way she handled matters, [such as] changing Althorp because she had no sentimental attachment to it."
Raine would sell precious antiques to fund renovations of their dilapidated stately home, even imposing her flashy taste on the decor. "Diana said she made it look like Disneyland," explained Burell. Then in 1978, she outrageously prevented Diana and her siblings from visiting their father after he suffered a near-fatal stroke. Unsurprising this became the cause for further friction. "She thought it would be better if he had peace, rest, and no agitation," said Junor.
John eventually recovered and walked his daughter down the aisle at her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981. Meanwhile. Raine was banished to the back of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Unfortunately, her marriage began falling apart and Diana used her stepmother as an outlet for her anger. "It was pretty full-on war,” recalled Junor.
While Princess Diana was killed in a 1997 car accident, Raine passed away in 2016 from cancer. And although their relationship had a rocky start both women eventually became each other's confidants, especially after Diana stopped speaking to her mother.
"They were strong to the core — survivors," said Paul Burrell, Diana’s former butler, according to the New York Post. "They suffered adversity and tragedy which brought them together in the end."
When John died in 1992, Raine's step-children kicked her out of Althorp and she went to live in a London townhouse, her husband had left her. The same year Diana separated from Charles and things took a surprising turn for the two ladies. It was in the last three years of Diana's life, that she reconciled with Raine, who tied the knot with French Count Jean-Francois de Chambrun.
"The princess did a complete U-turn and invited Raine and her husband for lunch," said Burrell. "Diana said to Raine: 'I have to thank you. I know you loved my father deeply, and I have to be grateful for all the years of happiness you gave him,'" recalled Peter Constandinos, Raine’s hairdresser and friend. "Diana mellowed as she got older, and they were quite similar characters."
Soon the two were spotted regularly in and around London as Raine showered Diana with gifts, flowers, and chocolates. Unfortunately, their friendship ended prematurely when Diana died in Paris on August 31, 1997. That night she visited Burrell after he had returned with Diana's body. "She cried and held my hand and said, 'What are we going to do now?'" She was devastated," said the butler.
Cover image source: Getty | Photo by Newsmakers (L) Getty | Photo by David Westing (R)