In the last few years of her life, Princess Diana dismissed her police protection even though she still had paparazzi following her wherever she went, and became skilled at avoiding the photographers when she didn’t want to be seen, and tipping them off when she did. According to two of Diana’s nieces, Lady Eliza Spencer and Lady Amelia Spencer, the princess had a technique to help avoid the paparazzi without scaring the children she was around.
In a cover story for Tatler, the 28-year-old twin daughters of Diana’s brother Charles, Earl Spencer, discuss their memories of their famous aunt. Though Eliza and Amelia were both five when Diana died, Eliza said she remembers their “incredibly warm, maternal and loving” aunt. She mentions the story of a time when Diana took them to Noordhoek Beach, outside of Cape Town, and she managed to evade the paparazzi without alarming the kids.
“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. We had no idea what she was doing at the time.”
Though they were born in London, the sisters have lived in South Africa since 1995. Charles and his then-wife, Victoria Aitken, moved to Cape Town with their four children in an attempt to fix their struggling marriage. In November 2020, he told the Telegraph that he fell in love with the country on a vacation and moved the family there because he wanted his children to have “private, happy, carefree upbringings.”
“Growing up in South Africa, I really had very little idea of how significant she was in the world until I was much older,” Eliza told Tatler. “She always made an effort to connect with us as children and had a talent for reading children’s hearts.”
Even though Charles eventually moved back to the U.K. after his 1997 divorce from Victoria, the rest of the family stayed in Cape Town. Eliza said that they have visited Althorp, the family estate where Diana is buried. “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,” she said. “And of course it conjures up memories of family Christmases as children, with our extended family all together.”
Last July, Amelia announced her engagement to Greg Mallett, her boyfriend of 11 who she met when she was studying at the University of Cape Town. In the cover story, she said she is considering holding their wedding at Althorp, but she hasn’t decided yet. “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.”
The staff who worked at Althorp when Diana was a child were still around and would tell the twins about their famous aunt. “As a child, I realised the enormity of the loss for my father and family,” Eliza said. “It was only later that I came to understand the significance of the loss of her as a figure in the world.”
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