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The Right Honourable
The Dowager Countess Spencer
Personal details
Born Raine McCorquodale
(1929-09-09) 9 September 1929 (age 85)
Spouse(s) Gerald Legge, 9th Earl of Dartmouth (m. 1947, div. 1976)
John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer (m. 1976, deceased 1992)
Comte Jean-François Pineton de Chambrun (m. 1993, div. 1995)
Children William Legge, 10th Earl of Dartmouth
Rupert Legge
Charlotte Paternó Castello, Duchess of Carcaci
Henry Legge
Parents Alexander McCorquodale
Barbara Cartland
Occupation socialite, politician

Raine Spencer, Countess Spencer (née McCorquodale; born 9 September 1929) is a British socialite and local politician. She is the daughter of novelist Barbara Cartland and Alexander McCorquodale. However her mother later alleged that she was fathered by Prince George, Duke of Kent. At age 23, she became the youngest member of Westminster City Council. As Countess of Dartmouth, she remained in local government for the following 17 years.

Widely considered a "larger-than-life" figure with a reputation for being immaculately dressed and coiffured at any public function, her actions frequently cause mention in the British and foreign press. Her taste has frequently been questioned and her relationship with her stepchildren much discussed. As Countess Spencer, Raine was unpopular with her stepdaughter, Lady Diana Spencer,[1] later the Princess of Wales. Her three marriages have, at varying times, accorded her five titles: the Honourable Mrs Gerald Legge, Viscountess Lewisham, Countess of Dartmouth, Countess Spencer and Comtesse Jean-François de Chambrun.

Early years[edit]

Raine Spencer's mother, the socialite and romantic novelist Barbara Cartland.

Raine McCorquodale is the only child of novelist Dame Barbara Cartland and Alexander McCorquodale, an Army officer who was heir to a printing fortune. Her parents divorced in 1936, and her mother promptly married Alexander McCorquodale's cousin, Hugh McCorquodale, by whom she had two sons, Ian and Glen McCorquodale.

Countess of Dartmouth[edit]

In 1947, aged eighteen, Raine McCorquodale was launched as a debutante into London high society. She had a successful season, not only being named "Deb of the Year," but becoming engaged to be married to the heir to an earldom, the Hon. Gerald Humphry Legge.[2] She and Legge married on 21 Jul 1948. He succeeded to the courtesy title Viscount Lewisham in 1958 and became the 9th Earl of Dartmouth in 1962. The couple had four children:

  • William Legge, 10th Earl of Dartmouth, born on 23 September 1949
  • Hon. Rupert Legge, born on 1 January 1953. He married Victoria S. Ottley; the couple have two children, Edward Peregrine Legge (b 1986) and Claudia Rose Legge (b 1989.)
  • Lady Charlotte, born on 16 July 1963. She married Don Alessandro Paternò Castello, 13th Duke of Carcaci.
  • Hon. Henry Legge, born on 28 December 1968. He married Cressida Hogg, the youngest daughter of Sir Christopher Hogg.

Following her marriage, Lady Dartmouth began to take a strong interest in politics. At 23, she became the youngest member of Westminster City Council as a Conservative. As Lady Lewisham, and later Lady Dartmouth, she remained in local government for the following 17 years. She sat on Westminster's town planning, parks and personnel committees, and was later elected to represent Richmond on the Greater London Council. In this capacity she took a special interest in environmental planning and ancient buildings.[2] She also chaired the Covent Garden Development Committee, and the government working party for the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm.[2]

In 1973, she began a relationship with John Spencer, Lord Althorp, who was a colleague on an architectural heritage committee. Lord and Lady Dartmouth were consequently divorced in 1976.[2]

Countess Spencer[edit]

Althorp House. Countess Spencer oversaw a large redecoration and restoration project of the Spencers' ancestral home.

Lord Althorp succeeded his father as the 8th Earl Spencer on 9 June 1975. Lord Spencer and Lady Dartmouth were married at Caxton Hall, London, on 14 July 1976. As Countess Spencer, Raine was unpopular with her stepdaughter Lady Diana Spencer and her siblings, who even went as far as using the nickname "Acid Raine" when referring to their step-mother.[1][3] However, media reports have suggested that at the time of her death, Diana was reconciled with her stepmother, while her relationship with her mother Frances Shand Kydd, had been strained.[4]

In 1978, Lord Spencer suffered a brain haemorrhage; his wife nursed him, and it is to her care and devotion coupled with the use of an untested drug, that his recovery is credited.[1] Following her husband's illness, Lady Spencer was widely criticised, by the press and conservationists, for her redecoration of Althorp, the Spencer family seat; it was felt that the heavy use of new gilding and wallpapers failed to compensate for the missing treasures, which included besides properties and land, works by Van Dyck and Gainsborough, furniture, china, porcelain, silver, gold and family documents sold to fund the project and necessary restoration of the house.[1] The Earl fully endorsed and assisted in his wife's alteration to Althorp and fund-raising activities.[1] However, this was not enough to stop Earl Spencer's son and heir describing his stepmother's taste in decoration as having "the wedding cake vulgarity of a five-star hotel in Monaco." [2]

Lord and Lady Spencer led an opulent lifestyle entertaining frequently and generously, and travelling greatly. In February 1981, they became globally known following the marriage of Lady Spencer's stepdaughter, Diana to Charles, Prince of Wales.[1] Lord Spencer died on 29 March 1992. Raine's relationship with her stepson being poor, the dowager Countess immediately left Althorp.[5][6] The abrupt move from Althorp was, however, cushioned by a £4 million inheritance and a townhouse in London's Mayfair from her husband.[2]

Comtesse de Chambrun[edit]

Raine Spencer married thirdly, in July 1993, Count Jean-François Pineton de Chambrun, a descendant of the Marquis de La Fayette, a member of a prominent French family related to the American Roosevelt family, after a courtship of 33 days.[7] They married in a civil ceremony in London.[3] The Count, a younger son of Jean-Pierre Pineton de Chambrun, Marquis de Chambrun (a deaf biochemist-artist), was previously married to American Josalee Douglas. The Countess again attracted charges of vulgarity, in Britain, when it was discovered that pictures of the wedding had been sold to Hello magazine for a reputed £70,000.[2] Her mother did not attend the wedding ceremony.[3] It was at this time, that while none of her Spencer stepchildren attended her remarriage, it was claimed that there was a rapprochement between her and the Princess of Wales.[2]

The de Chambruns' marriage was to be short-lived and the couple were divorced in 1995. Styled since the marriage as Comtesse Jean-François Pineton de Chambrun, the Comtesse chose to revert to her previous surname and style of Raine, Countess Spencer. Despite adverse comment, this was something she was quite entitled to do.[8]

Later life[edit]

In December 2007, Raine Spencer again featured in the news, giving evidence[clarification needed] at the London inquest into the death of the Princess of Wales. Making a rare public comment on her relationship with her stepdaughter, she said: "[Diana] always said I had no hidden agenda. So many people, because she was so popular and so world famous, wanted something out of her. It was a very draining life." Later she told the court "Well, we all want the dark handsome gentleman to walk through the door."[9]

Today, Raine Spencer is a member of the board of directors of Harrods, and occasionally works in the store, although as she told the inquest "Ironically, I never went shopping in Harrods. It was my husband [Earl Spencer] who practically lived there."[9] Her principal home is in Mayfair, London, where she remains a regular person on the London social scene.

Titles and styles[edit]

  • Miss Raine McCorquodale (1929–1948)
  • The Hon. Mrs Gerald Legge (1948–1958)
  • Viscountess Lewisham (1958–1962)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Countess of Dartmouth (1962–1976)
  • Raine, Countess of Dartmouth (1976)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Countess Spencer (1976–1992)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Dowager Countess Spencer (1992–1993)
  • Comtesse Jean-François de Chambrun (1993–1995)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Dowager Countess Spencer (Since 1995)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Spencer, (Edward) John by Hugo Vickers, Oxford DNB. 14 May 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Raine Spencer: Friend not foe The Independent, 15 December 2007
  3. ^ a b c "Di's stepmother marries French count". Point Pleasant Register (London). AP. 9 July 1993. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "Diana's Final Heartbreak: Fame & Scandal". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 11 November 2008. 
  5. ^ Kitty Kelley The Royals. (The reliability of Kelley's book has been questioned).
  6. ^ Tina Brown The Diana Chronicles
  7. ^ "Jean Pierre Pineton, marquis, dies at 101". Enquirer. Retrieved 11 November 2008. 
  8. ^ Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th edition, 2 volumes (Crans, Switzerland: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 1999), volume 2, p. 2674.
  9. ^ a b BBC News By Victoria Bone Thursday, 13 December 2007.

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