Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Baroness Jane Fellowes have largely retreated from public life since the tragic death of their sister, Princess Diana; however, this August, Lady Sarah relived the horror of hearing the news of her younger sister's car crash in the BBC documentary, Diana, 7 Days.
“She was religious in putting on her seatbelt,” Lady Sarah said. “Why didn’t she put it on that night? I’ll never know.”
Diana and Prince William and Prince Harry, her niece and nephew and Lady Sarah McCorquodale on holiday in 1990.
Here's everything we know about the two women who were thrust into the spotlight on one of their saddest days.
Lady Sarah McCorquodale
Lady Sarah was the eldest of the four Spencer children and widely rumored to be the cleverest. In a recently released Diana biography by Sarah Bradford, the Lady Sarah is described as being “hero-worshipped” by the young Princess. She was a close confidante of Diana's and even introduced her to Prince Charles.
Lady Sarah had briefly dated Charles in
“I introduced them, I’m cupid,” she reportedly said, shortly after Charles and Diana's engagement was announced in 1981.
Lady Sarah McCorquodale with Princess Diana in 1992.
Perhaps it helped that Lady Sarah got married one year before her sister in 1980, to Neil McCorquodale. The couple went on to have three children Emily, George, and Celia, and are still together today.
After Diana’s death on August 31, 1997, both of her sisters went with Charles to collect her body from Paris. In footage from the time, both sisters appear shell-shocked and traumatized, especially as they arrived back in the UK with their sister's coffin.
Lady Sarah recalls feeling nothing but shock in the hours and days between Diana’s death and funeral, but in a recent interview with the BBC, her harshest words were saved for the media. Describing the reporters as ruthless in their attempts to get quotes or interviews from her so soon after her sister’s death, she branded the press “unacceptable.”
Prince Charles with Lady Jane Fellows and Lady Sarah McCorquodale at Raf Northolt after bringing Diana’s body back from Paris in 1997.
Her comments are in line with those made by other members of the Spencer family in the aftermath of Diana’s sudden death. Her brother Earl Charles Spencer accused photographers and the media of having “blood on their hands” in a statement made shortly after her death was announced. He also didn't hold back during his now-infamous eulogy.
Following the funeral, where she recited a poem, Lady Sarah became president of the Diana Memorial Fund, which raised over £112 million for various charities in the 15 years after her death, before closing in 2012.
She also gave evidence at the 2007 inquest into Princess Diana’s death, which resulted in a jury ruling that the princess and her companion Dodi Al-Fayed were unlawfully killed by a combination of their driver Henri Paul and the convoy of paparazzi following them in the Paris tunnel. The fact that neither passenger was wearing a seatbelt and Paul was driving while intoxicated also contributed, the jury ruled.
At the inquest, Lady Sarah played down the relationship between Dodi and Diana, suggesting it might have been fizzling out. Instead, she said there was a “strong possibility” Diana could have married the heart surgeon Hasnat Khan whom she had broken up with months before her death.
In more recent years, Lady Sarah has stayed close with her nephews. She has been spotted accompanying Prince William to charity events in Lincolnshire, was by his side at the funeral of his Nanny in 2012, and watched him marry Kate Middleton in 2011. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also attended the wedding of the Duke’s cousin, Lady Sarah’s eldest daughter Emily, in 2012.
Prince Harry with Earl Spencer and Lady Sarah McCorquodale after a service to celebrate the life of Princess Diana on August 31, 2007.
Baroness Jane Fellowes
Diana’s other sister Jane is less familiar to the public, as she has not spoken to the media since her sister’s death.
According to Earl and Lady Sarah Spencer, it was Jane who informed them about Diana’s death in the early hours of the morning in 1997. They both relayed the events in the recent BBC documentary, which Lady Jane did not take part in.
The Queen, Earl Spencer, Lady Sarah McCorquodale & Lady Jane Fellowes at the unveiling of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park in 2004.
After accompanying her sister Sarah and Prince Charles to bring back Diana’s body after the car crash, Lady Jane read a poem by Henry Van Dyke Jr at the funeral.
In Bradford’s biography, Jane is painted as the “least assertive” of the Spencer siblings, and it has been said that she did not become as close to Diana until they were adults; however, she did have a strong connection to the royal family.
Lady Jane's husband Robert Fellowes was Private Secretary to the Queen from 1990 to 1999. This influential job involved being the main channel of communication between the monarch and government, as well as overseeing the Queen’s program and correspondence. It has been suggested by some royal biographers that Jane’s position as both Diana’s sister and Robert’s wife left her in a difficult position when Charles and Diana's marriage was ending.
Laura Fellowes at Princess Charlotte’s christening in 2015.
Lady Jane took the title of Baroness in
The link with the royal family has also been extended to another generation. Lady Jane’s daughter, Laura Fellowes, was chosen by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to be a godmother to Princess Charlotte.
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.