The upcoming season of The Crown will focus heavily on the relationship between Prince Charles and Diana Spencer, aka Princess Diana, but we’re curious if one particular part of their story will be included: the fact that Charles actually dated her sister Lady Sarah Spencer first. Perhaps surprisingly, it wasn’t nearly as juicy and dramatic as some of Charles’s other romantic quandaries – in fact, it all apparently happened without much drama at all.
A 1981 article in the Daily Times, part of a package on the wedding of Charles and Diana, noted that the couple first met in 1977 while Charles was dating her sister Sarah. “[Diana] was 16 years old at the time [of their first meeting], and Charles, then 28, was dating Diana’s eldest sister, Sarah, five years her senior.” The paper also noted, however, that Sarah didn’t seem to be a serious candidate to marry Charles for one fairly big reason: she publicly admitted that she wasn’t deeply in love with him. In 1979, when Diana was apparently a shoulder to lean on for Charles after he learned his beloved uncle, Lord Mountbatten, had been killed, Charles began to think of her as a potential bride. Sarah joked to The Guardian after news of the engagement broke, “I introduced them. I’m Cupid!”
The Spencer family, one of the oldest and most prestigious aristocratic families in England, had been closely linked to the royal family for a long time. Both of her grandmothers had been ladies in waiting to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and Diana grew up as a contemporary and playmate of Charles’s younger brothers, Andrew and Edward, so she was familiar with the royals long before she married into the family. This close connection, coupled with some of Diana’s other traits (her aristocratic lineage and her “innocence,” in particular) made her an ideal bride for Charles on paper, particularly when contrasted with his first love, Camilla Shand (at that point, Camilla Parker Bowles).
Diana and Charles’s marriage, of course, famously ended in a disastrous and scandal-packed divorce. Sarah, on the other hand, seemed to move on without a problem after her relationship with the prince ended. In 1980, she married Neil Edmund McCorquodale, and they had three children. Because McCorquodale has no title of his own, Sarah retained her own style of “Lady” upon marriage while still taking his last name, becoming Lady Sarah McCorquodale. She has appeared, on occasion, at special events such as the weddings of Prince William and Prince Harry, as well as being listed on the birth announcement for Prince Harry’s son, Archie, in 2019.