Inside Princess Diana's Rocky Relationship With Her Older Sister Jane

She might have been a light to many, but Princess Diana's formative years were pretty dark. She was much younger than her older sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Jane Fellowes, Baroness Fellowes, and they had somewhat of a disjointed relationship, thanks to McCorquodale and Fellowes being away at boarding school for most of Diana's childhood. However, Diana and her brother, Charles Spencer, had a very special bond because they only had each other after their mother abandoned them. "I did a lot of very profound work on my unhappy childhood last year, which was agonizing and horrible," Spencer told The Times in 2020. "I don't say that out of self-pity, it was intriguing to me that it was so desperately unpleasant." He recalled how their mother promised 5-year-old Diana that she would visit. "Diana used to wait on the doorstep for her, but she never came," Spencer said.

Even though Diana had two sisters, it's said that she was only particularly close to one of them — McCorquodale. The princess once said that her oldest sister was the only person she could really trust. She had a rocky relationship with Fellowes, who was four years her senior, and also married into royalty. Fellowes' husband, Robert Fellowes, was Queen Elizabeth II's assistant private secretary in 1978 when they tied the knot. While Fellowes and Diana grew closer during the princess' time as a member of the royal family, things turned sour between them when Diana's marriage to then-Prince Charles crumbled.

Jane didn't exactly support Diana when she wanted to back out of her marriage to Charles

Thanks to royal biographers, close confidantes, and former friends spilling the beans over the years, we know that the night before King Charles and Princess Diana's wedding, the future king reportedly told his bride-to-be that he didn't love her. Diana had serious reservations about going ahead with the wedding at that point, but previously, she brought up her doubts to her sisters, Jane Fellowes and Lady Sarah McCorquodale, and they're arguably the reason she ended up walking down the aisle in the end.

According to Diana's biographer, Andrew Morton, the princess discovered that Charles bought his former lover, Camilla, Queen Consort, a personalized bracelet shortly before their grand royal wedding was set to take place. When Charles disappeared over lunchtime to meet with Camilla, Diana knew where he was, and feeling terribly conflicted, turned to her sisters for advice. Instead of telling her to follow her gut, Fellowes and McCorquodale convinced Diana to go ahead with the wedding. "At that moment, as she seriously considered calling off the wedding, they made light of her fears and premonitions of the disaster which lay ahead. 'Bad luck, Duch,' they said, using the family nickname for their younger sister, 'Your face is on the tea towels so you're too late to chicken out," Morton wrote in his book, "Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words." Diana, unfortunately, took their advice to heart.

Jane felt caught in the middle of Diana's marriage woes

There's no arguing that Princess Diana had a pretty tragic life before she married King Charles III — growing up without her mother and trying to be a maternal figure to her brother, Charles Spencer, couldn't have been easy. Unfortunately, things only got worse for the princess after her nuptials. Smiling, waving, and pretending to be a doting couple in public does not a marriage make, and the cracks in Diana and Charles' marriage soon began to show.

Caught in the middle of all this was Diana's sister, Jane Fellowes. Royal biographer Sarah Bradford explained in her book, "Diana: Finally, the Complete Story," that Fellowes and the princess were both living at Buckingham Palace during the most tumultuous time of Diana's life. While the princess needed the support of her family more than ever while her marriage was falling apart, Fellowes didn't reach out a helping hand because she wasn't sure whose side she had to be on, Bradford claimed.

With Fellowes' husband having been promoted to Queen Elizabeth II's private secretary at the time, Fellowes eventually opted to stick to the royal family's side, leaving her sister out in the cold to deal with her crumbling marriage on her own.

Jane completely distanced herself from Diana before her death

One of the things we learned about Princess Diana after her death is that she was completely distanced from her sister, Jane Fellowes, when she died in a car crash in Paris. Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell, claimed that the sisters had gone several years without speaking before Diana's tragic death. This was especially heartbreaking because, before Diana's marital troubles started, she and Fellowes were reportedly quite close.

As her marriage continued to unravel, Diana became increasingly distrustful of the monarchy, and unfortunately, Fellowes was part of that system. It didn't help that Diana was sure she was being spied on, and the person she reportedly suspected of keeping secret tabs on her was none other than her sister's husband and private secretary to Queen Elizabeth II, Robert Fellowes. This must have made for some awkward family dinners.

Since her death, Mohamed Al-Fayed, the father of Diana's former boyfriend, voiced his suspicions about the car crash that claimed the lives of Diana and his son. He claimed that Robert Fellowes was somehow involved and that the crash wasn't an accident but a plot to murder the princess. He also said that Diana was afraid of Mr. Fellowes. The distance that existed between Diana and her sister remained evident after her death. Jane Fellowes has never spoken publicly about her sister's death and was also Diana's only sibling who didn't make an appearance in the BBC documentary, "Diana, 7 Days."

Jane was the one who informed Diana's family of her death

In the BBC documentary, "Diana, 7 Days," Charles Spencer and Lady Sarah McCorquodale revealed that Jane Fellowes was the family member who first got the call about Princess Diana's tragic death. This means that she was the one who had to share the devastating news with the Spencer family.

Even though it's said that Fellowes wasn't speaking to Diana prior to her death, she was seen traveling with King Charles III to retrieve Diana's body from the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in France where she died. Reports indicated that Fellowes' heartbreak over her sister's death was evident when she left the hospital. Even though Fellowes hasn't participated in any of the documentaries or articles that followed since her sister's death, she's remained close to her nephews, Prince William and Prince Harry. She reportedly shares a very close bond with the latter and Harry has continued to involve her in his life.

Jane has continued to support Diana's children after her death

Perhaps because of her rocky relationship with Princess Diana prior to her death, Jane Fellowes made a noticeable effort to be a part of Prince William and Prince Harry's lives after her sister's death. Following the tragic car accident that claimed the princess' life, all eyes were on Diana's family's relationship with William and Harry, and Fellowes has shown herself to be a very supportive aunt.

The two brothers have clearly built a solid relationship with their aunt over the years. William and Princess Catherine named Fellowes' daughter, Laura Fellowes, as one of Princess Charlotte's godparents, and Prince Harry, who is said to be especially close to Fellowes, invited her to his wedding and asked her to do a reading in honor of Diana. "Prince Harry and Ms. Markle both feel honoured that Lady Jane will be representing her family and helping to celebrate the memory of the late Princess on the wedding day," the palace said in a statement at the time (via Newsweek). Fellowes was also one of the lucky few who first got to meet Prince Archie after he was born.