They are young, blond, and beautiful. They hail from the most aristocratic of British bloodlines, but are also willing to share saucy snaps of their carefree gilded lives on Instagram. So it is perhaps little surprise that the world is going gaga for the Spencer sisters—who just happen to be Princess Diana’s nieces.
Even though they grew up in South Africa—where their father, Earl Spencer, Diana’s brother, who at her funeral eulogized her as the most “hunted” woman of her generation, fled with his family to avoid the press—there has always been a steady drumbeat of interest in these young beauties in aristocratic British circles.
That interest was especially heightened after they emerged back into the broader public consciousness at the 2011 royal wedding of Will and Kate, where the three platinum-tressed beauties, seated demurely in one of the prime seats, came close to stealing the show.
Kitty now lives in London but her younger twin sisters still call South Africa home.
The fact that they are the nieces of Princess Diana has proved a convenient hook for a new generation of millennial style-watchers, who have recently discovered the sisters and been busily reposting the sisters’ and their friends’ own photographs of their gilded lives and sometimes wild antics across social media.
Hundreds of pictures across various social media platforms show the girls sunning themselves on the beach, partying with friends, and striking risqué poses for the amusement of their pals.
It is certainly a far cry from the austere upbringing in large, stately homes imposed on Earl Spencer and his sister Diana after their mother, Frances Shand Kydd, abandoned the family when he was 3 and Diana 6.
The children were placed in the custody of their father and cared for by a succession of nannies.
In the U.K., however, the Spencer girls—a beguiling mixture of aristocrat and beach babe—are much, much more than just an Instagram talking point.
They are, rather like the Herveys or the Percys, the latest iteration of an ancient and powerful family with a taste for scandal and misbehavior whose fortune and destiny have been intimately entwined with those of the British state itself since the reign of Charles I.
The Spencers are basically the Starks, of George R.R, Martin’s imagination, made flesh. And the Charles, Earl Spencer, definitely has something of the Game of Thrones lifestyle about him; aged 50, he has succeeded in having seven children by three wives.
The Lady Spencers, as Kitty, Eliza, and Amelia are collectively known, are the product of Charles’s 1989 marriage to the stunning model Victoria Lockwood. There is also a son, Louis, 21.
Charles and Victoria had only known each other for a few months when they wed, and Prince Harry was a pageboy at the nuptials.
It was a glamorous start to a marriage that swiftly turned bad. Victoria was soon being treated for drug addiction, and after she got clean they decamped to South Africa in search of a new life.
Asked about her family’s decision to move to South Africa in the mid-1990s, Kitty told Tatler recently, “We went for my birthday for a holiday and we ended up sort of staying. We just all really suited that lifestyle and my parents wanted the opportunity for a really healthy childhood for us.”
The truth may be more complicated than that; there is no doubt Charles and Victoria hoped a new location might reboot their marriage. It didn’t work. In 1997 the couple divorced. She accused him of sleeping with dozens of women, many while she was in rehab, while he commented, when reminded of his duty to stick by his wife through thick and thin, that she was “thin, and certainly thick.”
Spencer’s daughters clearly share their parents’ wild streak. Whether intentionally or not, they have developed an art for titillation in their social media personas. A recent shot of Lady Amelia, puckering up with her pal Lexi Ryman en route to a South African garden party, was par for the course.
Another picture on Ryman’s account (Spencer’s is private) shows the two pals cuddling up together on a garden lawn in Stellenbosch, South Africa’s moneyed wine-growing region, bare, bronzed legs carelessly entwined.
Amelia and Eliza are known in South Africa for their high-spirited antics, but the eldest, Lady Kitty, recently told Tatler, “My mother has been a counsellor for 15 years and she has really educated us all about addiction and self-worth. We’ve never really wanted to rebel because she’s always been so upfront and honest. We can tell her anything. And as a result, I’ve never even touched a cigarette.”
The Spencer estates, centered on the ancestral home of Althorp, where Diana is buried on an island to keep ghouls away, cover tens of thousands of acres of prime farmland across Northern England, but it has long been made clear that the empire will be going to Spencer’s son, Viscount Louis, 21.
While the girls will not be penniless—“I will tell you I am looking after all my children, when Louis gets this,” Spencer once said—anyone marrying a Spencer girl without a vast private fortune of their own would need their head examined.
They enjoy a millionaire lifestyle, are close friends with Prince Harry’s set, and hop around the world, jetting from Greek islands to the South of France to Bondi Beach with carefree abandon.
Lady Kitty is an ambassador for Give Us Time, a charity that matches soldiers in need of a family holiday with timeshares and holiday homes owned by British families, but does not have anything as tedious as a full time job.
She appears to informally promote several brands on her social media pages.
Her sisters are finishing university degrees in South Africa.
But the tiresome question of what the Spencer girls intend to do with all their wealth and fame for now remains unanswered.