The truth about Princess Diana's tortured childhood

Fans of the royal family know all about Prince Charles' marriage to the late Princess Diana, as well as their sons' devotion to their mother in the years since her tragic 1997 death. But long before she was married to the heir apparent or mother to Prince William and Prince Harry, Princess Diana had a childhood that her younger brother has described as "agonizing."

"Diana and I had two older sisters who were away at school, so she and I were very much in it together and I did talk to her about it," Charles Spencer told the Sunday Times in an interview published on Sept. 13, 2020. "Our father was a quiet and constant source of love, but our mother wasn't cut out for maternity."

The siblings' father, John Spencer, was the eighth Earl Spencer and their mother Frances was his first wife. Based on Charles' statements, it sounds like the separation was hard on the young siblings. Here's what fans need to know about Princess Diana's childhood.

Princess Diana's mother was 'in love with someone else' besides her father

Royal watchers know that Prince Charles' relationship with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, predated his marriage to the late Princess Diana and that their friendship during the marriage caused a strain. But as Charles Spencer explained to the Sunday Times, his and Diana's parents also reportedly had a third person involved in their marriage.

"She was in love with someone else — infatuated, really," Diana's brother Charles told the Sunday Times of their mother. "While she was packing her stuff to leave, she promised Diana [then aged 5] she'd come back to see her. Diana used to wait on the doorstep for her, but she never came."

The Spencers divorced in 1969, 15 years after their wedding, Page Six explained. Frances married Peter Shand Kydd that same year, and John married Raine McCorquodale in 1976. The siblings didn't take to their stepmother right away, though, giving her the nickname "Acid Raine."

Princess Diana's brother said she 'mothered' him when they were younger

At the late Princess Diana's funeral in 1997, her younger brother, Charles Spencer, credited his sister with helping raise him. She "was the big sister who mothered me as a baby... and endured those long train journeys between our parents' homes with me at weekends," Charles said, according to Page Six.

Charles also told the Sunday Times that he's been "in and out of therapy for 20 years," with one topic of discussion during his sessions being his "unhappy childhood." "She could hear me crying down the corridor but was too scared of the dark to come to me," he told the Sunday Times of his late sister. "I don't blame anyone. It was ignorance rather than malice."

Still, it sounds like the two siblings were better off in each other's company. Diana and her brother Charles reportedly got into antics like throwing their nannies' clothes out of the windows.

Princess Diana's parents reportedly wanted a son and were disappointed at her birth

While John Spencer and Frances Roche went on to have a son in Princess Diana's younger brother Charles Spencer, royal watchers over the years have claimed that the Spencers were disappointed that Diana was a girl, as were their two eldest children, per the Sunday Post. (Diana had an older brother John, but he died 10 hours after he was born in 1960.)

As the reported account goes, the Spencers didn't name baby Diana for a week after her birth, presumably because of their disappointment that she was a girl. Eventually, they named the baby Diana Frances.

"Both parents were crazy to have a son and heir, and there comes a third daughter," Diana once said, according to the Sunday Post. Frances was reportedly sent to medical experts on London's Harley Street to see why she hadn't been successful in having sons. The supposed stress over the couple's lack of a son may have contributed to their marital struggles.

Princess Diana didn't enjoy boarding school

Princess Diana was sent to Riddlesworth Hall School in Norfolk, England when she was just 9. But she didn't have much interest in living away from home. "If you love me, you won't leave me here," 9-year-old Diana told her father, John Spencer, in 1970. (She still attended the school until she was 12.)

After leaving Riddlesworth, the future princess went to the West Health Girls' School in Kent when she was 12 and stayed there until she was 16. But according to reports, she wasn't the most invested student. Diana reportedly failed her O level exams twice and then attended a finishing school in Switzerland, Institut Alpin Videmanette, but she left that school after just one term.

While Princess Diana's family was privileged in many ways, it sounds like there was love missing from her and her brother's life. No amount of money or private school education can change that, but at least the two siblings had each other during their younger years.