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Did Princess Diana Really Marry Prince Charles Because of Her Father?

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Who Was Princess Diana's Father John Spencer?Anwar Hussein - Getty Images

In episode one of season 6 of The Crown, Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) and Dodi Al Fayed (Khalid Abdalla) are discussing their complicated relationships with their fathers, John Spencer and Mohamed Al Fayed, respectively.

"You're lucky to have a father who cares," Debicki's Diana tells Abdalla's Dodi. "Mine barely noticed if I was coming or going. I went out of my way to get his attention. Galumphing around, pretending to be a ballerina. He barely looked up. So desperate to make an impression, I learnt piano just for him. I wrote to him every week from boarding school. I ironed his shirts. I baked him cakes. Even married the Prince of Wales. Anything to make him notice me, be proud of me. And to think, our fathers were such good friends. Maybe they could have rubbed off on each other a little bit—could've used a bit of your father's care and concern."

What was Princess Diana's relationship really like with her father, John Spencer? Was he really friends with Mohamed Al Fayed? Here's everything you need to know about Princess Diana's dad:

1. He was an aristocrat.

Born in 1924 to Albert Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer and Lady Cynthia Hamilton, John Spencer was styled Viscount Althorp upon his birth.

John Spencer was raised in close proximity to the royal family; his godfather was King Edward VIII (also known as the Duke of Windsor), and he attended Eton, and Sandhurst. In 1975, upon the death of his father, Albert Spencer, he became the 8th Earl Spencer. (Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, is now the 9th Earl Spencer.)

2. He had five children.

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The wedding of Viscount Althorp and the Hon Frances Roche at Westminster Abbey, June 1, 1954.Terry Disney - Getty Images

In 1954, he married Frances Ruth Roche at Westminster Abbey with Queen Elizabeth and other royals in attendance. Frances and John had five children: Sarah, b. 1955, Jane, b. 1957, John (who died 10 hours after his birth), Diana, b. 1961, and Charles, b. 1964. "He was a gentle, kind, man without any pretentiousness," Charles Spencer, Diana's brother, posted on X (formerly Twitter) in 2018. "He was a loving father, and a man who enjoyed meeting people of every background. He treated everyone with great respect."

3. He was an equerry.

After World War II, he was an aide-de-camp to the governor of South Australia, before becoming an equerry to King George VI (from 1950 until his death in 1952) and then as an equerry to Queen Elizabeth II from 1952 to 1954.

4. He remarried in 1976 to Raine McCorquodale.

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Earl Spencer and his wife Raine in front of their home at Althorp House.Tim Graham - Getty Images

Frances and John divorced in 1969, and soon after Frances remarried Peter Shand Kydd.

John got custody of their children, though Sarah and Jane were already at boarding school. Charles and Diana lived at Althorp House with their father, beginning in 1975. "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 told The Sunday Times. "Our father was a quiet and constant source of love, but our mother wasn't cut out for maternity. Not her fault, she couldn't do it. She was in love with someone else — infatuated, really."

In 1975, John married Raine, Countess of Dartmouth; Diana reportedly had a bad relationship with her stepmother.

5. He walked his daughter down the aisle at her royal wedding.

prince charles marries lady diana spencer
Lady Diana Spencer enters St. Paul’s Cathedral on the hand of her father, Earl Spencer, July 29, 1981.Anwar Hussein - Getty Images

"There are times I wish she was marrying an ordinary chap, so I could have her and my son-in-law living here with me in the park," he said after news of his engagement.

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Queen Elizabeth II leaves St Paul’s Cathedral in a carriage with John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, after the wedding of Charles and Diana.Princess Diana Archive - Getty Images

John passed away in 1992 at age 68.

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