We’ll soon be treated to a sale of the effects of the late Raine Spencer, onetime Countess Spencer, and step grandmother of the future King of England. I have to say, it took me about ten minutes to determine a proper form of address, as she had been married three times- widowed once and divorced two times- from men of title. In her later life, despite having been widowed for 25 years from the 8th Earl Spencer and subsequently remarried and divorced, she did, against custom, and against decorum, revert to her earlier title.
Her shall we say unorthodox adult life was preceded by one steeped in tradition, coming out and being deb of the year in 1948, but she was, after all the daughter of the queen of questionable taste, the romance novelist Barbara Cartland. In her later life, it was hard to tell Dame Barbara from Dame Edna Everage, and one wonders whether Dame Edna was fashioned after the former. Actually, one could tell them apart- Dame Edna was always a bit more restrained.
Interestingly, despite several marriages and high profile tiffs with her stepchildren- the Spencer children most notably dubbed her ‘Acid Raine’- she was nevertheless counted as friendly and gracious to those who met her and this friendly demeanour carried her through a long Tory political avocation.
Looking at the later Raine Spencer, one has to note the huge hair, a political headdress, it seems, that marked British women of influence including Mrs Thatcher and Pamela Harriman. What it was these women were trying to communicate wearing a coif that could only be wrought with five cubic metres of VO5 one can only imagine.
But, then, certainly in the case of Raine Spencer, her objective was one always of garnering attention. Witness her efforts in the redecoration of Althorp following her marriage to Johnnie Spencer. She certainly didn’t spare the gold leaf to achieve effects that doubtless had John Fowler spinning in his grave.
Still and all, one can’t help feeling wistful that with the passing of Raine Spencer there evaporates an era, with a woman who like so many of her now nearly vanished tribe felt she could do no wrong, that, in fact, the rules of polite society, though rigorously acknowledged, nevertheless felt unobliged to follow.
The presentation courts didn’t long survive Raine Spencer’s coming out, with the last held in the London season of 1958. While there are no shortage of contemporary party girls, I must say, the misbehavior of someone having been presented and given the royal nod seems all the more delightful to a salacious, albeit nostalgic, old party like me. Good on her.