Despite well-documented tensions with the Windsors, Prince Harry has remained close to his mother’s family, the Spencers, and in particular to Diana’s sister, Lady Jane Fellowes.
Lady Jane, the middle of the three sisters, four years older than Diana, has long been seen as a confidante and a steadying influence in his life.
Harry invited Lady Jane, 66, to give a reading at his wedding to Meghan Markle in 2018 and she was one of the first family members to be invited to meet their infant son Archie – even before Prince William.
With elder sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale, 67, she was a guest at Archie’s christening in the Private Chapel at Windsor Castle in July 2019.
In another nod to his close relationship with his mother’s family, Harry gave ‘stand out thanks’ to Lady Jane, Sarah and their brother Earl Spencer at the end of his tell-all memoir Spare, while failing to mention his grandmother the late Queen, King Charles or his brother the Prince of Wales.
Lady Jane Fellowes at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The middle of the Spencer sisters, Lady Jane was close to Diana and has a warm relationship with Harry today
Lady Jane, 66, gave readings at Diana’s funeral and, here, at Prince Harry’s 2018 wedding
It was left to Lady Jane to break the news of Diana’s death to her siblings. Afterwards she travelled to Paris with sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale (left) and Prince Charles. Pictured here leaving Pitié-Salpêtrière University Hospital in Paris, September 1997
Lady Jane was regarded as the most academically gifted of the Spencers and is said to have got a ‘hatful’ of O and A Levels at West Heath boarding school in Sevenoaks, Kent, where she was a prefect.
However, rather than go to university, she decided to get married at 21 to Robert Fellowes – later Baron Fellowes – who was assistant private secretary to The Queen and a first cousin of Ronald Ferguson, the father of Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York.
Princess Diana was a bridesmaid at their wedding at Westminster Abbey, 45 years ago, on 20 April 1978.
The couple went on to have three children, Laura – who is godmother to Princess Charlotte – Alexander and Eleanor.
Lord Fellowes’s closeness to The Queen led to rumours of a rift between Lady Jane and Princess Diana as her marriage to Charles broke apart.
Sir Robert (now Baron) Fellowes marries Lady Jane Spencer at the Guard’s Chapel, Wellington Barracks. Her younger sister, Lady Diana Spencer (centre right) is a bridesmaid
Lady Jane (right) pictured in happier times with sisters Sarah McCorquodale (left) and Diana
Lady Jane and her sister, Diana, Princess of Wales seen at Wimbledon in July 1984
Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell later claimed the sisters hadn’t spoken ‘in a number of years’ before Diana died, adding that the strain had been put in place because of Lord Fellowes role as the Queen’s secretary.
However, other Palace insiders have denied any difficulty, pointing out that she and Princess Diana were neighbours in Kensington Palace. Diana lived with William and Harry in numbers eight and nine, while Lady Jane lived lived nearby in a house called the Old Barracks.
After Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997, Lady Jane, along with her Lady Sarah, accompanied Prince Charles to bring her body back to the UK.
Heartbreaking photos showed Lady Jane leaving the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital where Diana was pronounced dead, visibly upset.
In 2017, Sarah and her brother Charles, Earl Spencer, opened up about the tragedy in the BBC documentary, Diana 7 Days and explained that Lady Jane was given the task of calling them and breaking the news.
As the closest sibling to Diana, Lady Jane made sure that she maintained her close relationship with her grieving nephews after her sister’s death. She is said to be particularly close to Harry.
Charles Spencer, Princess Diana, then Prince Charles, Lady Jane Fellowes and Lady Sarah McCorquodale in 1985
The Spencer family tree
Lady Jane maintains a close relationship with nephew Harry and was one of the first to meet his son Archie. Pictured here with Earl Spencer (right) at the unveiling of Diana’s statue in 2021
Prior to his wedding, the Prince made sure he introduced his fiancée Meghan to both his mother’s sisters and followed up by making a point of saying during an interview to mark his engagement how important both Lady Jane and Sarah were to him.
It is clear he made his feelings plain to Meghan, who said before their wedding: ‘I think in being able to meet his aunts, I’m able to, in some way, know a part of her (Diana) through them and of course through him. And it’s – it’s incredibly special.’
At the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, in 2018 she gave a reading from the Song of Solomon in tribute to Diana.
Two decades earlier, she had spoken at the funeral of her sister Diana.
Another sign of the esteem in which Harry holds his aunts came in the official announcement of Archie’s birth, which noted how, alongside the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Lady Jane Fellowes, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Earl Spencer were ‘delighted’ by the news.