Earl Spencer reveals ‘immensely sad’ divorce from wife Karen Spencer after 13 years


Charles Spencer, the younger brother of the late Princess Diana, is divorcing his wife Karen Gordon after 13 years of marriage.

The 9th Earl Spencer announced his split from the Countess of Spencer to the Mail on Sunday on June 8. According to the outlet, their relationship became strained by the writing of his memoir, in which he revealed he was physically and sexually abused as a student at an elite boarding school.

“It is immensely sad,” Spencer told the Mail on Sunday. “I just want to devote myself to all my children, and to my grandchildren, and I wish Karen every happiness in the future.”

The couple reportedly announced their divorce to staff at Althorp House, the Spencer family estate and Princess Diana’s childhood home in Northamptonshire, England, in March.

Spencer married Gordon, a Canadian philanthropist, in June 2011 after meeting on a blind date at a Los Angeles restaurant the previous year. They were married on the grounds of Althorp House, where Princess Diana is buried.

Gordon is the founder of Whole Child International, a US-based non-governmental organization that works to improve the quality of care for vulnerable children. She was previously married to Mark Gordon – a Hollywood producer whose films and TV credits include Saving Private Ryan, Speed, Grey’s Anatomy, and Criminal Minds – from 1997 to 2003. Gorden shares two daughters with her first husband, as well as 12-year-old daughter Charlotte Diana with Spencer.

Meanwhile, Spencer has four children with his first wife, Victoria Lockwood, and two children with his second wife, Caroline Freud.

Earl Charles Spencer and wife Karen Spencer attend royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel in Windsor, UK, on May 19, 2018
Earl Charles Spencer and wife Karen Spencer attend royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel in Windsor, UK, on May 19, 2018 (AFP via Getty Images)

The Mail on Sunday reported that the 60-year-old royal has “recently become close” to Norwegian archaeologist Cat Jarman. Along with Reverend Richard Coles, Jarman and Spencer co-host the history podcast, The Rabbit Hole Detectives. Friends told the outlet that the pair “look very happy together” but “it is early days.”

In his memoir released in March, titled A Very Private School, Spencer opened up about the physical and sexual abuse he was subjected to in the 1970s. As a boy at Maidwell Hall – one of Britain’s top independent schools for children aged four to 13 – Spencer was allegedly abused by a female assistant matron, an experience he recalled as “incredibly traumatizing”.

Spencer, who joined the school when he was eight, said he was inflicted with beatings to the point of drawing blood and witnessed punishments including “cutting buttocks [of young children] several times with a cane and carrying on”.

Other former students he interviewed revealed that they had been raped multiple times at the school, while some had lost their siblings to “self-neglect”. One terminally ill man stipulated a refusal to see his parents in his living will, as he could not forgive them for his experience.

“It killed a part of me; it killed the gentler part of me. For us to survive in that environment, a small but important part of us had to die. I think that is the essence of it,” Spencer told The Times in March. “Sensitivity, empathy, those sort of things must suffer, because otherwise it’s too raw. You can choose to make the most of it, which I think is admirable if you can do it, but the damage is still inside.”

Maidwell Hall School told The Independent in a statement: “It is sobering to read about the experiences Charles Spencer, and some of his fellow alumni, had at the school, and we are sorry that was their experience. It is difficult to read about practices which were, sadly, sometimes believed to be normal and acceptable at that time. Within education today, almost every facet of school life has evolved significantly since the 1970s. At the heart of the changes is the safeguarding of children, and promotion of their welfare.

“We have been dismayed to read about the allegations of the abuse Charles Spencer suffered by an assistant matron in the 1970s. Although we have not directly received any claims from ex-pupils, considering what has been reported, the school has followed the statutory process and made a referral to the LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer). We would encourage anyone with similar experiences to come forward and contact either Maidwell Hall, the LADO or the police.”

Elsewhere in his memoir, Spencer reflected on his previous divorces and revealed that he sought professional help to understand his relationship patterns. “When looking at the wreckage of my first and second marriages, I learned early in therapy that being sent away to boarding school at eight years of age meant that I had next to no understanding of intimacy,” he wrote, per an excerpt obtained by People.

In an interview with the outlet, Spencer praised his wife Karen for supporting him during the difficult process of writing his book.

“Karen has been supportive,” he told People. “I think it was very challenging for her to have a husband going through what was essentially four and a half years of the most profound therapy with very difficult undertones to it. And she supported the idea of me doing it.”

“I think she always hoped I would come out happier and healthier,” Spencer continued. “And that seems to be the case very much. So, I’m grateful to have her standing by me while I went through this, what I now realize was an essential process.”



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