Season 4 of The Crown is finally upon us, and not a moment too soon. The much-anticipated new season delves headfirst into the gloriously drama-packed 1980s, during which Lady Diana Spencer made the fateful decision to marry Prince Charles. But as the season's first episode depicts, Charles only met Diana because he was dating her older sister, Lady Sarah Spencer.
Here's everything you need to know about the real Sarah Spencer.
Who is Lady Sarah Spencer?
Sarah is the eldest child of John Spencer and Frances Shand Kydd, and one of Princess Diana’s two older sisters—the other is Lady Jane Fellowes. Sarah was born in 1955 and is six years older than Diana; Jane is five years older than her late sister. They also have two younger brothers: John died 10 hours after birth, in 1960, while Charles was born May 20, 1964.
The Spencers are an aristocratic family with close ties to the royals; both of Diana and Sarah's grandmothers—Countess Cynthia Spencer and Ruth Roche, Baroness Fermoy—served as ladies-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Diana, Sarah, and their siblings all grew up in the same circles as Prince Charles and his brothers and sister.
Did Sarah and Charles really date?
YUP. Just like last season’s absolutely wild Charles/Camilla/Anne/Andrew love triangle, this is yet another example of strange-but-true royal romantic drama. At 28, Charles dated 22-year-old Sarah for a while in 1977, and they went on at least one fancy vacation together—to Swiss ski resort Klosters. But the relationship crashed and burned after Sarah gave a “disarmingly frank” interview to a magazine in which she admitted she just wasn’t that into Charles. “Charles makes me laugh a lot. I really enjoy being with him,” she said in this truly brutal interview. “But there is no chance of my marrying him. I’m not in love with him. And I wouldn’t marry anyone I didn’t love, whether he were the dustman or the King of England.” Welp.
But it’s not all bad news. At some point during her relationship with Charles, Sarah introduced him to her younger sister, Diana. In 1981, when Charles and Diana became engaged, Sarah gleefully noted: “I introduced them. I'm Cupid.”
Where is Sarah Spencer now?
Sarah married Neil Edmund McCorquodale in 1980, at which point she became Lady Sarah McCorquodale. Her new husband didn’t have a title, so she retained her own while also taking his surname.
As aunt to Prince William and Prince Harry, Lady Sarah has attended a number of significant royal events in recent years, including the wedding of William to Kate Middleton in 2011, and Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle in 2019. She was listed on the official birth announcement for Harry and Meghan’s son, Archie, which read: “The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Lady Jane Fellowes, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, and Earl Spencer were informed and delighted with the news of Archie’s birth.”
For many years, Lady Sarah was president of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, an independent charity established shortly after Diana’s death in 1997. The foundation continued Diana’s humanitarian work, and closed in 2012 after raising more than £100 million for charities across the U.K. and the world.
Who plays Sarah Spencer in The Crown?
In The Crown season 4, episode 1, “Gold Stick,” Sarah is played by actress Isobel Eadie. She’s a relative newcomer you likely haven’t seen onscreen before, but after this small-but-juicy breakout role, that may well change.