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Princess Diana tapes: Part 3

Princess Diana became particularly animated when talking about Countess Raine Spencer, the stepmother she despised, the woman she thought stole her precious father away.
/ Source: NBC News

Diana Spencer spent much of her life in a rarefied world of aristocrats and royals. But for a brief time before she married, her world was busy, noisy London. She loved this place, so far removed from the pain of her childhood. As she revealed in her conversations with Peter Settelen, that pain never really left her, and was driving her search for love and acceptance in her life as a princess.

The 1987 death of Diana's bodyguard, whom she loved so deeply, left her feeling vulnerable and exposed. And the comfort wouldn't come from her husband, Prince Charles, who had all but deserted her for Camilla Parker Bowles. Now six years into their marriage, Diana yearned for intimacy. She found companionship, with various lovers and of course, she had the two boys she cherished. Still, she felt more alone than ever in her empty and sterile palace home. As Peter Settelen saw it, the emptiness she felt echoed the loneliest moments of her childhood. 

Settelen took her back to her life as a young teenager. The more she spoke, the more Settelen sensed her fear of abandonment and her desperate need for her father's love. Settelen told Diana that confronting her past was the first step toward becoming a self-assured and independent woman.

As she took him through her teenage years, Diana became particularly animated when talking about Countess Raine Spencer, the stepmother she despised, the woman she thought stole her precious father away. After Raine moved in, Diana's older sisters moved away, leaving 13-year old Diana and her younger brother Charles to deal with the tension alone on their weekends home from boarding school.

Settelen: “So you kind of were entrapped weekends.”
Princess Diana: “Yeah, we were. And I kept thinking and I kept saying to Charles when we're 16 and when we're 18, we'll be able to have our own lives. That's all I could think about. Our own choices.”

The wicked stepmother, as she became known was nicknamed by her stepchildren "Acid Raine." And Raine further antagonized Diana, her brother, and sisters by taking control of the Spencer family estate. 

Andrew Morton: “There's a huge transformation at Althorp House. Many possessions were sold off, much to the anger of Charles Spencer and Diana, who felt that she was selling off the Spencer heritage, built above a number of centuries. She was selling silverware, and paintings, and other object d'art at 'knock-down' prices, just to raise money.”

Princess Diana: “She's a bully and she just didn't know how to treat individuals.”

Open warfare raged between the Spencer children and Raine, with Earl Spencer caught in the middle. In 1978 he suffered a stroke.

Princess Diana: “They say, the experts, they say the stroke was brought on by the tension between the four children and a step-mother, which is very true I'm sure.”

At the hospital Diana says Raine guarded him fiercely through his recuperation, even from his own children.

Princess Diana: “She wouldn't let us see him for about 16 weeks in the hospital.”

Ten more years of animosity followed and finally, Diana was ready for a showdown. It took place in 1989, on the weekend of her brother Charles' wedding, an event attended by Diana's father, her stepmother and her estranged mother, Frances.

Princess Diana: “And my father and stepmother refused to even say hello to my mother. And it got me so angry, the behavior of these grown-ups, that I ploughed in and screamed at both my stepmother and my father. I said it was very bad manners. They were just indulging themselves. And this was Charles' day and Victoria's. Do we have to live in the past every time Mummy walks in the house?”

Knowing her mother was deeply hurt, Diana decided to finally unleash the anger she'd held in check since her teenage years. Diana, the Princess of Wales, on deck to be Queen of England, one of the most elegant women in the world, was actually about to get physical.

Princess Diana: “And my stepmother and I up having this row. And I pushed her down the stairs, Which gave me enormous satisfaction. My father didn't speak to me for six months. I had to go back and say, you know, I love you Daddy, etc., etc., so it was all very difficult, that… I was so angry. I wanted to throttle that step-mother of mine because she brought such grief. She kept saying to me, ‘Oh, but Diana, you're so unhappy in your own marriage you're just jealous of daddy's and my relationship.’ And jealousy was not high on the agenda. It was behavior I was after. She said, ‘You don't know how much we've suffered because of Frances.’ I said, ‘Suffering, Raine? You don't know the word. I see suffering of such magnitude in my role that you would never even understand.’ I really spat it out at her." 
Settelen: “Now how did you spit it out?”
Princess Diana: “I just said, ‘We've always hated you. You've ruined our family life. You've done a great job there, Raine? Great job. Made us really unhappy. I hope you're pleased about that.’”

Morton: “That sense spilled over after Earl Spencer died in 1992. She, Diana and Charles Spencer were instrumental in just throwing Raine's clothes out of Althorpe, or taking them out of the back of Althorpe in plastic bin bags. 

Princess Diana: “She just--very dismissive--Oh Diana, you're so thick, she kept saying, You're so silly. I said I know, but I've got a lot of other things you, you've never found out. She will one day.”

Diana did more than unburden herself -- she gave Settelen glimpses of her real strength. He knew she could use it to make a powerful statement, on stage and in life. The Princess realized her strength, too, so much so that she made a surprising decision just months after talking with Settelen. After all the years of turmoil, she decided to extend an olive branch to Raine Spencer.

Morton: “They had this very emotional lunch at Kensington Palace, where Diana said; I want to thank you for looking after Daddy. That's to say, Earl Spencer. And they embraced, and Diana cried. And there developed, over time, a very close friendship between Raine Spencer and Diana.”

The conversation between Diana and Peter Settelen had been extremely productive. Now, it was time to get to work. Diana was ready to transform herself from retiring royal spouse to formidable public figure.