After three years,why is there no headstone for Diana’s stepmum?
SHE LED an extraordinary life, marrying two earls and a count — and, along the way, became stepmother to Diana, Princess of Wales. But, in death, the vivacious Raine, Countess Spencer (pictured, right, with Diana) is languishing in near anonymity.
Three years after she died aged 87, ‘Acid Raine’ — as she was bitterly dubbed by her stepson Charles Spencer — lacks a headstone on her grave.
Instead, her resting place in North Sheen cemetery, West London, is marked by a prosaic wooden cross — a year after Raine’s only daughter, Charlotte, assured me that the family was ‘in the process of commissioning the right stone’.
Alas, that process has ‘not been straightforward’, explains Charlotte’s brother, Henry, youngest of Raine’s four children by her first marriage to Gerald Legge, 9th Earl of Dartmouth.
But Henry, 50, a distinguished barrister, believes that a headstone worthy of his mother is finally in the offing.
‘I understand from my sister that we are now quite close to having a tangible product,’ he tells me, adding that the family wants something which does justice to Raine’s ‘interest in and knowledge of the visual arts’.
Charlotte declines to comment, but her husband, Old Etonian Alex Carcaci, the 13th Duke of Carcaci, confirms that progress is at last being made.
‘The person [working on the headstone] has a lot of things on. Everything’s been approved; he’s done all the samples and he’s going to make it when he can. It looks very good.’
A well-wisher has placed red roses on Raine’s grave. Rather poignantly, they are not real — but plastic. But perhaps Raine, who became Diana’s stepmother when she married Johnnie, 8th Earl Spencer, in 1976, wouldn’t have minded.
Despite her succession of titles, she always remembered that she was a McCorquodale — the only child of flamboyant novelist Barbara Cartland by her first husband, Alexander McCorquodale.
‘Who were the McCorquodales?’ Raine used to ask. ‘Printers from Manchester.’