So in 1973 when John embarked on an affair with married London socialite Raine McCorquodale, Diana bitterly resented that her father’s attention was being taken by the new woman in his life.
The Spencer children did not take to the colourful, larger-than-life Raine. By the time John and Raine married in July 1976, Diana and her siblings had nicknamed their stepmother “Acid Raine” and would sing to her, “Raine, Raine, go away”.
In the documentary Princess Diana’s “Wicked” Stepmother, royal watcher Ingrid Seward claimed, “All the Spencer children behaved very badly to Raine, it wasn’t just Diana. They were purposely ganging up on her.”
With Raine settling in to Althorp, she soon began refurbishing the house to her own taste, selling family heirlooms to pay for the remodelling. The Spencer children were livid as they watched favourite items vanish!
In 1981 as Diana was launched on the world stage when she married Prince Charles, she was determined to have revenge. While Diana insisted her mother Frances be seated at the front of St Paul’s Cathedral, she had Raine relegated to the back rows.
The feud reached what was a disturbing crescendo in 1989 at a Spencer gathering, when Diana became enraged by what she deemed was Raine not paying enough attention to Frances.
“I took it upon myself to air everyone’s grievances in my family,” she is cited in the book Diana by Sarah Bradford. “I said everything I possibly could… ‘I hate you so much, if only you knew how much we all hated you’.”
The altercation then became violent. “It all happened on the top of the saloon stairs,” Sue Howe, Raine’s personal assistant, claimed.
“She [Diana] pushed her and Raine fell down the stairs. She was badly bruised and was dreadfully upset. It was not justified at all. It was a cruel, heartless thing to do.”
When John died in 1992, despite his express instructions that Raine be allowed to stay on for six months, Diana and her brother Charles wanted her out of the family home immediately, and personally oversaw what Raine was allowed to take.
In an act of humiliation, Raine’s clothes were bundled into plastic garbage bags and thrown out onto the drive.
“That woman is ex – she is no longer my stepmother,” the late princess is quoted in the biography Diana: Closely Guarded Secret.
But then, only a few years later in 1997, something neither woman ever expected happened – they reconciled. After years of bitterness and hostility, the past was finally forgiven as a close friendship blossomed.
It came after Diana’s divorce, and when she had also become estranged from her mother and brother.
Diana made the first move, unexpectedly inviting Raine to lunch at Kensington Palace.
“Diana said to Raine, ‘I have to thank you. I know you loved my father deeply and I have to be grateful for all the love and years of happiness you gave him,” Peter Constandinos, Raine’s former hairdresser, recalled. “They then just ran together, hugging and crying.”
Paul Burrell, Diana’s butler, has a different take on her motives. “Diana fully knew the Spencer family would not be happy,” he says.
He further alleged in the New York Post the princess would arrange for newspaper photographers to get shots of her hugging Raine in public, to spite her mother.
Whatever her motives, Raine became one of Diana’s closest confidantes. A very distressed Raine arrived alone at the royal’s 1997 funeral.
At the 2007 inquest into Diana’s death, Raine was called as a witness. “[Diana] always said I had no hidden agenda,” she said.
“So many people, because she was so popular and so world famous, wanted something out of her. It was a very draining life.”
Those final years of her relationship with her stepdaughter changed her place in Diana’s story. Raine, who died in 2016 at 87, may not have been so wicked after all…