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Charles Spencer's wife Karen and her engagement ring

Charles Spencer's estranged wife Karen's engagement ring that belonged to Princess Diana's relatives

Princess Diana's brother and the charity founder were married from 2011 to 2024

Nichola Murphy
Deputy Lifestyle Editor
June 10, 2024
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Princess Diana's brother Charles, 9th Earl Spencer announced his split from his third wife Karen Gordon in June 2024, 12 years after he proposed with a sentimental family heirloom.

The couple posed in the 13,000-acre garden of Althorp House, Charles' ancestral home in Northamptonshire, to announce their news in February 2011. Dressed in a chic white shirt, Karen leant back and rested against her new fiancé, but she failed to reveal a close-up look at her ring and the sweet backstory until years later. 

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On the tenth anniversary of their engagement, the founder of Whole Child charity showed off her trilogy diamond ring, which previously belonged to Charles' great-grandmother, Countess Margaret Spencer.

Margaret was gifted the ring on her wedding day with 6th Earl Spencer back in 1855, making the rock over 150 years old.

aerial photograph of althorp house home to charles spencer
Charles and Karen got married at Althorp

"A very happy day today. February 5th 10 years ago Charles and I got engaged. This is the photo we released shortly after. Best decision ever. In all my digging around in the historic books we have here about the contents of the house I have learned that my ring was originally given to Charles’ great-grandmother Margaret on her wedding day by her sister-in-law, Sarah Spencer. 

"Charles and I have experienced a number of interesting connections with the 6th Earl and Margaret. They happened to have gotten engaged on June 18th, the day we were married," Karen wrote.

The former couple have not revealed whether Karen will keep the ring, or if it will be returned to the Spencer family's jewellery collection.

Love story

Earl Charles Spencer and Countess Karen Spencer attend the wedding of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel, Windsor © Max Mumby/Indigo
The 9th Earl Spencer and the Countess were dating for less than a year before he proposed

The couple were set up on a date by one of his former colleagues in Los Angeles in 2010, and he proposed within the first year of their relationship.

Charles and Karen got married at Althorp House in June 2011, four months after the A Very Private School author popped the question. Rare wedding photos show the bride looking radiant in a white fitted lace dress holding a bouquet of white flowers, while Charles was dapper in a navy pinstripe suit.

One year after their wedding – which Charles' nephews Prince William and Prince Harry were unable to attend – they welcomed their daughter Charlotte.

Earl Charles Spencer with his son Louis (left) and wife Karen in 2012© Max Mumby/Indigo
The couple welcomed their daughter Charlotte in 2012

However, they decided to go their separate ways in 2024 after 12 years of marriage. Charles announced the "immensely sad" news of his divorce from his third wife with the Mail On Sunday, adding: "I just want to devote myself to all my children, and to my grandchildren, and I wish Karen every happiness in the future." 

Previous relationships

charles spencer wedding day victoria lockwood© Getty
Charles married his first wife Victoria in 1989

It marked Charles' third marriage and Karen's second. Charles proposed to Victoria Aitken after just six weeks of dating and they tied the knot in 1989. They welcomed four children: Lady Kitty Spencer, twins Eliza and Amelia Spencer and Louis Spencer, Viscount Althorp, before they split in 1997.

In 2001, Charles tied the knot with Caroline Freud and during their six-year marriage, they had two children together, Edmund and Lara.

charles spencer ex wife caroline
Charles and Caroline were married for six years

Meanwhile, Karen is the mother of Emma and Kate from her previous marriage with Mark Gordon from 1997 to 2003.

When The Sunday Times quizzed Karen on being Charles' third wife, she had a very positive outlook on their relationship, stating that his previous marriages had made him "motivated" to work on himself.

"I've been a first wife and a third and - trust me on this - you really want to be the third because men are so motivated at this point. They are really, really paying attention. The most appealing thing about Charles for me was how willing he was to work on himself, and continue to do so. We both do."

READ: Celebrity men who wear engagement rings: Brooklyn Beckham, Ryan Reynolds, Ed Sheeran & more 

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