There had long been speculation that a legitimate Prince Charles would end up marrying a Spencer girl – and it turned out to be true.
But Diana wasn’t his first look in that direction. Because before he got engaged to the future Princess of Wales, Charles dated her older sister, Lady Sarah.
Had that connection worked, the future might have been very different. But despite the great public interest in the possible game, it did not come to that.
And on May 17, 1980, she married Neil McCorquodale, a farmer and former officer in the Coldstream Guards, in Great Brington, Northamptonshire.
Lady Sarah Spencer’s wedding to Neil McCorquodale at St Mary’s Church Great Brington near Althorp on 17 May 1980
Princess Diana (second right) visits her old school in Sevenoaks with sisters Lady Sarah (far right) and Lady Jane (far left)
Before marrying Diana, Charles dated her older sister Lady Sarah from 1977
Lady Sarah and her husband opted for a modest wedding ceremony at the small St Mary’s Church near Althorp, the Spencer ancestral home, followed by a reception at the family estate.
On her wedding day, Lady Sarah, now 68, wore a high-necked lace gown paired with the Spencer family’s famous tiara and a classic bouquet of white flowers.
The Spencer tiara, manufactured by Garrards, has an intricate design of stylized flowers adorned with diamonds in silver settings.
Said to date from the 18th century, it was given to Diana’s grandmother Cynthia, Viscountess Althorp, in 1919 by a distant relative named Lady Sarah Spencer as a wedding gift.
While all three Spencer sisters wore the headdress on their wedding days, their mother, Frances Shand Kydd, did not wear it when she married into the Spencer family in 1954.
Although Princess Diana was not a bridesmaid at her eldest sister’s wedding, Princess Margaret’s daughter Lady Sarah Chatto was.
The couple is still married and has three children together: Emily Jane McCorquodale, Celia Rose McCorquodale and George Edmund McCorquodale.
Sarah and Neil enjoy a relatively peaceful life near Grantham, Lincolnshire, where she served for a year as Lincolnshire’s High Sheriff in 2009.
Sarah married Neil McCorquodale, a farmer and former officer in the Coldstream Guards
Lady Sarah with her husband Neil and children Emily (far right) and George for a memorial service commemorating Earl Spencer in 1992
Diana Princess of Wales, centre, with sisters Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes
However, it could have been a royal wedding day for Lady Sarah if she had played her cards differently. For a time in the late 1970s, she was the focus of speculation about Charles’ engagement plans.
Those rumors were abruptly ended in 1978 when she was on a ski trip with the prince in the Swiss resort of Klosters.
The redhead later told reporters it had been a “wonderful holiday but there’s no question of an engagement.”
Sarah, 22, said, “I have no chance of marrying him.” I’m not in love with him. And I wouldn’t marry anyone I didn’t love, be it the garbage man or the king of England.
‘If he asked me, I would refuse him. ‘I would only marry for love’
In fact, it was Lady Sarah who introduced Charles to her younger sister at Althorp House – the home of the Spencer family. And we know the rest.
In 1977, before marrying Diana Spencer, Charles dated her older sister, Lady Sarah. Before the 1981 wedding, Sarah said: “I introduced her. I am Cupid.’
While vacationing in the Swiss ski resort of Klosters, Lady Sarah Spencer has put a stop to the rumours, telling reporters it was a “wonderful vacation but no question of an engagement”.
It was Lady Sarah who introduced Charles to her younger sister, whom he married in 1981
Before Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981, Sarah said, ‘I introduced her.’ I’m Cupid.’
Later in her life, even after Diana and Charles’ marriage had ended, Lady Sarah often accompanied her sister on official visits as one of her ladies-in-waiting.
After Diana’s death, Lady Sarah became President of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund before it closed in 2012.
The 69-year-old and her other sister, Lady Jane Fellowes, 66, remain close to their nephews Prince William and Prince Harry.