The inside story of Lady Kitty Spencer's age-gap marriage – and her absent father
If you happened to be looking at Earl Spencer’s Twitter feed on Monday, you might be left with the impression that he had little of note going on in his life right now.
His most recent post, last Friday, was a thank you to a reader who had bought his latest book, and the day before he was tweeting pictures of the moon taken from his Althorp estate.
There was no mention of the spectacular three-day wedding of his eldest daughter, Lady Kitty Spencer, who had chosen to marry more than 1,000 miles away, in Rome, rather than at her ancestral home.
For reasons which the family has chosen not to explain, Earl Spencer was not present at the wedding at which Lady Kitty, 30, married a man five years older than him and at least as wealthy.
Rather than being walked down the aisle by her father, Lady Kitty was given away by the Earl’s son Louis, 27, another of the seven children he has fathered from three marriages, and her half-brother Samuel, 18, her mother’s son from her second marriage.
Nor did she wear the Spencer tiara, most famously worn by her aunt Diana, Princess of Wales for her wedding in 1981, and also by her mother Victoria when she wed the Earl eight years later.
But then nothing in Lady Kitty’s life has followed convention, from her early childhood through to her choice of husband in 62-year-old businessman Michael Lewis.
And while we can only speculate on whether the Earl has any reservations about his daughter marrying someone older than himself, it should come as no surprise if Lady Kitty is craving the sort of stability that Mr Lewis can give her.
At the very least, Lady Kitty, like all products of unhappy marriages, will be desperate to avoid the mistakes made by her parents, and in Mr Lewis she appears to have found a man who will show her the sort of devotion that Earl Spencer has struggled to achieve with some of his own partners.
In the space of a few months before her seventh birthday, Lady Kitty had seen her parents go through the ugliest of divorces and she had lost her aunt Diana.
Her mother Victoria claimed the Earl was a philanderer who had repeatedly cheated on her while she was in an addiction clinic overcoming alcohol and drug problems and an eating disorder, which the Earl denies.
If reports are true, then he certainly appeared to show contempt for Victoria on one occasion though. At a party, when he was reminded of his late father's advice that he should stick with Victoria through “thick and thin”, Spencer is said to have joked to guests that his wife was “thin, and certainly thick”.
Following the divorce he moved back to England from the family home in South Africa, leaving Lady Kitty and her siblings to be brought up largely by their mother. Lady Kitty attended both private school and university in Cape Town, and from the age of eight shuttled between hemispheres on an 11-hour flight whenever it was her father’s turn to look after her.
The Earl’s behaviour towards his second wife Caroline Freud (ex-wife of PR mogul Matthew) also caused upset within the family. He married Caroline when Lady Kitty was 11, but six years and two children later, he left her for a glamorous American reporter, then asked her to move out of the marital home in London.
After two more failed relationships, the Earl married his current wife, Karen, a Canadian philanthropist with whom he has an eight-year-old daughter.
Lady Kitty rarely gives interviews, but in March 2019, when she was already seeing Mr Lewis, she gave an insight into what she looked for in a man.
She said: “I’ve been really lucky. I’ve always had really lovely, straightforward boyfriends.
“Whenever anything exciting happens in my life, or sad, the serious boyfriends I’ve had will be the first to get in touch and the first to be supportive. I don’t see the appeal of going for anyone who’s too complicated or not trustworthy. I just like people who are kind.”
Those straightforward boyfriends include property developer Niccoló Barattieri di San Pietro, who was 20 years her senior.
At the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex Lady Kitty and her full siblings stayed in lockstep with their mother, to whom all of them remain close. Lady Kitty has praised her mother, who now works as a counsellor after beating her own addictions, for teaching her children about self-worth, saying: “We’ve never really wanted to rebel because she’s always been so upfront and honest. We can tell her anything.”
Earlier this year she said that “for me, love is the most important thing in the world” and while she refuses to discuss her relationship with Mr Lewis she said her greatest desire was to have: “A really happy home life – a happy marriage and happy children.” She is, as of Saturday, a step-mother to Mr Lewis’s three children from a previous marriage, all of whom are reportedly older than her.
By the time of her father’s third marriage, Lady Kitty was 20 and determined to find her own path in life.
After graduating (from the university where her future husband Mr Lewis had taken his degree before she was born), she studied art history and Italian in Florence and completed a master’s degree in luxury brand management in London, before following her mother Victoria into the world of modelling (mother and daughter appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar when Kitty was a baby).
It was through mutual support for charities championed by the former defence secretary Liam Fox that she met Mr Lewis, whose friends describe him as “humble and low key” despite his huge wealth, reported to be around £80 million.
Mr Lewis is the grandson of a Latvian Jewish couple who fled from the Nazis in the Thirties and set up a successful furniture company in South Africa. Mr Lewis’s father Stanley used the family wealth to buy a controlling interest in the South African fashion firm Foschini Group, which under Mr Lewis’s chairmanship has bought brands including Hobbs, Whistles and Phase Eight.
Among dozens of guests at the wedding in a 17th century castle were her twin sisters Eliza and Amelia, as well as friend and fellow model Emma Weymouth, Marchioness of Bath, the singer Pixie Lott and Idris Elba’s wife Sabrina.
The Earl recently suffered a shoulder injury that may, along with any concerns about Covid, have kept him away from the ceremony, but Lady Kitty’s mother Victoria was in attendance. Earl Spencer’s representatives did not respond to questions about his absence.
Lady Kitty and Mr Lewis, who married his first wife five years before Lady Kitty was born, live in a £19 million London home, but she did not need to rely on his wealth for her breathtaking wedding trousseau; as a brand ambassador for Dolce & Gabbana (as well as for the fashion house Bulgari) she spent six months working with them to create a set of designs that have brought her friends Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana the sort of publicity even they cannot buy.
And in return, Dolce & Gabbana gave her a set of five dresses so spectacular that it was fashion, not families, that was the main topic of conversation at this weekend’s happy occasion.
Reference: The Telegraph ;Gordon Rayner