why are they famous?

Raine Spencer
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Main Claim: Step-mum of Diana, Princess of Wales, queen of hearts. Daughter of Barbara Cartland, queen of lonely hearts. Social big-shot in her own right. And is now a director of Harrods, receiving big money from Mr Mohammed al Fayed - presumably not in a brown envelope - to promote the Knightsbridge-based megamart. Vulgar picnic stunt in Hyde Park duly took place last week for US shopping channel QVC.

Game old stick: Raine has taken to retail like a string of pearls to a Hartnell twinset. She has done eight-hour shifts at Harrod's duty-free shop in Heathrow, and in the Knightsbridge store in order to learn shop- floor etiquette. Can now wield perfume like Mace.

Appearance: Signature meringue hairdo, teased by the hot rollers of David and Josef of Mayfair. Blue twinsets, brooches and pearls. Powder-puff face crazed with fine lines like a piece of family Wedgwood.

Raine, Raine, go away: Her marriage to Earl "Johnnie" Spencer deeply annoyed his children, including Di, who hated "Acid Raine". However, they have had a recent rapprochement, based on sisterhood in divorce, and now do lunch together.

Once, twice, three times a countess: Since her birth into the shabby gentry as Raine McCorquodale in 1929, she has had no less than eight different names due to socially abseiling through three husbands and various titles. Currently the Comtesse, from her last marriage to French Count Jean-Francois de Chambrun, but for how much longer can this divorcee carry the Euro- handle? Left husband/title number one, Gerard Legge, Earl of Dartmouth, in 1976 to move in with gouty-looking Earl "Johnnie" Spencer. Indeed, she nursed Di's dad after his stroke until his death in 1992. The frog prince was next (1993), but what with debts and a mistress, the marriage ended after only 18 months. So much for the fairytale marriage, which Raine during engagement ickily called "Like something out of mummy's novels".

The Ladies' Room: As a member of the London County Council in the Sixties, she rigorously campaigned to improve the city's appalling public lavatories; the press dubbed her "Lady Loo".

National Distrust: Raine spent more than pounds 2 million doing up the Spencers' Northants seat Althorp in a style the younger Earl Spencer, Champagne Charlie Althorp, likened to the "wedding-cake vulgarity of a five-star hotel in Monaco". Many works of art and old fitments were sold, to be replaced with British Home Stores lamps and Dralon covers. She was to have given a similar treatment to the Count de Chambrun's chateau - after all, she did pay off a lot of the mortgage - but did not get the chance, perhaps fortunately. After all, this is the woman who wrote a book Are Historic Buildings Really Necessary? after her experience on GLC's Historic Buildings board.

The Future: Hinge, Bracket and Raine? Boy George recently suggested that Raine might become a gay icon. Perhaps this and the Harrods work will help to turn Raine into an aristo-camp caricature of doughty Brit womanhood. But her nonagenarian mother wishes her to marry again. "It would be awfully good to marry three earls and then marry three dukes as well," quoth she.

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