Meet Louis Spencer: Prince ‘Harry lite’ and England’s most eligible man

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·7 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Louis Spencer (right) with his sister Lady Eliza Spencer and mother Victoria
Louis Spencer (right) with his sister Lady Eliza Spencer and mother Victoria

He has film-star good looks, has been hailed as Prince “Harry lite”, and has hung out with Nicki Minaj. Our hero is also nephew to one of the most famous women in the world, and set to inherit a 13,500-acre estate that has been in his family for 19 generations, a family arguably loftier than the Windsors. Despite this, no one – seasoned royal watchers included – appears to know much about Louis Spencer, Viscount Althorp. And that’s just the way this concertedly private young man wants it.

So who is Princess Diana’s 27-year-old nephew, and how did he become the latest symbol of a system that many see as a sexist anachronism requiring change?

Louis Spencer was born on March 14 1994, fourth child to Diana’s brother, Charles, 9th Earl Spencer, and his first wife Victoria Lockwood (Prince Harry was a page boy at their wedding). One reason for his below-the-radar presence was that young Louis was not brought up in Britain. Instead, a year after he was born, his parents moved Louis, oldest sister Kitty, and twins Eliza and Amelia to Cape Town, seeking privacy.

His mother remained there after the pair divorced, meaning that – instead of being educated at Eton or Harrow, until then traditional for Spencer heirs – Louis attended Diocesan College, known as “Bishops”, Cape Town’s most expensive private school. It was founded in 1849 on British educational principles, and is celebrated for its string of sporting alumni. Only afterwards did Louis return to Britain as a student at Edinburgh University.

He and his Spencer siblings came to public attention at Prince William’s wedding in April 2011 – Louis a shy-looking 17-year-old, somewhat dwarfed by his three beauteous sisters. His next public “appearance” was four years later, when a photo of him popped up on rapper Nicki Minaj’s social media feed, of all places. Underneath a picture of them backstage at one of her concerts, she joked: “Check out our wedding photo”. Viscount Althorp looked as chiselled as a male model.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Social media hysteria ensued at Prince Harry’s wedding in May 2018 when Louis, now 24 and bearded, was photographed strolling towards St George’s Chapel arm-in-arm with his sister, Eliza, and mother, Victoria, with Kitty strutting her Dolce & Gabbana-ed stuff alongside. With the real McCoy off the market, Louis was declared “Harry Lite”. A few months later, Tatler named him one of six of the world’s most eligible bachelors, alongside Prince Nikolai of Denmark and Prince Constantine Alexios of Greece.

And now the publicity-shy heir is in the spotlight again, following an interview his sister, Lady Kitty Spencer, gave to Town & Country magazine, in which she discusses male primogeniture and how it means her family estate will automatically pass to him on their father’s death, despite having three older sisters.

He appears to be close to them, with Kitty describing the four siblings as “best friends forever” on an Instagram ‘throwback’ photo of them last year. When Eleanor Doughty interviewed his father for this paper in 2019, on the topic of his heir the Earl said: “Louis lives in London. He’s an actor at drama school and works incredibly hard and I want him to be able to fulfil his dreams in that direction. It is full on: he’s doing 14-hour days.”

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

He also seems by all accounts to be dedicated to acting, despite his forthcoming fortune. His friends respect his desire for privacy, although one is prepared to disclose: “He’s super private and gets on quietly with his thing. He’s a very talented actor and, I think, will be a brilliant one. You’d like him. He’s very low-key and genuine, decent and kind – and tall.”

Showbusiness insiders predict a glittering career for him, should he choose one. Jonathan Shalit, chairman of the InterTalent agency, says: “In terms of judging his potential there’s what he looks like and his family name ... The Americans will love him, in particular. He’ll get some good roles from his name alone. And he’s good looking.”

How he’ll manage the dual responsibilities of a freelance acting career and managing an estate is anyone’s guess, but his father said in 2019 that he was already starting to prepare for taking over, saying: “He has been to trustees’ meetings when he can. I don’t want to burden him …It’s a lot.”

It certainly is. Althorp is a 90-room, 100,000 sq ft Northamptonshire property, boasting not only a distinguished portrait gallery, but grounds containing 28 subsidiary listed structures, plus an ornamental lake with the island on which Diana, Princess of Wales, is buried. There are other houses in Northamptonshire, Norfolk and Warwickshire, plus farming, forestry and field sports businesses, property in London and rents coming in at all angles. When the roof had to be fixed, a Christie’s “attic sale” of art, furniture, uniforms and carriages raised more than £21 million.

And it is Louis – and Louis alone – who will inherit all this, according to the system of male primogeniture that makes him, not his three older sisters, heir to both estate and earldom. Lady Kitty, 30, states in Town & Country: “Louis will do an incredible job.” And, yet, her observation is prefaced by the remark: “[Male] primogeniture can be a tricky topic, because as times are changing, attitudes are as well”. Will the momentum behind the move to abolish son preference sweep Diana’s niece up in its wake?

Her comments are the latest contribution to the debate over Britain’s female heirs – or rather the lack of them. In 2011, the rules of succession to the throne were changed to give equal rights to sons and daughters of any future British monarch. Had the first child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge been a girl, then, even if she had younger brothers, for the first time she would have gone on to become Queen.

And, yet, male primogeniture continues to have an impact on about 2,000 peerages and 1,200 baronetcies. Downing Street is said to be drawing up plans to end what campaigners describe as “state-sponsored sexism”. Regardless, the current Earl Spencer has expressed himself content with the situation. In 2015, he noted: “I would be totally relaxed about Kitty inheriting it, but ... if I chose Kitty it would be against all the tradition that goes with Althorp.”

Tradition dictates that Louis inherits the estate ahead of his older sisters, including Kitty (left) - David M Benett/Getty Images
Tradition dictates that Louis inherits the estate ahead of his older sisters, including Kitty (left) - David M Benett/Getty Images

Charlotte Carew Pole, founder of Daughters’ Rights, which campaigns for the removal of sex bias, argues: “It’s nonsense to suggest tradition justifies continued discrimination against daughters, an excuse used by people who know that male primogeniture is without intellectual or moral foundation.”

Reforming legislation has broad cross-party support in both houses. It may come too late for Kitty Spencer, but change does appear to be in the offing. Pressure is mounting on the Government to commit to a timetable to bring male primogeniture to an end.

Meanwhile, as Charlotte Carew-Pole makes clear: “Because the Daughters’ Rights Bill has an exemption clause for sons who are currently heirs, Viscount Louis will inherit Althorp one day regardless ... we hope he understands the absurdity of his sex making him more suitable for the role than his sister, and will support us in ending this practice, so future generations won’t be affected by such archaic laws.”

From the little we know about this winningly modern aristocrat, it sounds as if Louis Spencer may be just the man to say that men are not the only ones for the job.