Charles Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother, speaks out about ‘devastating’ abuse at British boarding school

Porch would force the young boys to drop their pants and their underwear and lie across his lap to be whipped. He sometimes fondled their genitals in the process, Spencer said. 

Many of the boys selected for the beatings were the same physical type, a “type that the headmaster seemed to like,” Spencer said.

“He liked athletic boys, and he liked blond boys.”

Spencer said that he wasn’t whipped by Porch but that he was subjected to other forms of brutality by the headmaster. Porch’s “usual weapon” was a slipper, and even that was painful. “But it wasn’t the cutting pain of the cane,” Spencer said.

The abuse wasn’t spoken of in school. It also remained hidden from parents in part, Spencer believes, because of the messages the headmaster and others drilled into the boys: Don’t show emotion, and don’t speak of what happens at Maidwell. 

“The most important code of this very flawed regime that I was part of was never to tell tales, not to ‘sneak,’ as they call it,” Spencer said. “I think all of this was very much designed to make you not talk about it and really to try and suppress the memories.”

Porch inspired terror, but he wasn’t the only adult Spencer and the other boys feared.

One day, Spencer was alone inside a locker room changing his clothes to play cricket when a male teacher walked in. “He just grabbed me and threw me over his knee,” Spencer said.

Then the man picked up Spencer’s spiked cricket cleat.

“He beat me and beat me, puncturing my behind, and then just moved away,” Spencer said. “He found an easy victim to assault.”

Mr. Jack Porch's farewell speech on signing off from his fifteen-year tenure at Maidwell in 1978.
John Alexander Hector Porch’s farewell speech on signing off from his 15-year tenure at Maidwell in 1978.Courtesy Charles Spencer

Another teacher seemed to take special pleasure in inflicting pain on Spencer. This man often railed against wealth inequality, and Spencer now realizes his moneyed upbringing made him an obvious target.

“He’d hit me a lot,” Spencer said.

But it wasn’t the man’s fists that did the most damage. It was his signet ring. 

“He used to do this very clever maneuver where he’d hit me and then with the signet ring cut me in the scalp,” Spencer said. “It would bleed and crust.”

“It’s astonishing to me now that you could direct that venom and physical brutality towards children openly and no one says anything,” Spencer added. 

Still, Spencer’s most enduring trauma was caused by one of the least intimidating figures on the staff, a young woman charged with taking care of the boys. 

Spencer was 11 when he moved into a remote sleeping area that was under her charge. 

“It would start with her coming round after the lights were turned out in the dormitory and giving any boy awake maybe cookies, maybe grapes, something like that,” Spencer said. 

In time, she began to come around to Spencer’s bed when others were asleep but not to sneak him snacks. She would kiss him. Passionately.

“French kiss for ages,” Spencer said. “If I was 17, 18, it would be a different thing. But I was 11, and it was so confusing.”

Looking back, he says, “of course, it was terrible.”