Two of Princess Diana's nieces, Lady Eliza Spencer and Lady Amelia Spencer, are opening up about their relationships with their beloved aunt and memories from before her 1997 death, when they were just 5 years old.
The 28-year-old twin daughters of Diana's younger brother, Charles Spencer, recalled to U.K. magazine Tatler a time they went with Lady Di to a beach in South Africa and a photographer approached them.
"Obviously it could have been quite terrifying for us, being so young and not understanding what was happening," Eliza Spencer told the outlet. "But she turned it into a game of who could get back to the car first. It was amazing how she protected us in a way that made us feel safe and not frightened. We had no idea what she was doing at the time."
Eliza Spencer added that she didn't really understand the impact of her aunt's death when it happened. She and Amelia grew up in Cape Town.
"We always just knew her as our aunt," she said. "Growing up in South Africa, I really had very little idea of how significant she was in the world until I was much older. ... As a child, I realized the enormity of the loss for my father and family. It was only later that I came to understand the significance of the loss of her as a figure in the world."
During those five years, Eliza Spencer spent enough time with Diana to remember her as "incredibly warm, maternal and loving."
"She always made an effort to connect with us as children and had a talent for reading children’s hearts," she said.
Before moving to South Africa, the twins spent the first three years of their lives at the family's Althorp estate, where Diana lived before marrying Prince Charles. They told Tatler that much of their staff also worked there when Diana was a child and told them stories about her.
"It is a truly special and beautiful place," Eliza Spencer said of Althorp.
In fact, Althorp may be the setting of a Spencer wedding in the near future. Amelia Spencer, who got engaged to her boyfriend, Greg Mallett, in July, told Tatler: "It’s our family home, it’s beautiful. We would be very lucky to get married there, but Cape Town is where we grew up and there is a possibility that we might do it here, too."
The Spencer family recently made headlines when the twins' father addressed his big sister's portrayal on fictional Netflix drama "The Crown."
"'The Crown' asked if they could film at Althorp, and I said obviously not,” Charles Spencer said on the British TV show "Love Your Weekend with Alan Titchmarsh" in November.
“The worry for me is that people see a program like that and they forget that it is fiction," Charles Spencer continued. "They assume, especially foreigners. I find Americans tell me they have watched 'The Crown' as if they have taken a history lesson. Well, they haven’t."