The late Princess Di and her Kildare connections

Her ancestor was murdered in Rathangan

Paul O'Meara


Paul O'Meara


The late Princess Di and her Kildare connections

Lady Di, the Princess of Wales

The anniversary of the death of Princess Diana will resonate in Rathangan - where an ancestor of hers was murdered more than two centuries back.

The Princess of Wales died twenty years ago today along with Dodi Al Fayed and Henri Paul in a motor accident in Paris. The crash happened when the Mercedes car driven by Henri Paul hit a column within the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in the French capital. Al Fayed and Paul were killed instantly while Diana died later in hospital.

The tragedy provoked scenes of mass grief across the UK as well a raft of conspiracy theories.

More than a million people lined the route for the funeral of Diana (36) from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey on September 6, 1997.

A direct relative of Princess Diana lived in a large house on the outskirts of Rathangan (where the Spencer Court housing development, named after her family, is situated at Kildare Road). But which no longer exists.

He was James Spencer, who was himself to meet a tragic end.

James Spencer was a landlord, an agent for Duke of Leinster, who owned a good deal of land and property in Rathangan.

He was murdered in  his house by rebels during the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which led to numerous bloody incidents across County Kildare, including Prosperous.

Spencer was a reputedly a kindly landlord, though he was also a captain in the Yeomanry, a British Army reserve force who opposed  and fought the rebellious United Irishmen.

Spencer Bridge, which spans the Grand Canal near Mullantine on the Rathangan-Monasterevin Road, is named after the landlord.

His links with Princess Di were confirmed in a letter written by her Lady-In-Waiting to a Rathangan resident some years ago.

James Spencer was piked to death by rebels in his Rathangan home. Pikes were spear-type weapons fashioned by blacksmiths and, with muskets, were the weapons of choice in 1798.

He was attacked as he came down the stairs and his final act was to leave a bloodstained print of his hand on the wall before he fell, mortally wounded.

Legend has it  that his bloodstained hand stayed there forever, until the house was eventually knocked down to make way for a new upmarket estate.

And that a replica of his bloodied hand returned every time despite attempts to remove it by painting the wall, pasting up wallpaper or even replacing the bricks and plaster.

Years later her butler Paul Butler, now 59, wrote A Royal Duty, a best selling book which dealt with his time working for Prince Charles and Lady Di. It was released in 2003. He spent much of his time writing the book in Naas, living in a rented house in Lakelands, an apartment at the Canal Harbour as well as at the Town House Hotel on Newbridge Road. He regularly visited local shops, including Super Valu at Fairgreen.

He claimed she described him as "the only man she ever trusted."