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Model, philanthropist, aristocrat: Meet Melbourne Cup 'special guest' Lady Kitty Spencer.

At today’s Melbourne Cup, a touch of British aristocracy will be wafting among the local celebrities, fashion influencers, and vaguely familiar ex-reality-TV stars fighting for a perch in the Birdcage.

Lady Kitty Spencer, niece of Princess Diana and cousin of Princes William and Harry, has been invited to the race as a ‘special guest’.

No doubt organisers hope the 28-year-old model will bring a touch of class to an event most Aussies see as a chance to frock up, swill prosecco and leave work early. But more importantly, that she’ll bring her half-a-million Instagram followers along for the ride.

More of that shortly. But first, a pertinent question…

Who is Lady Kitty Spencer?

With a name like hers, it’ll be no surprise that Lady Kitty Eleanor Spencer comes from British noble stock. She was born in London on December 28, 1990, to model Victoria Lockwood and Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer, who is the younger brother of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Lady Kitty was just six years old when her aunt died in a car crash in a Parisian tunnel, but told Vanity Fair in 2016 that she remembers her fondly.

“There are only a few memories, but special and happy memories,” she said, “and I’m so lucky to have those.”

Lady Kitty with her parents and two sisters at Althorpe house in 1993. Image: Getty.
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Lady Kitty is the eldest of three children, and four younger half-siblings through her parents' second and, in her father's case, third marriages.

Yet despite her British heritage, Lady Kitty was raised in South Africa from the age of five, where she attended a private school called Reddam House.

"I'm really glad I had a childhood in South Africa. There are not many places in the world where you can actually have something that's so free, just natural and relaxed," she later told Harper's Bazaar. "I was lucky to have a childhood there."

She remained in Cape Town for university, where she studied psychology, politics and English literature, before returning to London to earn a MA in Luxury Brand Management at Regent's University.

But like her mum, her success has come through modelling; a career boosted, at least in part, by the attention she received after her cousin's wedding.

"I thought I had someone else's phone": How the Royal wedding made Lady Kitty an Instagram star.

Standing out among the likes of George and Amal Clooney, Serena Williams and the Beckhams is no mean feat. But Lady Kitty Spencer did just that when she arrived at St George's Chapel, Windsor, in May 2018 to watch her cousin, Prince Harry, marry Meghan Markle.

Lady Kitty at the Royal wedding. Image: Getty.
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She'd made her modelling debut in Tatler magazine three years earlier and walked for Dolce & Gabbana in Milan Fashion week. But after her appearance in one of the label's dresses at the ceremony, her profile went bananas. There were tabloid headlines, best-dressed declarations and huge interest on social media.

Overnight — literally — her Instagram following went from 17,000 to almost 500,000.

"I thought I had someone else’s phone when I woke up the next morning," she told Harper's Bazaar. "I had to turn my notifications off because my phone was going to die.”

Then, just days later, came an announcement that she was to be the face of luxury jewellery brand, Bulgari.

“I do feel like I sort of snuck through the back door and no one’s noticed yet. That’s the feeling I get, especially at shows,” she told Harper's Bazaar. “I keep thinking that this is potentially short term and a really exciting moment, so I’m trying to embrace it for what it is. And then when it does end, just being grateful because it was something I never imagined in the first place.”

 

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She's also hinted at the possibility of working on a fashion line down the track.

And she has that luxury. Because despite being the first-born of a noble family, her future isn't entirely mapped out.

Why she won't inherit her family's estate.

Lady Kitty won't be inheriting everything that comes with her noble name.

Thanks to primogeniture, an archaic feudal dictate which sees the right of succession granted to the eldest male heir, that responsibility will go to her younger brother, Louis Spencer, Viscount Althorp. (The Royal family ditched this system in 2013, but it still exists among the British aristocracy.)

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And Lady Kitty is fine with it. Outwardly, anyway.

“In general, I’m totally pro gender equality. But I’m quite happy that that’s [going to be] my brother’s responsibility. I just think it’s the correct way," she told The Telegraph in 2015.

“I like that the house stays within the same family with the same surname. I wouldn’t want it any other way for the Spencers. And I just know my brother is going to do an impeccable job".

Instead, she's said she'll remain focused on her fashion career and charity work. She's an ambassador of Centrepoint, an organisation that supports homeless youth, and a patron for Give Us Time, which funds holidays for military families.

Lady Kitty with her brother, Louis Spencer, Viscount Althorp, and their mother, Victoria. Image: Getty.

The businessman and the (enormous!) diamond ring.

For the most part, Lady Kitty has kept her private life just that, and has rarely commented on her romantic relationships.

Hence the rumour mill was spinning out of control when, earlier this year, she was seen with a whopping diamond ring on her ring finger. Though she was wearing it on her right hand, there was speculation that she had become engaged her partner, Michael Lewis, the millionaire boss of British fashion retailer, Whistles.

But neither has confirmed the rumours.

The relationship Lewis, who is 32 years her senior, followed that with Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro, a property developer who she dated for close to four years before they split in 2017. (He reportedly went on to date Liz Hurley.)

She has confirmed they are still friends. In fact, she told Harper's she's friendly with all her former partners.

"If you haven’t got kindness you haven’t really got much," she said. "The men that I’ve been with have been kind and still are. And it’s lovely because it’s like a greater form of friendship in a way.”

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