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British Royals

Who was Frances Shand Kydd – Mother to Diana, Princess of Wales?

Diana, Princess of Wales and Frances Shand Kydd

Throughout her life, Diana, Princess of Wales was one of the most photographed people in the world. From the moment she started dating Prince Charles, the cameras followed her everywhere she went. But, there is a lot unknown about Diana’s early life including her parents’ divorce and why her father had sole custody.

Diana’s mother, Frances Shand Kydd was born as Frances Ruth Roche in 1936 on the royal estate at Sandringham, Norfolk. Her father, Maurice Roche, 4th Baron Fermoy was a friend of King George VI and the elder son of the American heiress, Frances Ellen Work. Frances’ mother, Ruth Roche, Baroness Fermoy was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth (later known as The Queen Mother.)

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On June 1st 1954, Frances married John Spencer, Viscount Althorp (later the 8th Earl Spencer) at Westminster Abbey. Frances was only 18 years old at the time and became the youngest woman wed at the Abbey in the last five decades. Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family were in attendance.

In 1967, Frances left her husband to be with Peter Shand Kydd, an heir to a wallpaper fortune in Australia who she met the year prior. The divorce between Frances and John ensued in a fight over custody of their four children. After marrying Peter in 1969, Frances lived a quiet life on the Scottish island of Seil until Diana became engaged to Prince Charles.

A royal biographer, Penny Junor said of Diana and her parents’ divorce: “Diana was damaged, mentally, by her experiences. And then moving into the royal family was the worst possible scenario that she could have found for herself.

“One of the saddest parts of Diana’s short and turbulent life was the failure of those around her — friends and family alike — to convince her to obtain treatment for her extreme symptoms of mental instability.”

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In a 2017 Amazon Prime Documentary, ‘Diana: The Woman Inside,‘ it was noted Frances always saw her daughter as a rival. Diana’s friend, Simone Simmons, once revealed during a phone conversation that Diana’s mother allegedly said, “Diana, I’m the one who should have been the star.”

Speaking to The Mirror, Diana’s butler and close friend Paul Burrell claims Diana vowed to never speak to her mum again after a series of conversations.

Just two months before her death, Diana’s relationships with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan and businessman Gulu Lalvani started a conversation that left Diana to slam the phone.

Mr Burrell said: “I heard her call, “Paul, come quick”. She was hanging over the banister shouting down.

“She waved me over with her hand. I joined her on the floor cross-legged and stuck close beside her. I leant my ear as near to the phone as possible and listened to the conversation – albeit one-way.

“It was the slurring voice of Mrs Frances Shand Kydd. What I heard was a torrent of abuse, swearing and upsetting innuendo towards the Princess and towards the male company she was keeping.

“It was a hate-filled personal attack on the men and their religious beliefs.”

After the call, Burrell says he discovered Diana sitting on the lounge floor crying, claiming she promised never to speak to her mother after that conversation.

Burrell added: “How prophetic and sad those words were — because she didn’t. It is something her mother will have to live with for the rest of her life.”

With Diana being open about her divorce and battle with bulimia, Frances reportedly said it was “absolutely wonderful” Diana had lost her royal title.

At the time of Diana’s August 1997 death, Diana and her mother were not on speaking terms.

Shand Kydd died at her Scotland home at the age of 68 in 2004 following a long illness with Parkinson’s disease and brain cancer.

About author

My name is Sydney Zatz and I am a University of Iowa graduate. I graduated with a degree in journalism and sports studies, and a minor in sport and recreation management. A highlight of my college career was getting the chance to study abroad in London and experiencing royal history firsthand. I have a passion for royals, royal history, and journalism, which led me to want to write for Royal Central.