Frances Shand Kydd

Frances Shand-Kydd
Frances Shand-Kydd

The Honourable Frances Ruth Shand Kydd (January 20, 1936 - June 3, 2004) was the mother of Diana, Princess of Wales. After two failed marriages and the deaths of two children, she devoted her later years to Catholic charity work.

Shand Kydd was born The Honourable Frances Ruth Burke Roche on the royal estate at Sandringham, Norfolk. Her father was Lord Fermoy, a friend of King George VI and the elder son of the American heiress Frances Work and her first husband, the 3rd Baron Fermoy. Her mother, the former Ruth Sylvia Gill, was a confidante and lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother).

On June 1, 1954 Burke Roche married John Spencer, Viscount Althorp (later the 8th Earl Spencer) at Westminster Abbey. She was then known as Viscountess Althorp (the name is pronounced Altrup).

The Althorps had five children:

The British media made comparisons between Lady Althorp's and Diana's lives, because both were inexperienced young women who were thrust into the spotlight by marriage to much older men in higher stations. As with the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales, the marriage between Lord and Lady Althorp was not a happy one. Diana, Princess of Wales strongly resembled her mother in appearance and character, as well.

In 1967, Lady Althrop ran off with Peter Shand Kydd, an heir to a wallpaper fortune, whom she had met the year before. Subsequently, she was named "the other woman" in Janet Shand Kydd's divorce action against her husband. The Althorps were divorced in April 1969, and Lady Althorp was now known as Frances, Viscountess Althorp. Three months later, Lord Althrop married Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, the daughter of novelist Barbara Cartland. (Deeply unpopular with her stepchildren, she was nicknamed "Acid Raine".) He eventually won a bitter custody battle over the children. Lady Althorp married Shand Kydd on May 2, 1969, and she was known as The Honourable Mrs. Shand Kydd. They lived on the remote Scottish island of Seil. Much against her wishes, she was forced into the public view following the marriage of her daughter Diana to the Prince of Wales in 1981.

The Shand Kydds separated in June 1988 after he left his wife for a younger woman, and were later divorced. Frances Shand Kydd blamed the pressure of media attention for the breakdown of the marriage. She was well respected on the island and was known for taking long walks and for her love of fishing.

In 1996 Shand Kydd was banned from driving after being convicted of drink-driving, but denied she had a problem with alcohol. She and Diana quarrelled in May 1997 after she told Hello! magazine that Diana was happy to lose her title of "Her Royal Highness" following her divorce from the Prince of Wales. They were reportedly not on speaking terms when Diana died four months later, both because of Shand Kydd's interview, about which Diana was upset, as well as Shand Kydd's disapproval of her daughter's dating a Muslim man, Dr. Hasnat Khan.

After Diana's death, Shand Kydd won public sympathy by mingling with the public outside Kensington Palace. She made a point of visiting the family of Henri Paul, the man driving the Mercedes Diana and her companion Dodi Al-Fayed were in when it crashed in a Paris tunnel, killing all three of them. "Strange though it may seem, Diana's funeral was probably the proudest day of my life," she said. "Proud of her, proud of my daughters who were rock steady in their readings, and my son who gave the ultimate tribute of brotherly love for her."

In 2002 Shand Kydd testified at the trial of Diana's former butler Paul Burrell, where she was forced to admit that she and Diana had been estranged for several months before Diana's death. She spent her final years in solitude on Seil. She converted to Catholicism and devoted herself to Catholic charities. She died on June 3, 2004 following a long illness that included brain cancer. Her funeral on June 10 was attended by all of her children and grandchildren, including Princes William (who gave a reading) and Harry of Wales. Their father, Prince Charles, didn't attend because he was en route to another funeral--going to Washington to represent the royal family at the state funeral of former U.S. president Ronald Reagan the following day.

Titles from birth to death

  • The Honourable Frances Burke Roche (1936-1954)
  • Viscountess Althorp (1954-1969)
  • Frances, Viscountess Althorp (1969)
  • The Honourable Mrs. Shand Kydd (1969-2004)

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