Frances Shand Kydd
|The Honourable Frances Ruth Burke Shand Kydd|
|Born||Frances Ruth Roche
20 January 1936
Park House, Sandringham, Norfolk, England
|Died||3 June 2004
Seil, Argyll and Bute, Scotland
|Cause of death||Parkinson's disease
|Known for||Mother of Diana, Princess of Wales|
|Religion||Roman Catholic (formerly Church of England)|
|Spouse(s)||John Spencer, Viscount Althorp (1954–1969)
Peter Shand Kydd (1969–1990)
|Children||Lady Sarah McCorquodale
Jane Fellowes, Baroness Fellowes
Diana, Princess of Wales
Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer
|Parent(s)||Edmund Roche, 4th Baron Fermoy
Ruth Roche, Baroness Fermoy
Frances Shand Kydd (née Ruth Roche; 20 January 1936 – 3 June 2004) was the mother of Diana, Princess of Wales. Her biographer, Max Riddington, who was the writer of Frances: The Remarkable Story of Princess Diana's Mother, described Shand Kydd as a woman who was "certainly complicated" and also "funny, warm, intelligent, and energetic." Following her breakup with John Spencer, Viscount Althorp in 1969, and Diana's death in 1997, Shand Kydd devoted the final years of her life to Roman Catholic charity work.
Shand Kydd was born Frances Ruth Roche in Park House, on the royal estate at Sandringham, Norfolk, on 20 January 1936. Her father was Maurice Roche, 4th Baron 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, Ruth Roche, Baroness Fermoy, DCVO, was a confidante and lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother). In her own right since birth she held the style of The Honourable as the daughter of a baron.
Her paternal grandmother, Frances Ellen Work, was an heiress and socialite from New York City. Shand Kydd was a direct descendant of Kitty (her great-great-grandmother), daughter of Eliza and Scotsman Theodore Forbes. Eliza's father, Hakob Kevork or Kevorkian, was probably Armenian. Eliza's Indian mother may have been Muslim.
Shand Kydd's Irish aristocratic and royal roots are related to a Prince, who was Donal MacCarthy Reagh, 9th Prince of Carbery, but also to James de Barry, 4th Viscount Buttevant, to Murrough O'Brien, 1st Earl of Thomond, to Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare through Donal IV O'Donovan who is descended from all these. It also happens that O'Donovan was Edmond Roche, 1st Baron Fermoy's maternal great-great grandfather.
|Ancestors of Frances Shand Kydd|
On 1 June 1954, Frances Burke Roche married John Spencer, Viscount Althorp (later the 8th Earl Spencer), at Westminster Abbey. The Queen and other members of the royal family attended the wedding ceremony. Shand Kydd was 18 years old and became the youngest woman wed in Westminster Abbey in the last five decades.
They had five children:
- Lady Sarah McCorquodale (born 19 March 1955), who married Neil Edmund McCorquodale, a nephew of Raine, Countess Spencer
- Jane Fellowes, Baroness Fellowes (born 11 February 1957), who married Baron Fellowes
- The Honourable John Spencer, who died within 10 hours after his birth on 12 January 1960
- Diana, Princess of Wales (1 July 1961 – 31 August 1997), first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales
- Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer (born 20 May 1964), who married Victoria Lockwood, then Caroline Freud (née Hutton and former wife of Matthew Freud). Charles is now married to Karen Spencer, Countess Spencer, his third wife.
The British media made comparisons between the lives of Shand Kydd and Diana because they were both inexperienced young women who were thrust into the spotlight by marriage to much older men in higher stations. Her marriage to Viscount Althorp was not a happy one and, in 1967, she left to be 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.
In the inquest about Diana's death Paul Burrell, the former butler of the Princess, claimed that there had been a rift between her mother and the Princess. Another former official officer of Diana, Princess of Wales, considered these claims to be "nonsense". This officer released letters about a strong and loving relationship that existed between Frances and her daughter. Diana had saved her mother from drowning and thought of her as her "best chum".
On 14 July 1976, Viscount Althorp married Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, the daughter of the novelist Barbara Cartland. He eventually won a bitter custody battle over his children. Frances and Peter Shand Kydd were married on 2 May 1969 and lived on the Scottish island of Seil. (Clachan Seil 10 kilometres from Oban and easily reached by road.Although she lived a quiet life, she was forced into public view following the engagement of Diana to Prince Charles on 24 February 1981. Shand Kydd and her second husband separated in June 1988 after he left her for a younger woman. She blamed the pressure of media attention for the breakdown of the marriage. In 1996, she was banned from driving after being convicted of drunk-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 controversial divorce from Prince Charles. She was reportedly not on speaking terms with her daughter by the time of Diana's death.
Following Diana's death, Shand Kydd made a point of visiting the family of Henri Paul, the driver of the Mercedes which Diana and her companion, Dodi Fayed, were in when it crashed in Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris, killing all three of them. She stated, "Strange though it may seem, my daughter's funeral was probably the proudest day of my life. Proud of her, proud of my elder daughters who were rock steady in their readings, and my son who gave the ultimate tribute of brotherly love for her." In 2002, she testified at the trial of Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell. She spent her later years in solitude on Seil. She became a Roman Catholic in 1994 and devoted herself to Catholic charities. She eventually became involved with the Handicapped Children's Trust, the Royal National Mission for Deep Sea Fishermen, the Mallaig and Northwest Fishermen's Association, and the National Search and Rescue Dogs Association.
Death and burial
Shand Kydd died in a Scottish hospital at the age of 68 on 3 June 2004 following a long illness that included Parkinson's disease and brain cancer. Her funeral at the Roman Catholic cathedral in Oban on 10 June was attended by many of her children and grandchildren, including Princes William (who gave a reading) and Harry. Their father, her former son-in-law, Charles, Prince of Wales, did not attend because he was on the way to another funeral—going to Washington to lead the British delegation at the state funeral of the former US President Ronald Reagan the following day. Shand Kydd was buried in the local graveyard on the outskirts of Oban in Argyll.
Lord St John of Fawsley, who was one of the friends of the members of the Spencer family, paid tribute to Frances. He spoke of her, "She was a very kind and caring person who loved her daughter, the Princess of Wales, very much. She found lasting peace and comfort in the Catholic Church."
Titles from birth to death
- 20 January 1936 – 1 June 1954: The Honourable Frances Burke-Roche
- 1 June 1954 – 15 April 1969: Viscountess Althorp
- 15 April 1969 – 2 May 1969: The Honourable Frances, Viscountess Althorp
- 2 May 1969 – 1990: The Honourable Mrs Peter Shand Kydd
- 1990 – 3 June 2004: The Honourable Mrs Frances Shand Kydd
- "Tragic life of Frances Shand Kydd". Mail Online. UK. 3 June 2004.
- England & Wales, Birth Index, Jan–Feb–Mar 1936, 4b 344, Freedbridge Lynn, Norfolk
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- "Books". Amazon. Retrieved 11 June 2013.