Frances Shand Kydd

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The Honourable
Frances Shand Kydd
Francess Shand Kydd.jpg
Born Frances Ruth Roche
(1936-01-20)20 January 1936
Park House, Sandringham, Norfolk, England
Died 3 June 2004(2004-06-03) (aged 68)
Seil, Argyll and Bute, Scotland
Cause of death Parkinson's disease
Brain tumour
Nationality British
Known for Mother of Diana, Princess of Wales
Spouse(s) John Spencer, Viscount Althorp
(m. 1954–1969; divorced)
Peter Shand Kydd
(m. 1969–1990; divorced)
Children Lady Sarah McCorquodale
Jane Fellowes, Baroness Fellowes
John Spencer
Diana, Princess of Wales
Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer
Parent(s) Maurice Roche, 4th Baron Fermoy
Ruth Roche, Baroness Fermoy

Frances Ruth Shand Kydd (née Roche, previously Spencer; 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."[1] Following her divorce from the Viscount Althorp in 1969, and later Diana's death in 1997, Shand Kydd devoted the final years of her life to Roman Catholic charity work.

Early life[edit]

Shand Kydd was born Frances Ruth Roche in Park House, on the royal estate at Sandringham, Norfolk, on 20 January 1936,[2][3] 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.[3] Her mother, Ruth Roche, Baroness Fermoy, DCVO, was a confidante and lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother).[4] 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 Theodore Forbes, her paternal aunt, Cynthia Cary, was a well-known socialite in Rhode Island.

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.[5]


On 1 June 1954, Frances Burke Roche married John Spencer, Viscount Althorp (later the 8th Earl Spencer), at Westminster Abbey.[3] The Queen and other members of the royal family attended the wedding ceremony.[6] Shand Kydd was 18 years old and became the youngest woman wed in Westminster Abbey in the last five decades.[6]

They had five children:

Divorce and remarriage[edit]

Ardencaple house

Her marriage to Viscount Althorp was not a happy one and, in 1967, she left him to be with Peter Shand Kydd, an heir to a wallpaper fortune in Australia whom she had met the year before, his half-brother was the former champion amateur jockey William Shand Kydd (1937-2014), who was the brother-in-law of John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan.[7] Subsequently, she was named "the other woman" in Janet Shand Kydd's divorce action against her husband.[3]

Frances and Peter Shand Kydd were married on 2 May 1969 and lived on the Scottish island of Seil, where they bought an 18th-century farmhouse called Ardencaple, just 10 kilometres from Oban. Frances divided her time between London, Seil and another sheep farm in Yass, New South Wales, although she lived a quiet life, she was forced into public view following the engagement of Diana to Prince Charles on 24 February 1981.[8]

Relationship with Diana[edit]

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.[citation needed]

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, the inquest recorded that, according to Frances herself, she was not speaking to her daughter for the four months before Diana's death.[9][10] 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".[11]

Later years[edit]

On 14 July 1976, Viscount Althorp married Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, the daughter of the novelist Dame Barbara Cartland, he eventually won a bitter custody battle over his children.[12] Shand Kydd and her second husband separated in June 1988 after he left her for a younger woman,[4] 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.[13]

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."[14] In 2002, she testified at the trial of Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell,[15] she spent her later years in solitude on Seil.[15] She became a Roman Catholic in 1994[1] and devoted herself to Catholic charities,[3] 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.[4]

Death and burial[edit]

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,[16] 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.[17][18] 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.[19]

Lord St John of Fawsley, who was a friend 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."[20]

Titles from birth to death[edit]

  • 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: Frances, Viscountess Althorp
  • 2 May 1969 – 1990: The Honourable Mrs Peter Shand Kydd
  • 1990 – 3 June 2004: The Honourable Ms Frances Shand Kydd


In 2004, Maxine Riddington published a biographical book about her, entitled Frances: The Remarkable Story of Princess Diana's Mother.[21]


  1. ^ a b "Tragic life of Frances Shand Kydd". Mail Online. UK. 3 June 2004. 
  2. ^ England & Wales, Birth Index, Jan–Feb–Mar 1936, 4b 344, Freedbridge Lynn, Norfolk
  3. ^ a b c d e Corby, Tom (4 June 2004). "Frances Shand Kydd". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c "Frances Shand Kydd". The Telegraph. 4 June 2004. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  5. ^ "Colonel Daniel O'Donovan, The O'Donovan". The Peerage. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Queen heads lists guests at wedding". The Montreal Gazetta. London. 1 June 1954. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  7. ^ "William Shand Kydd 1937-2014". Peerage News. 
  8. ^ "Princess Diana enters hospital in early labor". Youngstown Vindicator. London. AP. 21 June 1982. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  9. ^ Milmo, Cahal (25 October 2002). "Diana did not talk to me in final months, admits her mother". The Independent. Retrieved 24 October 2016. 
  10. ^ Farouky, Jumana (14 January 2008). "Diana's Butler Tells Some Secrets". Time. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  11. ^ "Family rift? Nonsense-Diana saved her mother from drowning and was her 'best chum'". Mail Online. UK. 21 January 2008. 
  12. ^ "Life of luxury stripped sparse by tragedy". Scotsman. 4 June 2004. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  13. ^ Milmo, Cahal (25 October 2002). "Diana did not talk to me in final months, admits her mother". The Independent. Retrieved 24 October 2016. 
  14. ^ "Princes pay last respects to their grandmother". Daily Mail. 10 June 2004. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  15. ^ a b "Profile: Frances Shand Kydd". The Herald. 26 October 2002. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  16. ^ "Princess Diana's mother dies after a long illness". HELLO! magazine. UK. 
  17. ^ Meade, Geoff (4 June 2004). "Princes mourning their grandmother". The Journal. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  18. ^ Perry, Simon; Norman, Pete (11 June 2004). "Diana's Mum Laid to Rest, Without Charles". People. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  19. ^ "Diana's mother in Highland burial". Daily Mail. 4 June 2004. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  20. ^ "Wills and Harry mourn grandmother death". Mail Online. UK. 4 June 2004. 
  21. ^ "Books". Amazon. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 

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