Frances Shand Kydd

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Frances Shand Kydd
Shand Kydd in October 2002
Frances Ruth Roche

(1936-01-20)20 January 1936
Died3 June 2004(2004-06-03) (aged 68)
Resting placePennyfuir Cemetery, Oban, Argyll and Bute, Scotland
TitleViscountess Althorp
  • (m. 1954; div. 1969)
  • (m. 1969; div. 1990)

Frances Ruth Shand Kydd (previously Spencer, née Roche; 20 January 1936 – 3 June 2004) was the mother of Diana, Princess of Wales. She was the maternal grandmother of William, Prince of Wales and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, respectively first and fifth in the line of succession to the British throne. Following her divorce from Viscount Althorp in 1969, and Diana's death in 1997, Shand Kydd devoted the final years of her life to Catholic charity work following her conversion to Catholicism.

Early life[edit]

She was born Frances Ruth Roche at Park House, on the royal estate at Sandringham, Norfolk, on 20 January 1936.[1][2] Her birth was on the same day as the death of George V. Her father was Maurice Roche, 4th Baron Fermoy, a friend of George VI and the elder son of the American heiress Frances Ellen Work and her first husband, the 3rd Baron Fermoy.[2] Her mother, Ruth Roche, Baroness Fermoy, a daughter of Colonel William Smith Gill, was a confidante and lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother).[3] Since birth, she held the style of The Honourable as the daughter of a baron. She was educated at Downham School in Essex.[4]

Marriage and children[edit]

On 1 June 1954, she married John Spencer, Viscount Althorp (later the 8th Earl Spencer), at Westminster Abbey.[2] Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family attended the wedding ceremony.[5] She was 18 years old and became the youngest woman wed in Westminster Abbey since 1893.[5]

They had five children:

According to leading gossip columnist and author Penny Junor "Johnny could be violent, and [Frances] felt she and her children would be safer out of the home."[6] Their daughter Diana also recalled "seeing my father slap my mother across the face and I was hiding behind the door and she was crying."[6]

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. [2] Frances lived with her two youngest children, Diana and Charles, in London during the separation in 1967, but during that year's Christmas holidays, Viscount Althorp refused to let his children return to London with their mother.[7] He was granted custody of their children by the courts after his former mother-in-law, Lady Fermoy, testified against her own daughter Frances.[8]

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,[9] 10 kilometres from Oban. She divided her time between London, Seil and another sheep farm in Yass, New South Wales. On 14 July 1976, John Spencer, now the 8th Earl Spencer, married Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, daughter of the novelist Dame Barbara Cartland.[10] Although Frances lived a quiet life, she was forced into public view following the engagement of her daughter Diana to Prince Charles on 24 February 1981.[11] Frances and her second husband Peter separated in June 1988.[3] In 1993 Shand Kydd married Marie-Pierre Palmer (née Bécret),[12][13] a French woman who ran a champagne-importing business in London.[14][page needed]

Later years[edit]

In 1996, she was banned from driving after being convicted of drunk driving,[15] but denied she had a problem with alcohol. She and Diana quarreled in May 1997, after she told Hello! magazine that Diana was happy to lose her title of "Royal Highness" following her controversial divorce from King Charles III. She was reportedly not on speaking terms with her daughter by the time of Diana's death.[16][17][18]

She spent her later years in solitude on Seil.[19] She became a Catholic and devoted herself to Catholic charities.[2] She eventually became involved with HCPT - The Hosanna House and Children's Pilgrimage Trust, the Royal National Mission for Deep Sea Fishermen, the Mallaig and Northwest Fishermen's Association, and the National Search and Rescue Dogs Association.[3]

In October 2002, when Frances left her Scottish home to give testimony at the trial of Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell, burglars targeted her house and stole her jewellery.[20]

Death and burial[edit]

Frances died at her home in Scotland at the age of 68 on June 3, 2004, following a long illness that included Parkinson's disease and brain cancer.[21][22] Her funeral at the Roman Catholic cathedral in Oban on 10 June was attended by her children, sister and grandchildren, including princes William (who gave a reading) and Harry.[23][24] Their father, her former son-in-law, Prince Charles, did not attend because he was traveling to Washington to represent the Royal Family at the state funeral of the former US President Ronald Reagan the following day. Frances was buried in Pennyfuir Cemetery in Oban, Argyll and Bute.[25]


In 2004, Maxine Riddington published a biographical book about her, entitled Frances: The Remarkable Story of Princess Diana's Mother.[26]



  1. ^ England & Wales, Birth Index, Jan–Feb–Mar 1936, 4b 344, Freedbridge Lynn, Norfolk
  2. ^ a b c d e Corby, Tom (4 June 2004). "Frances Shand Kydd". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b c "Frances Shand Kydd". The Telegraph. 4 June 2004. Retrieved 27 April 2011.
  4. ^ "History of Down Hall" (PDF). Retrieved 5 February 2023.
  5. ^ a b "Queen heads lists guests at wedding". The Montreal Gazetta. London. 1 June 1954. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  6. ^ a b Cohen, Rebecca (8 October 2021). "Princess Diana once witnessed her father 'slap' her mother during the royal's tumultuous childhood, CNN doc details". Insider. Retrieved 9 January 2023.
  7. ^ Brown, Tina (2007). The Diana Chronicles. London; New York: Doubleday. pp. 40–41. ISBN 978-0-385-51708-9.
  8. ^ The Times (London), Thursday, 8 July 1993; p. 4 col. D and p. 19 col. A
  9. ^ "Ardencaple House, Isle of Seil". Geograph Britain and Ireland. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  10. ^ "Life of luxury stripped sparse by tragedy". Scotsman. 4 June 2004. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  11. ^ "Princess Diana enters hospital in early labor". Youngstown Vindicator. London. AP. 21 June 1982. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  12. ^ Riddington, Max (13 April 2012). "The truth about Di". Evening Standard. Daily Mail. Retrieved 14 November 2022.
  13. ^ "Lonely End of Diana's Sad Mum - a Life of Turmoil for the Mother of the World's Tragic Princess - Family absent as Shand Kydd dies". Daily Record (Scotland). Glasgow, Scotland. Retrieved 14 November 2022 – via Free Online Library.
  14. ^ Max Riddington. Frances - The Remarkable Story of Princess Diana's Mother
  15. ^ "Obituary: Frances Shand Kydd". BBC. 3 June 2004. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  16. ^ Milmo, Cahal (25 October 2002). "Diana did not talk to me in final months, admits her mother". The Independent. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  17. ^ Farouky, Jumana (14 January 2008). "Diana's Butler Tells Some Secrets". Time. Archived from the original on 14 January 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  18. ^ "Diana's 'rift' with mother". BBC. 24 October 2002. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  19. ^ "Profile: Frances Shand Kydd". The Herald. 26 October 2002. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  20. ^ "Burglars target Diana's mother". BBC. 25 October 2002. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  21. ^ "Princess Diana's mother dies after a long illness". HELLO! magazine. UK.
  22. ^ "Diana's mother dies 'peacefully'". BBC. 3 June 2004. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  23. ^ Meade, Geoff (4 June 2004). "Princes mourning their grandmother". The Journal. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  24. ^ Perry, Simon; Norman, Pete (11 June 2004). "Diana's Mum Laid to Rest, Without Charles". People. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  25. ^ "Earl Spencer denies family rift". The Guardian. 10 June 2004.
  26. ^ Riddington, Max; Naden, Gavan (2003). Books. Michael O'Mara. ISBN 1843170434.

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