Childhood & Early Life
Frances Shand Kydd was born as Frances Ruth Rocheon January 20, 1936 in Park House at the royal estate of Sandringham, Norfolk to Maurice Roche, 4th Baron Fermoy and Ruth Roche, Baroness Fermoy. As the daughter of a baron, she held the style of The Honourable since birth.
Her father, a friend of King George VI, was the son of James Roche, 3rd Baron Fermoy and the American heiress, Frances Ellen Work. Her mother was a confidante and lady-in-waiting of Queen Elizabeth.
She was not English by birth as she was of American-Irish-Scottish descent. She was a direct descendant of American socialite Kitty Forbes, the daughter of Eliza and Theodore Forbes and her Irish ancestors, the Roche family, owned land at Trabolgan, County Cork for three centuries.
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Marriage & Adult Life
Frances Shand Kydd got married to Viscount Althorp John Spencer on June 1, 1954 in Westminster Abbey. The wedding ceremony was attended by The Queen and other members of the royal family. At the age of 18, she became one of the youngest women to get married in Westminster Abbey.
Frances and her husband, who later became the 8th Earl Spencer, had five children together. Their third child, The Honourable John Spencer, died within 10 hours of his birth in January 1960. Their oldest child, The Honourable Elizabeth Sarah Lavinia Spencer, was born on March 19, 1955 and later married Neil Edmund McCorquodale.
Frances’ second child, The Honourable Cynthia Jane Spencer, was born on February 11, 1957 and later got married to Robert Fellowes, Baron Fellowes on April 20, 1978.Frances’ fourth child and third daughter, Diana Frances Spencer, was born on July 1, 1961 and went on to marry Charles, Prince of Wales on July 29, 1981.
Her youngest child, Charles Edward Maurice Spencer, was born on May 20, 1964 and later became the 9th Earl Spencer after his father's death in 1992. After divorcing two women, he is currently married to Karen Spencer, Countess Spencer.
After having married a man who was much older than her, Frances Shand Kydd could not lead a happy life. She was put under immense pressure to conceive a male child who would serve as the rightful heir to her husband's fortune. She was even persuaded to consult a gynecologist when she was 23.
Her marriage finally ended in 1967 when she left her husband to marry her lover, Peter Shand Kydd, who was the heir to a wallpaper fortune in Australia. She was referred as ‘the other woman’ by Peter's first wife Janet in her divorce action against Peter Shand Kydd.
During the hearing of her divorce, she was described as a marriage breaker and an adulteress by her husband. Her family also renounced her for abandoning her husband and children, and her mother testified against her in the custody battle for her children, which she eventually lost.
After the divorce formalities ended in 1969, she got married to Peteron May 2, following which they gave up their aristocracy and moved to the Scottish island of Seil. There they bought an 18thcentury farmhouse called Ardencaple and opened a gift shop in Oban, 10 kilometers away from their home.
Frances and her husband lived a secluded life for years. During this phase of her life, she divided her time to be in London, Seil and a sheep farm in Yass, New South Wales. However, her privacy was breached after her daughter Diana's engagement to Prince Charles, which was made public on February 24, 1981.
Her second marriage too ended on a bitter note after her husband left her for a much younger woman in June 1988. She blamed the unwanted media attention for the failure of her marriage, stating that she had become Diana's mother and not his wife in the eyes of the public.
Later Life & Death
Frances Shand Kydd's divorce with her second husband was finalized in 1990, following which she shut down the gift shop and converted to Roman Catholicism in 1994. She then became involved in a number of Catholic charities. She raised funds for various organizations like the Handicapped Children's Trust, The Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, Mallaig & North West Fishermen Association and the National Search and Rescue Dog Association.
Even though she denied having alcohol addiction, she was convicted for driving under the influence of alcohol in 1996, following which she was not allowed to drive. Around this time, she narrowly survived a car crash. She then became a victim of theft when she lost jewelry worth 100,000 pounds while staying at her London home.
After her daughter Diana divorced Prince Charles in 1996, she criticized her in an interview to 'Hello!' magazine, which caused a rift in their otherwise loving relationship. When Diana died in a car accident on August 31, 1997 in Paris, she was not on talking terms with her, according to her statement at the trial of Paul Burrell, Diana's former butler.
She stated that her conversion to Roman Catholicism helped her cope with the pain as she never blamed anyone or expressed anger over the details of her daughter’s death. She also visited the family of Henri Paul, the driver of Diana's Mercedes, who was one of the three to die in the fatal accident.
In her later life, she was diagnosed with a terminal brain disease, now thought to be Parkinson's disease, which rendered her incapable of walking or talking in a proper manner. She died on June 3, 2004 at the age of 68 in a Scottish hospital and was buried in the local graveyard on the outskirts of Oban in Argyll. Her funeral was attended by her children and grandchildren, including Princes William and Harry. But Prince Charles gave it a miss as he was heading to the US to attend the funeral of former US President, Ronald Reagan.