Frances Ruth Burke Roche1

Female, #58239, (20 Jan 1936 - 3 Jun 2004)
Birth*20 Jan 1936 She was born on 20 Jan 1936 at Sandringham, Norfolk, co. Norfolk, England. Frances was the daughter of Edmund Burke Roche, 4th Baron Fermoy.2 
Name Variationbetween 1936 and 1954  As of between 1936 and 1954, Frances Ruth Burke Roche was also known as The Honourable Frances Burke Roche.2 
Name Variationbetween 1954 and 1969  As of between 1954 and 1969, Frances Ruth Burke Roche was also known as Viscountess Althorp.2 
Marriage*1 Jun 1954 She married Edward John Spencer 8th Earl Spencer on 1 Jun 1954 at age 18.1 
Married Name1 Jun 1954  As of 1 Jun 1954, her married name was Spencer.1 
Name Variationbetween 1969 and 2004  As of between 1969 and 2004, Frances Ruth Burke Roche was also known as The Honourable Mrs. Shand Kydd.2 
Divorce*Apr 1969 She and Edward John Spencer 8th Earl Spencer were divorced in Apr 1969.1 
Death*3 Jun 2004 She died on 3 Jun 2004 at age 68.2 
Biography* The Honourable Frances Ruth Burke Shand Kydd (20 January 1936 – 3 June 2004) was the wife of John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer and the mother of Diana, Princess of Wales. After two failed marriages and the deaths of two children, she devoted her later years to Roman Catholic charity work.

Shand Kydd was born Frances Ruth Burke Roche in Park House, on the royal estate at Sandringham, Norfolk. Her father was Edmund 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, Lady Fermoy DCVO was a confidante and lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother).

On 1 June 1954, aged 18, 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:
     1. Elizabeth Sarah Lavinia Spencer (19 March 1955), who married Neil Edmund McCorquodale, a distant cousin of Raine, Countess Spencer
     2. Cynthia Jane Spencer (11 February 1957), who married Sir Robert Fellowes, later Baron Fellowes
     3. John Spencer, who died within 10 hours of his birth on 12 January 1960
     4. Diana Frances Spencer later Diana, Princess of Wales (1 July 1961–31 August 1997), first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales
     5. Charles Edward Maurice Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer (20 May 1964), who married Victoria Lockwood, then Caroline Freud (the latter formerly wife of Matthew Freud)

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 Althorp 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.

In 1976, Lord Althorp married Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, the daughter of novelist Barbara Cartland. (Deeply unpopular with her step-children, she was nicknamed "Acid Raine".) He eventually won a bitter custody battle over the children. Lady Althorp married Shand Kydd on 2 May 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 public view following the marriage of 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. Peter Shand Kydd died in 2006.

In 1996 Shand Kydd 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 divorce from the Prince of Wales. They were reportedly not on speaking terms at the time of Diana's death.

After Diana's death, Shand Kydd 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 Roman Catholicism and devoted herself to Catholic charities.

She died on 3 June 2004 following a long illness that included Parkinson's disease and brain cancer, aged 68. This was the anniversary of the birth of King George V, a curious coincidence given that she was born on the very day that George V died. (George V was the great-grandfather of her one-time son-in-law Prince Charles.)

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, Prince Charles, did not attend because he was en route to another funeral - going to Washington to lead the British delegation at the funeral of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan the following day.2 


Edward John Spencer 8th Earl Spencer (24 Jan 1924 - 29 Mar 1992)
Marriage*1 Jun 1954 She married Edward John Spencer 8th Earl Spencer on 1 Jun 1954 at age 18.1 
Divorce*Apr 1969 She and Edward John Spencer 8th Earl Spencer were divorced in Apr 1969.1 
ChartsDiana, Princess of Wales: Culpeper Ancestral Chart
Last Edited10 Mar 2008


  1. John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer. (2008, March 7). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:41, March 9, 2008, from
  2. Frances Shand Kydd. (2008, March 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:48, March 9, 2008, from
  3. Diana, Princess of Wales. (2008, March 7). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:01, March 9, 2008, from