Frances Ruth Shand Kydd was the mother of Diana, Princess of Wales. After two marriages and the deaths of two children, she devoted her later years to Catholic charity work. She was born Frances Ruth Burke Roche on the royal estate at Sandringham, Norfolk. Her father was Lord Fermoy, a friend of King George VI. Her mother, the former Ruth Sylvia Gill, was a confidante and lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother. On June 1, 1954 she married John Spencer, Viscount Althorp (later the 8th Earl Spencer) at Westminster Abbey. She was then known as Viscountess Althorp. The Althorps had five children:
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.
The Althorps were divorced in April 1969. Lord Althorp remarried that July and Lady Althorp married Peter Shand Kydd on May 2, 1969, living on the remote Scottish island of Seil. Much against her wishes, she was forced into the public view following the marriage of her daughter Diana to the Prince of Wales in 1981.
The Shand Kydds separated in June 1988 and were later divorced. She was well respected on the island and was known for taking long walks and for her love of fishing.
After Diana's death, Frances won public sympathy by mingling with the public outside Kensington Palace. "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."
Frances Shand Kydd spent her final years in solitude on Seil. She converted to Catholicism and devoted herself to Catholic charities. She died on June 3, 2004 following a long illness. Her funeral was attended by all of her children and grandchildren, including Princes William, who gave a reading, and Harry of Wales.