Who Were Princess Diana's Parents? All About John Spencer and Frances Shand Kydd

·5-min read
Princess Diana, John Spencer, Frances Shand Kydd
Princess Diana, John Spencer, Frances Shand Kydd

Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty ; Serge Lemoine/Hulton Archive/Getty

Princess Diana's parents were John Spencer and Frances Shand Kydd. The two married in 1954 and divorced 15 years later. Spencer and Shand Kydd had five children together, three girls and two boys — one of whom died shortly after birth — before going their separate ways.

Edward John Spencer was born on Jan. 24, 1924, to parents Albert Spencer and Lady Cynthia Hamilton. He attended Eton College before he enrolled at the Sandhurst Military Academy. Frances Shand Kydd (née Frances Ruth Burke Roche) was born on Jan. 20, 1936, to parents Maurice Roche and Ruth Sylvia Gill.

Keep reading to learn more about Princess Diana's parents, John Spencer and Frances Shand Kydd.

Queen Elizabeth II was a guest at their wedding

Viscount Althorp and the Hon Frances Roche at Westminster Abbey, 1st June 1954.
Viscount Althorp and the Hon Frances Roche at Westminster Abbey, 1st June 1954.

Hulton Archive/Getty

Shand Kydd married Spencer when she was just 18 years old. The two exchanged vows at Westminster Abbey, and Queen Elizabeth II was in attendance, per the BBC. The wedding was considered "the social event of 1954," according to the report.

They had 5 children together, including Princess Diana

Viscount Althorp with his wife Hon Frances Roche with their baby daughter Sarah, sister of Lady Diana Spencer, after her christening at Westminster Abbey, London, 8th June 1955
Viscount Althorp with his wife Hon Frances Roche with their baby daughter Sarah, sister of Lady Diana Spencer, after her christening at Westminster Abbey, London, 8th June 1955

Fred Mott/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty

One year after they wed, the couple welcomed their first child, a daughter named Elizabeth Sarah Lavinia. Two years later, Cynthia Jane joined the family. Their third child was a son named John, who was born in 1960. According to The Mirror, he died hours after he was born.

Though Spencer was hoping for another boy, Diana Frances was born the next year. In 1964, the couple welcomed their youngest, Charles Edward Maurice, who would eventually inherit Earl Spencer's title.

They lived in a home owned by the royal family

Princess Diana's parents Viscount Althorp, who will become the 8th Earl Spencer, and Hon Frances Roche before their wedding at Westminster Abbey
Princess Diana's parents Viscount Althorp, who will become the 8th Earl Spencer, and Hon Frances Roche before their wedding at Westminster Abbey

Central Press/Getty

Spencer worked as a royal equerry for both King George VI and the young Queen Elizabeth, according to the BBC, and rented a home at the Queen's estate in Sandringham when his children were young. The family lived at Park House, where Diana was born in 1961.

"There's always been something special about Park House. It's difficult to put a finger on what it is," Diana's former nanny Ingrid Crane told CNN in 2007.

In the mid-70s, the Spencer family left Park House and moved to the Althorp Estate, the Spencer family home located in Northamptonshire, England. According to the BBC, Diana loved the property. Her body was buried on the grounds following her death in 1997. The estate is currently owned by Diana's brother, Charles.

They divorced when Princess Diana was young

Edward John Spencer (1924 - 1992), the 8th Earl Spencer, father of Lady Diana Frances Spencer (wife of Charles, Prince of Wales), with his first wife
Edward John Spencer (1924 - 1992), the 8th Earl Spencer, father of Lady Diana Frances Spencer (wife of Charles, Prince of Wales), with his first wife

Evening Standard/Getty

Spencer and Shand Kydd's relationship began to sour in 1967. At the time, Shand Kydd had fallen in love with another man, according to The Washington Post.

"We just drifted apart, and there was nothing either of us could do about it," Shand Kydd said at the time, according to The Telegraph. They divorced in 1969.

Spencer was awarded sole custody of his children, and while Sarah and Jane left to attend boarding school, Diana and her younger brother lived at Althorp with their dad.

Their mother married Peter Shand Kydd in 1969, although the two later divorced in 1990.

"Diana and I had two older sisters who were away at school, so she and I were very much in it together and I did talk to her about it," Charles told The Sunday Times in 2020. "Our father was a quiet and constant source of love, but our mother wasn't cut out for maternity. Not her fault, she couldn't do it. She was in love with someone else — infatuated, really."

John Spencer remarried without telling his kids

Earl Spencer And His Wife Raine Spencer Visiting Princess Diana In Kensington Palace
Earl Spencer And His Wife Raine Spencer Visiting Princess Diana In Kensington Palace

Tim Graham Photo Library

In 1976, Spencer wed Raine McCorquodale without telling his children. When Diana found out, she was so upset that she smacked her father across the face.

"I was the little crusader here ... and I got really angry and I, if I remember rightly, I slapped him across the face, and I said, 'That's from all of us, for hurting us' and walked out and slammed the door," Diana said in video tapes recorded with her voice coach, according to the Daily Mail.

John Spencer walked Princess Diana down the aisle in 1981

Lady Diana Spencer, wearing a wedding dress designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel and the Spencer family Tiara, enters St. Paul's Cathedral on the hand of her father, Earl Spencer, ahead of her marriage to Prince Charles, Prince of Wales on July 29, 1981 in London, England
Lady Diana Spencer, wearing a wedding dress designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel and the Spencer family Tiara, enters St. Paul's Cathedral on the hand of her father, Earl Spencer, ahead of her marriage to Prince Charles, Prince of Wales on July 29, 1981 in London, England

Anwar Hussein/Getty

Spencer walked his daughter down the aisle when she married then-Prince Charles in 1981. Three years before the wedding, Spencer suffered a stroke, which left him with some balance issues.

"There are times I wish she was marrying an ordinary chap, so I could have her and my son-in-law living here with me in the park," Spencer said after Diana's engagement, referring to his home at Althorp.

Spencer faced health challenges in the years that followed. In March 1992, he was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. He later suffered a heart attack and died at 68 years old.

Princess Diana was not in touch with her mother later on in life

THE PRINCESS OF WALES WITH HER MOTHER FRANCES SHAND KYDD AT THE MEN'S SINGLES FINAL WIMBLEDON 1993 BETWEEN PETE SAMPRAS AND JIM COURIER
THE PRINCESS OF WALES WITH HER MOTHER FRANCES SHAND KYDD AT THE MEN'S SINGLES FINAL WIMBLEDON 1993 BETWEEN PETE SAMPRAS AND JIM COURIER

Adam Butler - PA Images/PA Images

Diana had a difficult relationship with her mother when she was younger, and as an adult, Diana and her mother had a falling out. Things really seemed to go south after Diana and Charles' wedding, however.

"My mother let me down terribly with the wedding. She kept crying … saying that she couldn't cope with the pressure," she revealed in recordings with biographer Andrew Morton. "I didn't speak to her for three or four years afterward. She drove me mad … It was me that was being strong and her sobbing the whole time."

In the last few months of Diana's life, Shand Kydd would write her daughter letters, but they would be returned unopened.

Shand Kydd died at her home in Scotland on June 3, 2004.