Inside Princess Diana's highly fraught relationship with her mother, Frances Shand Kydd.


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Princess Diana’s relationship with her mother was famously complicated.

According to Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, their parents' separation in 1969 was the beginning of Diana and Frances Shand Kydd’s fractious relationship. 

Spencer said their father, John Spencer, the 8th Earl of Spencer, was "a quiet and constant source of love" but their mother "wasn't cut out for maternity".

"Not her fault, she couldn't do it. She was in love with someone else, infatuated really," he told The Sunday Times. 

Princess Diana with her mother at the 1993 Men's Singles Wimbledon Tennis Final. Image: Getty.


And when Frances moved out of the family home for wallpaper heir, Peter Shand Kydd, she promised Diana, then aged five, she would come back to see her. 

"Diana used to wait on the doorstep for her, but she never came," Charles, 56, recalled.

In the years following Diana’s split from Prince Charles, Diana and Frances' relationship further deteriorated, with Diana's associations with different men reportedly displeasing her mother. 

After her marriage to Charles ended, Diana was seen with a number of men including heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, businessman Gulu Lalvani, and Dodi Fayed, the son of Egyptian billionaire Mohamad El Fayed.

But there was one relationship in particular that led Frances to give Diana a piece of her mind.

Speaking to The MirrorDiana’s former butler Paul Burrell described the moment a tearful Diana received an abusive phone call from her mother.

Diana with her son Prince Harry and her mother Frances Shand Kydd at St Mary's Church for a family wedding rehearsal in 1989. Image: Getty


"I heard her call, 'Paul, come quick'," the former employee of the royal family told the publication.

"She waved me over with her hand. I joined her on the floor cross-legged and stuck close beside her. I leant my ear as near to the phone as possible and listened to the conversation – albeit one-way," he continued.

"It was the slurring voice of Mrs Frances Shand Kydd. What I heard was a torrent of abuse, swearing and upsetting innuendo towards the Princess and towards the male company she was keeping.

"It was a hate-filled personal attack on the men and their religious beliefs."

Burrell later shared the exact words Diana's mother said to her on the phone in a documentary.


"[She said] you're nothing but a prostitute and a whore, that's what I've brought up, a prostitute," Burrell said in the documentary.

Watch: Women We Love – Princess Diana.


He added that Diana told him: "Paul, I'll never speak to my mother again as long as I live".

Just months before Diana's sudden death, Frances gave a rare interview to Hello! magazine.

Discussing Diana's divorce and her struggles with bulimia, Frances declared that it was "absolutely wonderful" that Diana had lost her HRH title – something which had absolutely mortified Diana.

According to Burrell, Diana never did speak to her mother again.

Frances passed away aged 68 in 2004 from Parkinson's disease and brain cancer. 

This post was originally published in January 2019 and has been updated in September 2020. 

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