The Shocking Reason Why Princess Diana Wasn't Speaking to Her Mother When She Died

The heartbreaking rift was revealed by Diana's former butler.

Princess Diana and her mother at Wimbledon
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Princess Diana had a famously close relationship with her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, but her relationship with her own mother, Frances Shand Kydd, was emotionally frought and very complicated. At the time of Diana's tragic death in August 1997, the two women had not spoken in months.

Diana often talked about her feelings of abandonment surrounding Shand Kydd's decision to move out of the family home when Diana was just six years old. Frances and Diana's father, Johnnie, the 8th Earl Spencer, divorced in 1969. She remarried wallpaper heir Peter Shand Kydd in 1976. Mother and daughter had periods of closeness and estrangement throughout Diana's life, but the final break between the women was deeply wounding to them both.

"Diana was devastated by her mother's disapproval of the men in her life," one royal insider told me. "Frances loved Diana, but like her daughter, could be very impulsive and emotional. She said some very hurtful things, but she loved her daughter. I don't think she ever got over the circumstances surrounding the princess' death."

In 2008, at the formal inquest into her death, Diana's longtime butler, Paul Burrell, revealed shocking comments Shand Kydd allegedly made that he claimed caused the heartbreaking estrangement months before the princess' death.

At the hearing, Burrell reluctantly recounted the details of a phone call Diana had with her mother in June 1997. The princess, deeply upset at her mother's ongoing disapproval over her relationship with Pakistani heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan and her longtime friendship with entrepreneur, Gulu Lalvani, had asked Burrell to listen in the extension in another room.

"[Frances Shand Kydd] called the princess a whore and she said she was messing around with [expletive] Muslim men and she was disgraceful," said Burrell at the time.

The former butler stunned the packed courtroom describing Diana's mother's alleged comments as  "a hate-filled personal attack on the men and their religious beliefs."

According to Burrell, as a result of that call, Diana vowed never to speak to her mother again.

Lalvini, who is actually a Punjabi Sikh, was a close confidant of Diana's who often accompanied her Annabel's, a popular London nightclub. Khan, who is Muslim, came from a deeply religious family who, while fond of Diana, did not consider her a suitable wife. A month after Diana's conversation with her mother, Khan ended his affair with Diana.

During the summer of 1997, Shand Kydd was reportedly frantic about not being able to get in contact with Diana as she grew increasingly concerned about her daughter's safety when the tabloids starting reporting on her every move during her vacation with Dodi Fayed aboard the Fayed's yacht, Jonikal, and the couple's photographs were all over the newspapers.

Shand Kydd later refuted Burrell's claims that she was not speaking to her "tempestuous" daughter because she disapproved of some of her friends, but admitted at the time of Diana's death, they women had not spoken in four months. Shand Kydd died in 2004. And for more on the tragic life of Princess Diana, read up on Her Final New Year's Resolution That She Never Saw Come to Pass.

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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