There was a lot of pressure on Diana's mom to produce an heir to the family, a baby boy because the aristocratic family practiced primogeniture.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on November 10, 2021. It has since been updated.
Princess Diana is a well-known figure who left everyone too soon after she died in a tragic car accident in Paris. A six-part docuseries, titled Diana, which first aired on October 10, 2021, follows the life of the late British royal while growing up in rural England. The docuseries also delves into her rather traumatic childhood, given how her home would occasionally turn violent. According to Business Insider, the first episode, titled The Girl from Norfolk, details how Diana was raised in the countryside.
Apparently, Diana "adored being in the country", as she's heard saying in recordings for Andrew Morton's book, Diana: In Her Own Words that were featured in the documentary. But, the thing is, she did not grow up in a happy home. The main reason for their sorrow is that Diana's mom, Frances Shand Kydd, and her husband, John Spencer, longed for a son, an heir to carry on the family legacy. The fact that Diana hailed from an aristocratic family meant that they practiced primogeniture. It means that the family estate will be inherited by the firstborn son, according to Julie Montagu, an American-born viscountess featured in the docuseries.
Thus, as a wife "you're supposed to keep popping out male children," British journalist Bidisha Mamata added in the documentary. Kydd first gave birth to two girls, Sarah and Jane. She then became pregnant a third time, and she and her husband were over the moon knowing that they were finally going to be parents to a baby boy. Unfortunately, the family's firstborn son, John, lived only for hours before dying of a lung condition.
Kydd grieved the loss of her son, the only one that her husband really wanted. However, eighteen months later, she was pregnant again, and they welcomed Diana. But, because she was a girl, which is not what her dad wanted, Diana grew up feeling as if she had already disappointed her parents, according to Montagu.
"I couldn't understand why I was perhaps a nuisance to have around," Diana says. She later realized it was because "the child before me died, and it was the son ... and heir."
"And then comes a third daughter," the princess continued. "'What a bore. We're going to have to try again.'" But, three years after Diana's birth, Kydd and Spencer finally welcomed their heir, their baby boy Charles Spencer.
But, given how violent Kydd's time had been with Spencer, once she gave birth to their son, she started to plot ways to escape from her marriage.
After Kydd had "fulfilled her contract" as a wife to Spencer, "she began to plot an escape route for herself. Johnny could be violent, and she felt she and her children would be safer out of the home," Penny Junor, a journalist, and author said in the documentary.
In fact, Diana herself had seen her dad being abusive towards her mom once. "I remember seeing my father slap my mother across the face and I was hiding behind the door and she was crying," Diana recalled in the recording of her tumultuous childhood.
Finally, in 1967, Kydd had decided she'd had enough, and told Spencer she was leaving him. She filed for divorce and intended to take her four kids with her, but Kydd's mom Ruth Rochelle was appalled that her daughter would leave Spencer, an attractive Earl, and socialite. She testified against Kydd in the divorce proceedings, calling her a "bad mother," the docuseries detailed.
This led to Spencer gaining custody of the four children and Kydd disappeared. "Diana's mother, in a very unhappy marriage, left, for very good reasons, and was shunned in society," Montagu said in the docuseries.
The disappearance of her mom affected Diana a lot, but most of all, the fear of losing her own children engulfed her, Montagu said. "Because of what happened to Diana at such a young age and watching her own mother lose her children, this fear of losing children would have played on Diana until her death," she added.
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