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In season four of The Crown, Ruth Roche, Baroness Fermoy, is depicted as a very stern old woman who impresses on Diana how important her match to Prince Charles is for their Family. She later takes on the task of teaching Diana all about royal protocol and history ahead of her wedding to the Prince of Wales. This is after Diana is seen making several faux pas in front of her royal in-laws at Buckingham Palace including curtseying in the wrong order and addressing people incorrectly.
One courtier suggested to the Queen that she take Lady Diana Spencer under her wing and instruct her on how to conduct herself, but the monarch brushed this off and instead volunteered Lady Fermoy ‒ who was in the Queen Mother’s inner circle ‒ instead.
While it is unknown whether Lady Fermoy really gave Diana these royal lessons as seen in the Netflix drama, Andrew Morton claimed in his biography Diana: Her True Story, that Diana’s grandmother did not encourage the marriage at all, and even actually warned her granddaughter against it.
She reportedly told Diana she did not think the royal life would “suit” her.
However, Lady Fermoy was known for her strict adherence to social rules and belief in the sanctity of marriage.
For example, when her son-in-law Viscount Althorp filed for custody of Diana and her siblings, she supported him over her own daughter Frances, due to Frances’ decision to leave her husband for another man.
It was perhaps for this reason that she was not on speaking terms with Diana when she died in 1993.
The very public breakdown of the Waleses’ marriage, including infidelity on both sides may have caused Lady Fermoy to fall out with Diana.
Tragically, she was only survived by her granddaughter by four years.
Lady Fermoy was Diana’s maternal grandmother, born Ruth Sylvia Gill in 1908.
She was the daughter of wealthy Scottish landowners and in 1931 married Maurice Roche, 4th Baron Fermoy.
The couple had three children, including Diana’s mother Frances in 1936.
She was introduced to the Royal Family through her husband Lord Fermoy, who regularly went on shoots with King George VI.
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She was appointed Extra Woman of the Bedchamber by the Queen Mother in 1956, before being promoted to Woman of the Bedchamber in 1960.
She became an integral part of the Queen Mother’s household, spending much time with her at The Royal Lodge and Clarence House.
Serving as her Woman of the Bedchamber for 33 years, Lady Fermoy was a close confidante of The Queen Mother and shared her view that old-fashioned standards should be adhered to.
The Independent wrote in 1993: “The essential quality of the Queen Mother’s court has long been adherence to old-world standards and courtesies.”
Due to her position, many assumed the two women engineered the match between Charles and Diana, but this was denied.
When asked, Lady Fermoy said: “You can say that if you like ‒ but it simply wouldn’t be true.”
Mr Morton, who wrote his biography with the assistance of tapes sent straight from Diana herself, reported that Lady Fermoy had told her: “Darling, you must understand that their sense of humour and their lifestyle are different, and I don’t think it will suit you.”
This could not be more different from the Lady Fermoy in The Crown, who is played by Georgie Glen.
Indeed, the fictional Lady Fermoy seemed determined to make the match work.
She is first seen chaperoning Charles, played by Josh O’Connor, and Diana, played by Emma Corrin, during their first date on a trip to the opera.
As they say goodbye, Diana tells Charles her “Granny” is “the most hideous snob”.
Later, Lady Fermoy meets Diana at the doors of Balmoral Castle as she arrives to meet the rest of the Royal Family.
She tells her granddaughter: “I hope you don’t need me to tell you how fortunate you are to have been invited here, how unique an opportunity this is, or how much is potentially at stake for our family.”
Diana ends up being a triumph during the Balmoral visit, causing the Royal Family to put pressure on Charles to propose.
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