So, when John married Frances, the pressure was on to produce his own heir who would one day inherit the Spencer peerage.
But, according to royal experts, for Frances, the burden of delivering a healthy, male heir was too much and ultimately resulted in the demise of her marriage.
The couple’s first two children were girls — Sarah, born March 1955, and Jane, born February 1957. Then, in January 1960, to the couple’s delight, their first baby boy was born — John; however, just 10 hours after his birth, John died.
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From this point, the pressure on Frances increased. Andrew Morton, bestselling biographer and author of Diana: Her True Story, claimed: “The pressure was now on to produce a healthy, male heir and to that end, she was sent to various clinics in Harley Street, Wimpole Street — prodded and poked in the most intimate of areas by gynaecologists and doctors.
“And all this time, [she had] a sense of guilt that she was some kind of a failure, which of course she wasn’t, because, as we now know, the sex of the child is determined by the male, not the female.”
A year later, in 1961, the Spencers’ fourth child was born — a baby girl they named Diana.
Speaking on the upcoming Channel 5 documentary Diana: The Curse of the Spencers, Mr Morton said: “There was widespread dismay because they were all anxious that it would be a baby boy. Diana until her dying day, thought that she was the unwanted child.”
In 1964, the long-awaited male Spencer heir arrived with the birth of Charles, but it was too late for Frances and Johnny’s marriage.
Mr Morton described the atmosphere between Frances and John as “poisonous,” saying the pair “could barely stand one another,” and their “arguments were vicious”.
In 1967, Frances left John to be with Peter Shand Kydd, an heir to a wallpaper fortune in Australia, whom she had met the year before. The pair married in 1969 but separated years later in 1988. Meanwhile, John married Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, in 1976.
Diana was often present for her parents’ heated exchanges, witnessing the painful impact of her mother’s struggle on the marriage. The biographer claimed it deeply impact the future Princess, saying it had a “profound effect” on her.
Ms Levin added: “She always remembered that and it upset her — it made her feel very unstable.”
And almost 20 years later, Diana was faced with the same task, but hers was arguably on a much larger scale.
In July 1981, she married Prince Charles — the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip — in a huge wedding at St Paul’s Cathedral. Her “royal duty” as wife to the future king was to produce a healthy heir to the British throne.
The Princess fell pregnant within the first few months of her marriage and the following year, in June, she gave birth to her first child — a baby boy.
Prince William’s birth secured the line of succession, and according to royal historian Tessa Dunlop, Frances was “overjoyed”.
Ms Dunlop explained that Frances worried about “the vulnerability of her daughter and she knows what the pressure to deliver an heir is like — let alone the heir to the throne”.
Richard Kay, a friend of the Princess’ and longtime royal commentator, added: “There must have been a sense of great relief on Frances’ part that her daughter might not have to go through the constant ups and downs of childbirth, because her very first child was a boy. It secured the line to the throne and everything that came afterwards was a bonus.
“The fact that Diana was able to do that, in her very first pregnancy, Frances felt that it would take off a lot of pressure on her in the future and life would be a lot easier.”
However, while Frances’ marriage became strained amid concerns over her “ability” to produce a son, Diana’s began to break down after she gave birth to two.
In 1984, two years after William was born, Diana and Charles had a second child — another boy. “We only have the Diana-version of events — that Charles came in, saw it was a boy — that he had sort of reddish, sandy Spencer-coloured hair — and he’s supposed to have said: ‘Oh, it’s a boy,’ sort of with this disappointment and he promptly left,” Mr Kay said.
Mr Morton said: “Frances was talking to Prince Charles and he said he wished that the baby had been a girl, not a boy because he’d always wanted a girl. And Frances snaps at him: ‘You should be grateful for having a healthy child,’ after what was really a very crass remark, given what had happened to her.”
The documentary’s narrator said: “It was an insensitivity that infuriated Frances. She knew very well that the loss of her son and the pressure she’d endured to have a boy had eaten away at her and her marriage.”
In 1992, after enduring a tumultuous marriage, Charles and Diana announced their separation. Four years later, in 1996, the pair officially divorced.
Diana: The Curse of the Spencers will air on Channel 5 on Sunday at 9pm
Source: EXPRESS CO UK