MARY ROCHE – She lived a remarkable life, marrying three times, flying over the Himalayas and speaking her mind with a candour quite beyond the more orthodox of her fellow aristocrats.
Now, ten months after her death aged 88, Princess Diana‘s aunt, Mary Roche, has bequeathed a whiff of mystery in her will, which has just been published.
Mary and her younger sister Frances, Diana’s mother, came from a family which had been massively enriched two generations earlier when her grandfather, James, 3rd Lord Fermoy, married an American heiress.
Fortune She Left Behind
But Mary did not leave an immense fortune.
Far from it: after taxes and other costs had been paid, her total estate amounted to £425,983 – a decidedly modest sum for a woman who, at one stage, owned an airline taking passengers on safari around Kenya and who, early in the first of her three marriages, bought a house in Wilton Crescent, Belgravia, always one of London’s most punishingly expensive addresses, where houses today effortlessly sell for more than £20million.
What is More Intriguing
But, more intriguingly, Mary, whose father, Maurice, 4th Lord Fermoy, was shooting with George VI at Sandringham the day before the King’s death, decided against leaving anything to two of her four children.
Instead, she stipulated that her estate was to be shared equally by the eldest of her three daughters, Alexandra, and her only son, Edward.
The two younger daughters, Antonia – known as Anya – and Jo, were omitted. Until recently, both lived modestly in Frome, Somerset.
Jo remains there, in a property on a 1980s housing estate which she bought for £170,000 in 2016; Anya was on a neighbouring estate but appears to have sold up for £220,000 in 2020.
Like Edward and Alexandra, Anya accompanied their mother, then married to her third husband, to Diana’s wedding.
Mary was already convinced that the marriage was ill-starred, after seeing her niece, with whom she’d formed a close bond during Diana’s childhood, looking ‘unhappy’ at a Buckingham Palace reception.
‘They were at very different stages of development,’ Mary later reflected. Describing her niece as ‘very natural and prone to giggles, a lot of fun’, Mary added: ‘Diana was young and had limited life experience, and Prince Charles was already a great thinker.’
Her son, Edward, tells me that his mother’s judgment about her will was similarly assured.
‘My mother gave various things to my sisters at different times and, in the interests of fairness, that’s how it ended up,’ he explains.