The 75-year-old has begun the legal process to have the body of one of Diana’s deceased relatives exhumed in a bid to prove they are related, leaving the royals – especially William and Harry – completely thrown by the news and concerned their late mother’s memory is once again being tarnished.
Yet, San Diego-based Ann insists she just wants to get to know her palace relatives.
“Not being recognised by the royal family is very painful and makes me feel like I’m being shoved around and forgotten about,” says Ann.
“The acceptance of Meghan Markle into the royal family when she married Prince Harry also made me think if they are accepting commoners – then why are they not accepting my claim?”
The grandmother of seven believes she is the biological daughter of Maurice Burke Roche, 4th Baron Fermoy – Princess Diana’s grandfather – who died in 1955.
Ann says she only learnt about her true parentage in 1999, four years after her mother Evelyn’s death.
For most of her life, Ann had believed she was the daughter of Evelyn’s husband Charles Rudderforth, a foreman at a mill.
But in a confessional letter written to her daughter, Evelyn explains: “I fell in love with Lord Fermoy and we had you as a result. He was married and I was just a commoner.”
Ann believes Evelyn and the baron began their affair in 1943 after Maurice saw her mother performing at a Kings Lynn theatre. Evelyn’s letter revealed that her biological father knew of his illegitimate daughter, who grew up in Kings Lynn, just 12km from the royal estate in Sandringham, Norfolk, where Maurice lived with his wife, Ruth, daughter Frances, Diana’s mother, and two other children.
“We stayed in close touch and he loved you very much,” Evelyn wrote in her letter, adding she ensured Ann attended certain social functions, explaining,
“This was so your father could see you without creating a scandal. I wanted you to know because this makes you a ‘lady’.”
Ann also discovered several love letters among Evelyn’s belongings, signed MF – Maurice’s initials. In them, the author calls Evelyn “my rose” and “my flower” and writes, “I am so sorry the birth of our Ann caused you so much pain. I feel it too”, adding, “I love you so very much. Don’t worry, my rose, I will take care of you always.”
After discovering the letters in 1999, Ann contacted Princess Diana’s cousin, the 6th Baron Fermoy, and sent him a copy of Evelyn’s letter. He wrote back saying: “Until anything further comes out I’m not going to believe what she has to say.”
Ann says she also wrote to Frances Shand Kydd – Diana’s mother – who died in 2004, but her letters went unanswered.
In 2008, she attempted to contact her great-nephews, William and Harry. A Clarence House spokesperson responded, writing: “Their Royal Highnesses are grateful to you for taking the trouble to write to them as you did, but I regret that they are unable to become personally involved.”
Now Ann has consulted lawyers in a bid to have Maurice’s twin brother Francis, who died in 1958, exhumed so his DNA can be tested. If successful, she’s hoping to forge a relationship with her royal family.
“I really want to get to know them before I get too old as this is certainly a last resort to prove my link with the family,” she says.
“I don’t mean the royal or Fermoy family any harm at all. I just want to be rightfully acknowledged by them.”
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