RUTH, Lady Fermoy, maternal grandmother of the Princess of Wales, has

died peacefully at her London home. She was 84.

The Princess has decided to go ahead with a visit to Zimbabwe but will

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almost certainly attend the funeral in King's Lynn, Norfolk, next

Thursday.

As well as being grandmother to the Princess and Earl Spencer, Lady

Fermoy was a friend and close confidante of the Queen Mother. For more

than 30 years, she served as a lady-in-waiting at Clarence House and was

popular in royal circles.

She is widely suspected of being the matchmaker in the romance between

the Prince and Princess of Wales -- a role she strongly denied.

Lady Fermoy was a leading courtier, becoming Woman of the Bedchamber

to the Queen Mother in 1960 and a guiding light for the young Princess.

She was said to have seen her grand-daughter's decision to seek a

formal separation from the Prince as a betrayal of the royal family she

had served for so long.