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17.2.12

The Weekender: Princess Diana's Althorp House - Part II

Today, Althorp House www.althorp.com, is a center of much activity, noted as a stylish Hospitality venue for weddings and corporate events, special literary conferences and classic concerts. The house this year is open to the public from 1st July - 30th August 2012 - lets explore…

The History 
The Spencer Family have been 'gentleman farmers' since as early as 1486. Clever at business they extended their holdings via marriage into the peerage elite. From John Spencer, created Earl Spencer in 1785 through to the present Ninth Earl. Each of the Earls has added their own contribution through Politics, Religion and Royalty. Today they still are very much an aristocratic family who hold rank in the highest of UK Circles.






The Spencer Family
The current Ninth Earl (Charles Viscount Spencer) educated at Eton and Magdalen collage Oxford, is known for his infamous speech at Diana's memorial service* which apparently upset among many - the Windsor's. Currently a gentleman farmer, hospitality proprietor, writer and photographer. And choosing to oversee the Estate over political ambitions, Charles Spencer ensures the Estate prospers, which indeed is a full time responsibility. Married twice, with 3 children from the first and two from the second, life no doubt has his time cut out, between public and private duties of his position.

The House
Built in 1508, it has been the home of the Spencer Family for nearly 500 years. What however, is particularly interesting about Athorp House is that one is able to hire the House out, for any social or corporate occasion to include weddings and shooting parties.

There are nine main rooms on the ground floor. The Great Room, much like the state dining room at 10 Downing Street, with its Rubens and Giltwood mirrors. The State Room in a Royal Blue silk-which apparently is modeled on the Ballroom at Buckingham Palace. The Library which, at one time, was known to have, one of the best collections in the world; and where the room opens out onto the lawn on one side and Billiard room on the other. 

The South Drawing room with predominantly Reynolds hung paintings, which was redecorated in 1992. In addition to The Marlborough Dining Room, The Saloon, Wootton Hall and Picture Gallery. 

Then there is the Sunderland Room - which is my favorite with its elegance and warmth of Burgundy and British racing green colours. I must add, that the home feels very much "lived in" and even today, one could believe they have just walked right into the film "The Remains of the Day".

The Lake at Althorp with Princess Diana's memorial beyond
Photo via Wikipedia

Diana Spencer - The late HRH Princess of Wales - Exhibition & Temple
In a tribute to Diana, HR Princes of Wales, her Brother Charles Spencer, dedicated an area of the Estate's Stables, to put together an exhibition that depicts the life and work of Diana. Exhibits include the famous Bridal Gown, childhood letters, school reports, and the Princess's Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund charity, www.theworkcontinues.org. Though there are many people over the summer period that visit this very special and unique exhibition, it is said that there is a quite reverence by all that visit.

Charles Spencer also had Diana buried in the ground of the house, and not the church; so to kept both the church and village in tact and away from tourists. Instead he dedicated an area called 'The Shrine', on the Round Oval in a lake at Althorp, which is in the form of a small classical temple. It is surrounded by the lake and makes a perfect resting place for such Icon of the world. Whatever your experience or interest - Diana was indeed one of the world most loved Princess's of the 20th Century and... may God rest her soul.


The Estate Grounds 
With 14,000 acres, the estate encompasses a wide range of businesses; which include Estate village management, Woodland Forestry and to me of particular interest Estate farming, Althorp has over 3,000 acres of farmland and even today, the same families farm the Estate's land as they have, for generations. The estate takes much care of combining farm food production with conservation of the wildlife and community, and being a provider of local jobs. Walk the many footpaths through meadow and woodland alike in one of England's grandest Estate and least spoilt counties.

Diana, Princess of Wales

The Stable Tearoom
A homemade range of sandwiches, salads and bakery items, using all their own farm produce is available, in addition to the traditional afternoon tea, which can be enjoyed both indoor and the courtyard terrace - on sunny days.

The Gift Shop: (also located in the stable block) 

There are two retail collections 
  1. The Althorp House Collection and
  2. Princess Diana's Commemorative Range
Each offer a wonderful selection of gifts for presents back home. 

Having returned on a fast London train, this fine summers evening, viewing the sunset over the city, atop of Primrose Hill, with a glass of chilled wine in hand... 

Cheers from the Englishman!

Contributed by David W. J


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2 comments:

Julie said...

Vyna this is beautiful history. I'm surprise We haven't heard more about this incredible estate. Thank you for sharing.

Vyna St Phard said...

Julie,
It's a great estate, indeed. We're thinking of giving a tour of the estate, perhaps later this year, or sometimes next year. I'd be thrilled if you and your husband can make it. Of course, this invitation is extended to anyone else who may be interested.
xoxo,
Vyna

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