Where Diana Once Played

Charles, 9th Earl Spencer, un­veils the lat­est col­lec­tion of fur­ni­ture from Althorp Liv­ing His­tory, a line in­spired by pieces from his an­ces­tral home

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Laura Grande

Charles, 9th Earl Spencer, un­veils a fur­ni­ture line based on Althorp, his an­ces­tral home

CHARLES SPENCER is ex­hausted, but he isn’t let­ting it show. We’re stand­ing off to one side of the Kennedy Gal­leries show­room in Toronto on an un­sea­son­ably hot evening in May. It’s only four days af­ter the Royal Wed­ding, and he tells me that, by evening’s end, he’ll have trav­elled from Cal­i­for­nia to Toronto and back to Lon­don within a 24-hour win­dow. Yet, he ap­pears re­mark­ably lively for a man run­ning on only a few hours sleep, eyes alert and a glass of white wine held pre­car­i­ously at the base with two fin­gers. I catch my­self won­der­ing about his se­cret to stay­ing at­ten­tive in the face of so many strangers de­spite the jet lag. Crack­ing a smile, he says, “I didn’t re­al­ize this would be one of two high­lights of my week.”

Al­though the nup­tials of his nephew Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is on the tip of ev­ery­one’s tongue, Charles, 9th Earl Spencer,

makes only fleet­ing ref­er­ences to a “happy oc­ca­sion” when prod­ded for de­tails. He’s ac­tu­ally on hand to dis­cuss other mat­ters, namely the Althorp Liv­ing His­tory fur­ni­ture col­lec­tion. A new col­lec­tion of the line will be re­leased this month in an­tic­i­pa­tion of its 15th an­niver­sary mile­stone next year. The line is in­spired by pieces from his fam­ily’s renowned es­tate in Northamp­ton­shire. Sit­u­ated ap­prox­i­mately an hour and a half out­side Lon­don, the 90-room prop­erty is also the fi­nal rest­ing place of his sis­ter, Diana. This thought brings to mind Charles’ fiery eu­logy at her funeral in 1997, which you may re­call planted a flag for her Spencer her­itage. “Diana ... proved in the last year th that t she h needed dd no royal l ti­tle titl to t con­tinue to gen­er­ate her par­tic­u­lar brand of magic. ...” Most con­tro­ver­sially, he also pledged to her mem­ory, “That we, your blood fam­ily,” would con­tinue to raise her beloved sons in the man­ner she had de­sired “so that their souls are not sim­ply im­mersed by duty and tra­di­tion but can sing openly as you planned.”

Now 21 years later, re­splen­dent in a black suit and royal blue pais­ley tie, the 54-year-old Lord Spencer cuts a strik­ing fig­ure, stand­ing head and shoul­ders above ev­ery­one in the room. As we chat, I no­tice he has the ten­dency to lean in slightly when talking, lend­ing a con­spir­a­to­rial air to our con­ver­sa­tion. He also gives you his un­di­vided at­ten­tion, eyes never wan­der­ing around to scan the room un­til our tête-à-tête has con­cluded. It’s a skill that prob­a­bly served him well in his years as an on-air cor­re­spon­dent for NBC Nightly News and The To­day Show. It could also be sur­mised that such charms led to his three mar­riages and seven chil­dren, but I di­gress … My brush with the

aris­to­cratic English­man was short­lived as peo­ple started clos­ing in on us, ea­ger for their own chance to min­gle with a bona fide earl.

And why not? Such an en­counter is the per­fect cock­tail party anec­dote given the cur­rent ob­ses­sion with all things Bri­tish. No doubt this re­newed in­ter­est be­gan with the in­ter­na­tional suc­cesses of Down­ton Abbey and The Crown, ramped up with the Queen’s Di­a­mond Ju­bilee, and fur­ther am­pli­fied by the royal wed­ding of Prince Wil­liam and Kate in 2011. Sim­i­lar mar­riage mania took hold when Harry an­nounced his en­gage­ment to Meghan, whose wed­ding was also “must-see” TV. Lord Spencer and his cur­rent wife, Cana­dian-born Count­ess Karen Spencer, made their own grand en­trance at Wind­sor, but it was his chil­dren from his first mar­riage who turned heads. His 27-year-old daugh­ter, Kitty, wore a gor­geous flo­ral Dolce & Gab­bana gown (she’s a “friend” of the brand who reg­u­larly walks the run­way for the la­bel). His son, Louis Spencer, Vis­count Althorp, made his own dash­ing ap­pear­ance with his movie-star-hand­some looks, and the ra­bid Bri­tish tabloids wasted no time in de­cree­ing him the most eli­gi­ble royal now that Harry is off the mar­ket.

The Spencer and Wind­sor fam­i­lies were en­meshed long be­fore Charles mar­ried Diana. Their grand­mother was the Queen Mother’s lady-in-wait­ing, and Diana orig­i­nally met the prince while he was dat­ing her el­dest sis­ter, Lady Sarah McCorquo­dale. The other Spencer sib­ling, Lady Jane Fel­lowes – whose hus­band was the Queen’s pri­vate sec­re­tary – rep­re­sented the Spencers at her nephew’s wed­ding – giv­ing a read­ing and stand­ing with the fam­ily to wave the cou­ple off on their car­riage ride through Wind­sor.

But now, it’s all about Althorp. The im­pos­ing es­tate with its cav­ernous rooms and lush gar­dens has been the home of the Spencer fam­ily for a re­mark­able 19 gen­er­a­tions. Pur­chased in 1508 by John Spencer (who was knighted by King Henry VIII in 1519, likely for ser­vices ren­dered as sher­iff and for fund­ing the par­ish church), the size­able plot of land was pro­cured with money gen­er­ated from the fam­ily’s pros­per­ous sheep-rear­ing busi­ness. The Spencer peer­age (cre­ated in 1765) also boasts the earl­dom of Sun­der­land and the Churchill barony, mak­ing Diana Spencer and former Prime Min­is­ter Win­ston Churchill the most prom­i­nent mem­bers of the fam­ily. (So what ex­actly is a peer­age, you ask? Briefly, it’s a

Fam­ily Ties: Earl Spencer’s fam­ily home near Northamp­ton­shire; (inset) Diana Spencer with her brother, Charles Spencer in 1968

Manor Born: Lord Spencer in the Althorp li­brary; (inset) Diana Me­mo­rial at Althorp House

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