• Title: Althorp: The Story of an English House
  • Author: Charles Spencer
  • Released: 1999-03-15
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 192
  • ISBN: 0312208332
  • ISBN13: 978-0312208332
  • ASIN: 0312208332
This account of Althorp, his family seat, by Charles, the ninth earl Spencer, only scratches the surface of its 500-year history. Nevertheless, whether he is describing the sleepless nights of his childhood, the ticking of clocks "always ... too subtle a sound, getting absorbed in the oak of the floorboards and the fabric of the tapestries," or appraising the forbidding character of his grandfather, the "Curator Earl," Spencer casts a candid, evocative light on his subject.

Indeed, Spencer's own efforts on the estate have been considerable. First comes the business of repairing the predations of his "short-termist stepmother," Raine, the countess of Dartmouth, who has laid down wall-to-wall oatmeal carpet in a 115-foot-long Tudor picture gallery. Now comes the death and burial on the estate of his sister, Diana, the princess of Wales. That Charles must now curate the family home as a site of global mourning is a trial quite the equal of anything the estate has ever faced.

Subtitled "The Story of an English House," the book has a structure, dividing the subject into buildings, grounds, family history, and collections, that is entirely conventional. Yet Spencer surprises by packing in many details about the social and political vicissitudes that shaped his family's wealth and taste. In doing so, he eschews his grandfather's regrettable elitism, while losing none of the old man's dedication to the family's heritage. Like all good introductions, this book suggests a world and time far exceeding its little compass. --Simon Ings

About the Author Charles, Viscount Althorp, became the ninth Earl Spencer on the death of his father in 1992. Since then he has undertaken extensive refurbishment of Althorp and supervised the changes made to accommodate the many thousands of people who wish to visit the home and grounds since the death of his sister. He was educated at Eton College and obtained his degree in Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford.

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