Laura and Bonnie came to stay for a couple of weeks and Laura wanted to visit a small chapel that her father had helped build during WWII. It was located a long way from our cottage so I set about finding something we could do in the area to make the visit worthwhile for all of us.
Luckily Althorp was holding a Literary Festival June 10-12 so off we went.
Let me begin by saying I have NEVER been to an aristocrat's home who is still living. All my experience has been visiting homes bequeathed to the state after their deaths or palaces that are seldom used.
Let me tell you, I had NO idea how these people lived and believe me it is something else.
Althorp has been owned by the Spencer's for 500 years and it is one GORGEOUS place. It is HUGE and the grounds are to die for. It is usually open to the public only 6 weeks out of the year so we got lucky.
Here is the entrance. Imagine the royalty that has come through those doors.
Here's a side view!
Check out these grounds. This is the view from the front of the house.
This is the side yard!
And this is the back yard (the estate is comprised of 14,000 acres!)
Here's the Stable Block.......
And here's Laura and Bonnie strolling by....
Now to the most poignant part of our visit, the final resting place of Princess Diana.
This is the lake with the island in the center where Princess Diana is buried.
And this is the memorial Earl Spencer renovated for his sister.
Before we left we chatted up the driver of the van that transported guests from the west gate. He has worked for the family for 11 years. Laura tried to pick him for information but he assured her that if he told her anything he would have to kill her. He did, however, explain to us the symbolism of the two rows of trees that line either side of the drive. Earl Spencer had 37 trees planted on either side of the drive to mark each year of Diana's life. When full grown they will form a beautiful canopy through which guests will enter the grounds.
So if you are wondering where the pictures are of the interior, I don't have any, strictly forbidden. Of course that didn't stop Bonnie so when we get home whe is going to send me a couple. We only got to see the Great Room where we entered, the Marlborough Room where we listened to some English minstrels and the loo where I was only allowed to go since it was an emergency. I took Bonnie there and was immediately thrown out by this evil woman volunteer since that area was apparently off limits.
I did, however, speak to the Earl.
Let begin by saying that he is a one good looking man, a real handsome rich guy.
So here's my Althorp anecdote. We went to hear an author lecture on the book he wrote about the Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson. Bonnie, Laura and I spread out since there was plenty of room and I sat in the next to last row. In walked Earl Spencer and his friend. I heard him comment behind me that they should sit in the last row since those were much more comfortable seats. (I agreed.) Well, there were a lot of seats so I got up, commented to them that if the back was good enough for the master of the house, that worked for me and sat down a few seats down from him. A little while later he came up and asked if I minded moving down a few seats. Being the uncouth yank that I am I said, "Sure, it's your house!" His friend chuckled, had noted my obvious American accent and asked if we had planned to stay for the day. He was very courteous. In came the Earl's family and other guests and there we sat......all together.
I did ask if they would like me to move and was told of course not, I was fine where I was. What they couldn't see was the cheshire cat grin on my face. I was dying for Laura and Bonnie to turn around and see me sitting there with them but they never turned around to give me the pleasure!!
Bonnie and Laura did however get up to leave in time to see the Earl, his family and me filing out!