My earliest memories of Princes Diana were as a tweenager at Northamptonshire County Cricket Club where the family were the patrons and a little Diana with pigtails and hula hoop would play cricket and catch with her dad and brother on the outfield at the intervals. At that time nobody knew she would be the world's most famous woman, of course, but even then she had a flirty side as she would do ballet moves in front of the camera guys from the local paper. Every girl wants to be a princess. I think I caught her out once at long on when I joined in the game. Can't be sure though.
The Spencer's - even back then - were an extremely important family in the British aristocracy and some say Diana groomed to marry Charles at a young age. It was clearly a loveless relationship that would never work but Diana knew her place and the root to be a fairytale princess. Her earliest years were living with her divorced mother and she only briefly lived at the family seat of Althorp. When the press hounded Diana at the height of her fame and divorce her horrible and arrogant brother Charles often turned away from the family seat when she sort sanctuary. But when she tragically died he couldn't wait to have her back and milk her fame and open up the family seat to the public to cash in. Few people know that when he delivered that disgraceful speech at Westminster Abbey, blaming the intrusive and hounding press for her death, he too was showbiz reporter for Hello magazine. For me Diana was addicted to the press and would do crazy stuff to court them and an expert at manipulation, perhaps racing through Paris with her seat belt off to induce a chance with the paparazzi not that wisest in hindsight. She needed the positive pictures to grow her ego and the press had to get those pictures. Both parties got carried away with only one result.
As far as her burial goes there is a dark rumor going around these parts that she isn't buried on the island incase a ghoulish type sneaked onto the estate and tried to dig up her bones in the dead of night and so really in the family crypt at the local Little Brington church were most of their ancestors are laid. I believe the later. The island was too unstable and muddy in the winter and you have all seen those films were the zombies rise from the graveyard hand first. In fact the family used to use the said island as a pet cemetery and bury their hunting dogs there, still known as 'dog island' to staff. There is simply no photographic evidence she is buried there. Rather ironically visitors are not allowed to bring pets onto the grounds, including dogs.
Why the world wailed and mourned over Diana is another mystery like her burial. On August 23rd 1997 we realized the country had changed and no longer the great stiff upper lip nation it once was and no way back. The media was telling us what to do and how to behave from now on in, the no mark winner of the X Factor more important than great art and life experience.
= = = The House = = =
The Family Seat of Althorp is just outside of Northampton (about 5 miles) and opens to the public in mid summer although suffering increasingly smaller crowds to see Diana's memorial and exhibition (no photos allowed inside) these days, meaning that summer viewing period is now just July-August, ironically closed on the 23rd of August. Charlie 'big bucks' Spencer prefers to tour the exhibits around the world for the other ten months of the year to make more money that way and so to have to enough cash to pay off his ex wives, presumably. To be fair it's a decent price asked to see the exhibits and young kids can come long with mom and dad for not very much to make it a family day out.
---House and Exhibition Prices---
Adult Day Ticket £13.00 (+£2.50 for access to the Upstairs rooms)
Concession Day Ticket including Upstairs Rooms £13.50
Child (5-17) Ticket - including FREE Upstairs access £6.00
Family Day Ticket (2 Adults and 2 Children) £30.50 (+ £5 for access to upstairs rooms).
Concession Day Ticket (OAP or Student) £11.00
Child (0-5) Ticket - FREE including upstairs
= = = Grounds only = = =
Adult Grounds Only Ticket £3.50
Concession Grounds Only Ticket (OAP or Student) £2.50
Child (5-17) Grounds Only Ticket £1.50 (Under 5 years admitted free)
Family Grounds Only Ticket (2 Adults and 2 Children) £8.50
It's not just Diana stuff going on there, everything from those cheesy classical music fireworks evening picnics to literacy festivals and cricket matches through the summer season to help pay the bills. The book festival is quite good although rather steep at £40 a day, Julian 'Downtown Abbey' Fellows the star speaker this year. In fact there is an excellent list of writers attending to sell and speak, as well as the celebrity ones like Michael Palin, Sandi Tosvig, Paddy Ashdown and Anne Widdecombe. The event runs from Thursday the 13th of June to Saturday the 15th. They also do corporate events and weddings.
Single Event £15
Day Ticket (up to four events) £40
Two Day Ticket (up to four events each day) £65
Three Day Tickets (up to four events each day) £95
If you don't want to do the exhibition you can pay £3.50 to wander around the sizeable grounds and see the island and the Diana memorial. You can bring a picnic and parking is free. The house is not the most beautiful pile but grand enough to do the tour of the 19 rooms and high class antiquary. The grave is about 10 skims of a flat stone from the shore so bring your binoculars. The memorial is rather tacky and alabaster. You can get on the estate free if you know where to go so email if you would like to do that.
There are good toilet and café facilities for snacks and stuff and a visitors shop with yet more tat for the proles and nicer porcelain for the well healed. Diana did have huge pull around the world and so the gifts in many languages but now she is equal to Cliff Richard (types of followers being of a certain age and fluster) and so the brisk trade a trickle now.
Traditional country pursuits including shooting, archery, hunting and carriage rides through the grounds are also available on request. You can also do balloon rides in the summer.
After suggesting a visit to Althorp to my mother, we thought about the best time to visit. Althorp is only open to the public from July 31 to August 31 every year. A weekday? No, too many HGV's on the M1 and if we wanted to take the direct route through London the Congestion Charge would be in force too. A Saturday? We both had other things to do. We plumped for a Sunday. There should be less traffic driving through central London, and possibly less motorway congestion too, not to mention that Sunday's are free from the Congestion Charge.
I was aware a Hyde Park cycle event was planned for that day, so I duly surfed the net. The only problem mentioned was a road through Hyde Park being closed southbound for the day. Further afield in Richmond and Box Hill there were to be more road diversions in place.
A last minute check (I had stupidly googled 'Hyde Park events') confirmed there were no last minute changes, so off we set towards central London.
Why is this all relevant? Because some two hours later both my mother and myself could be found in my car with our nerves frayed.. We had crawled a total of 20 miles in those two hours, and had yet to see the start of the M1, never mind Junction 16 in Northamptonshire.
A total 1,400 roads in London and Surrey had been shut, some for hours after the cyclists had passed by. My fault entirely - as my mother kept reminding me- for not having checked the Transport For London (TFL) website instead.
By the time we reached the Althorp car park, we both needed this attraction to lift our spirits.
This had better be worth it...
... otherwise I simply couldn't face another three hours in the car with my mother on the way home. And she with me, no doubt.
~ Some history ~
Is there anyone who hasn't heard of Althorp? Now the home of Charles, the Ninth Earl of Spencer, and younger brother of the late Princess Diana, though Althorp's links to Royalty go back almost as far as the 500 years it has been home to the Spencer family.
Robert, First Baron Spencer was at the start of the 17th Century one of the richest men in the country thanks in part to his predecessors marriages into peerage and plenty of lucrative business dealings. The canny chap took it upon himself to meet James I as the Scottish king travelled past on his way to London, escorting him on the last leg of his journey. Not surprisingly, he was soon ennobled, and hereafter the family seems to have close links to the Royal family, albeit not always on good terms.
Fast forward a couple of generations, and Robert, Second Earl of Sunderland decided to convert to Roman Catholicism. Nothing strange in that except this was during the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and when the last Catholic monarch was about to be replaced by William of Orange, a protestant! According to the Althorp guidebook, a great deal of the artwork on display is attributable to him, along with...
... the Grounds
~ The gardens ~
While Althorp's gardens may not be in the same league as those at Versailles, the Althorp gardens are credited with being originally created by the same man, French royal gardener Andrew Le Notre.
If you come here hoping to see much the same design features though, you will be disappointed. The current Earl Spencer is said to be responsible for removing much of the formal planting that was here, and in the process cutting back lots of cypress trees that were grown here, to give a better view of the further reaches of the estate.
And impressive the views certainly are. After the interminable length of time I spent sitting in my car, the walk from the car park to the first building - the Pump Yard - bode well for the rest of the visit. In the field on the left were the remnants of Althorp's very own Glastonbury - they had hosted a concert the night before and a few marquees and the concert stage were in the process of being dismantled. And sheep in the field on the right. Wide open spaces, but as yet the house isn't visible.
The only public toilets on the estate are in the Pump Yard. We availed ourselves of the facilities and pressed on towards the house. The next building you come to is..
~ The Stable Block ~
The horses and grooms have long since gone, but this, more so than the house itself, was the reason I had wanted to come to Althorp. It houses an exhibition dedicated to both the life of Diana, the Princess of Wales and her memory.
The exhibition is split into 5 parts, spaced over two of the stable blocks. The first two parts relate her earlier life, with the other 3 her life from her wedding day onwards. I won't recount all the exhibits here, it would spoil it for those that might want to see it for themselves and those with no interest would find it tedious. Being that it was the main reason we came, I will highlight some of the exhibits I found the most interesting.
Her tap shoes.
I was vaguely aware that Diana had been a keen ballet dancer when she was younger, and still had a love for dancing as an adult (who could forget the dances with Wayne Sleep or John Travolta?) but instead of a worn out pair of ballet shoes were a pair of tap shoes from her early teens. In shiny black leather, what struck me most wasn't the excellent condition of them, but the size. Easily a size seven. Possibly nearer an eight. Why, what big feet you had Diana.
Dear mum and dad...
A short letter, carefully written by Diana when she would have been at boarding school aged around 9. It recounts a recent power cut at the school, when she had had to take a candle to bed. Hardly a gripping yarn I grant you, but from the viewpoint of a child it's an event worth writing home about which is touching.
Have you ever met anyone famous?
Apparently, they always seem smaller than you imagined when you meet them. Well, go into the second exhibition block and the first thing you see is Diana's wedding dress. Yes, That Dress. The lighting in this area is the dimmest in all the exhibit areas, perhaps that is to give greater effect to the dress or to stop the material from deteriorating, but it does bring out the sparkly bits in the train. The dress is undoubtedly meant to be one of the exhibition's highlights. When seen close up, it doesn't seem as blancmangy as it did at the time. I remember the crinoline skirt being incredibly wide, with an over the top length train. Looking at the dress here, it seems more petite and has the 25 foot train neatly curled up around it. Yes, it looks rather dated, and the big sleeves are terribly frou frou, but 'Smaller in real life' was my verdict. "Dingy" was my mother's verdict. Rather harsh I thought. Diana's mother, Mrs Shand Kydd had paid £1050 for the gown together with the bridesmaids dresses in 1981. Whatever you think of the dress, that was a bargain price and turned the unknown Emmanuels into household names.
Certainly the largest exhibit, and well worth seeing is that of Diana's post-marriage clothes. Down one side of are her 'day clothes' - mostly formal skirt suits she wore on official engagements. The other side hold some of her evening dresses. While the day suits seemed quite dowdy to me considering her age, the evening dresses are for the most part gorgeous. Interestingly, they show how her style evolved over the last 10 years or so of her life. A few of the earlier evening dresses look quite matronly and have big puffy sleeves, although perhaps at the time they were considered the height of fashion. After all, it was the era of leg warmers and ra-ra skirts. The 28 different pieces all have written descriptions including the year they were made, and by whom. Catherine Walker was obviously one of Diana's favourite designers, as more than half of those on display are her designs, but other designers included are Versace and Dior. A nice touch is that the Spencer family have taken the trouble to find photos of Diana actually wearing each piece which are displayed on the wall behind the clothing.
The home movies.
In both areas, there is footage playing, on a loop, of Diana. The earlier home footage includes clips of her and her brother Charles larking about - her two older sisters don't feature heavily in the exhibition - from small children to her teenager years, all taken by her father. Later footage includes that of her on official engagements, such as meeting those afflicted with Aids and Leprosy. The last of all, is news footage taken in London in the days after her passing. All the movies are silent, there is no intrusive voiceover. There is also plenty of room to stand and watch the footage, without those who are looking at the exhibits in the same room standing in the way.
As well as the exhibition, the Stable Block houses something else of interest, and that is the café. When we arrived it was lunchtime and heaving with visitors. There was a fairly good selection of sandwiches and baguettes, with soup for those wanting something hot, and some delicious cakes. Canned drinks were £1 each, filter coffee and hot chocolate around the £1.90 mark each, which is reasonable considering that is probably what I've paid when I visit cafes closer to home. A filter coffee, hot chocolate, tuna sandwich, danish pastry and slice of chocolate cake came to around £11.50. The service reminded me of a fast food joint. There was only one queue, but four or five staff serving, all very young but efficient. There is plenty of seating outside on the cobbled courtyard, although beware the wobbly tables if you don't want a spilt drink. Inside to the rear of the café some seating has been kitted out in some of the old stable areas. That's fine if you aren't claustrophobic.
We had actually stopped here for a bite to eat before looking at the exhibition, and probably spent around an hour between the two, before we headed off for a walk around the grounds. We had entered the Stable Block from the south. If you exit through the north as we did you'll get a wonderful view - the first - of Althorp house. Here, too, is a row of tiny cannons. These, the Guidebook tells me are from the battle of Navarino in 1827, which the Fourth Earl had taken part in. Quite how he acquired them is anyone's guess, but they do make for a good photo opportunity, as you'll see.
~ Around the Round Oval ~
We decided to make the most of the nice weather and walk around the outside of the house towards the lake before we went inside. The lake, or Round Oval as it's called, is where Diana was interred in 1997. My first impression is how small the lake is. It's probably half the size of the lake in Crystal Palace park and smaller even than that at the RHS Wisley garden, for those familiar with either of the two. There are benches placed every few yards surrounding the lake, and thoughtfully Althorp have provided some sand filled buckets to the side of most, although I don't recall seeing anyone smoking while we were there. Like any other pond, there are lots of ducks, which are very cheeky, and seem to expect titbits from anyone sitting down.
We walked to the far end, where a summer house, here since 1901, is now dedicated to Diana. The central silhouette in marble is attractive, and flanked by two stone tablets. One features part of Earl Spencer's speech at Westminster Abbey, the other is a quotation from Diana about her charitable works. It is certainly very elegant, and worth the walk from the house, although it was one of the busier points of interest with visitors when we were there, with quite a crowd gathered taking photos and quizzing the attendant there.
We followed the path all the way around the lake and back towards the house. This will take you past the oak tree planted here by Nelson Mandela when he came to pay his respects after Diana's funeral, although it's off to one side and unless you're paying attention you could easily miss it.
~ Althorp House ~
If there are any drawbacks in inheriting such a lovely house, I'm sure low down on the list must be how to furnish it. I doubt that Charles Spencer lies awake many nights worrying about interior design.
All the rooms which are open to the public look like they have been largely undisturbed for many years, from the wallpapers to the bed coverings. If Raine Spencer had ever left her blowsy fingerprint in the decoration, it won't be found in the public rooms.
There are five bedrooms on display, which are all very traditionally furnished with four poster beds. The Queen Mary bedroom has what must be the tallest four poster I've ever seen - not that I'm an expert - nigh on 15 feet top to bottom. These, we were told, are all regularly used by guests of the family. Quite frankly, I'd enjoy staying here for the brilliant views from the bedroom windows despite the beds looking really uncomfortable. No doubt the family's quarters are more modern.
One thing we spotted was a little secret door cut into the wall of what I think was the Princess of Wales bedroom. Secret passages? It took me right back to reading the Famous Five. Sadly, it leads to nothing more exciting than a small washroom, according to the room attendant.
~ Charles Spencer... ~
.. is hardly there since his latest marriage this year to an American, so don't go expecting to bump into him.
In all fairness to the current Earl, visitors to most other British stately homes know very little about their owners, and without any preconceived notions they arrive with an open mind. This Earl is slightly different. As well known for his " I stand before you today, the representative of a family in grief..." eulogy, as for his tricky love life, what does the cad bring to the table (or his house)?
Walking around, there were some simple touches which reminded me that we were in a family home and not a fusty museum.
In one room is a pile of board games, well worn and all quite old. In another was a biography of Wallis Simpson, placed for any wandering eyes to see it. Another Royal outsider, who totally got up the Queens nose? Some informal family photos are also scattered throughout the public rooms, of the Earls' children, as well as, yes, some of Princes William and Harry as little nippers.
Most surprisingly of all, for me, was a large modern painting by Mitch Griffiths. Having pride of place in the centre of the Picture Room, and surrounded by paintings some of which are 200 years older, is one called simply Britannia. Bought by the Earl last year, it features the daughter of actor Ray Winstone in a study of what the artist calls the disposable, celebrity obsessed nature of modern Britain. Aside from the two paintings in the hallway - of the current Earl and of his late sister - this was the only one which was remotely modern, and a stark contrast to any others on display here.
I don't know whether Earl Spencer feels he lives under the shadow of his older sister, or if he finds it a burden being saddled with the public's association of her memory, but his family estate is a well run and thriving business. To appeal to as broad a range of visitors as possible, rather than simply charge the one admission price as most stately homes do, Althorp has three options to choose from. The cheapest option is intended for those that simply want to visit the gardens, ie walk around the lake and see the Exhibition. Those that would like to see more can choose to look around either the ground floor rooms, or the ground and upstairs rooms. Those less steady on their feet or requiring wheelchairs only have the option of the first two as there is no assisted access to the upstairs rooms in the house.
~ The Visitor Guide Book... ~
.. is well laid out, with plenty of colour photos as well as some Althorp background, and a foreword by Earl Spencer. At £5 it is expensive, but in fairness it is printed on high quality paper, and gives a room by room account for those doing the whole tour. Without it, or the audio tour which you can hire when you enter, I don't think we would have noticed as much in each room. For those not interested in buying a guide book, there is a smaller visitor pamphlet which everyone gets on arrival, which includes a decent enough map of the grounds.
~ Recommended? ~
Althorp as I've said, will only remain open to the public until the end of August. Summer is probably the best time of year to visit anyway, given that the gardens looked wonderful, so yes I would recommend it. A big plus for me, was that there are no tours around the house, you turn up and walk through the house at your own pace. I found this more enjoyable than being herded around the rooms with a party of Japanese and Americans tourists doing England.
If you don't fancy looking around the house, Althorp also hosts other events throughout the year, including a literary festival (started by the Earl's middle wife), and various musical events.
However, if the thought of learning more about Princess Diana leaves you cold, or if you find the current Earl Spencer vaguely irritating, then no. It would be easy to say that he is exploiting his sister's name but I came away thinking Althorp has struck a very good balance between the old, more standard fare of a stately home, with the modern Diana exhibition. Those that only wish to visit because of it being Diana's family home can buy the cheaper garden tickets, and aren't forced to look around a house they don't really want to.
That said, the price differential is so little, it seems wiser to buy tickets for both parts of the house as well, especially if you have travelled any real distance to get here. It really is a delightful building both inside and out.
There are staff in each room (are they called room attendants?), who were all very responsive. If they get bored with people asking the same questions every day, they didn't show it.
Was it worth it? Yes, and a good and happily uneventful drive home was the cherry on the top.
~ Prices ~
We paid £28 to get in, £15 for me as an adult and £13 for my mother as a senior citizen. I haven't included all the other prices as there are so many. Althorp's website includes a complete list, including the concessions.
~ Where it is ~
Telephone: 01604 770107
Fax: 01403 891 305
You can book tickets by telephone, online or by writing to:
Ticket Sales, The Stables, Althorp, Northampton, NN7 4HQ
They are open from 11:00am to 5:00pm, with last entry at 4:00pm from 1st July - 30th August every year.
Once we got off the M1 at junction 16, the brown tourist signs were easy to follow.
This year for the first time I visited Althorp to see the last resting place of Diana, Princess of Wales. I found the whole set up very tasteful, not at all commercialised.
The shop did not stock a great amount of souvenirs, the ones that were on sale were not the usual tourist tacky stuff, but rather more tasteful. There was a cafe where refreshments were available at reasonable prices. The grounds were well kept, and the staff were all very helpful, answering questions about the house etc.
It was good to visit the exhibitions of Diana's clothes, but I have to say they looked nowhere as good in the displays as they did when she wore them. I was still disappointed with her wedding dress. I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way, it was creased on her wedding day and, although not quite as creased now it is in the Althorp display, it still did not look anything special.
I was particularly impressed with the facilities for disabled visitors to Althorp, a mini bus drove from the gatehouse to the house entrance and inside the grounds and house there were ramps available. The only downside to this was it was not possible to access upstairs for anyone in a wheelchair.
The entrance fee is not extortionate, although I did not think it fair to ask visitors to pay another 2.50 GBP to tour the upstairs of the house. We didn't take this option so I don't know what the upstairs is like, although a guide did tell us people can pay 1,000 GBP a night to stay in Diana's bedroom. (I do find this rather distasteful and yes, it does seem as if her brother is cashing in on her by allowing this, but no doubt some people will be happy to pay!)
The interior of the house was most impressive, not stuffy and museum like, as so many stately homes are. This one had a distinct lived in feel to it, with board games, books and a television set in some of the rooms, showing this is a real family home when Lord Spencer and his children are there and it is closed to visitors.
There has been a great deal of criticism of the decision to open Althorp to the public, but I mostly disagree with this. Of course Lord Spencer is making some money, but he is also giving lots of people the chance to visit the childhood home of a woman who was loved the world over. Not everyone was able to get to London to her funeral, the Diana memorial in Hyde Park is not a fitting tribute to her, so where better to go to pay your last respects than to Althorp?
We visited in August and on a Friday and I was surprised there were not a lot of people there. I was pleased about this though as it meant we were able to wander around at our leisure, taking in the peace and tranquillity of the lake which surrounds the island where Diana is buried. The Memorial at the far side of the lake is a fitting tribute to her and it was good that visitors are allowed to leave floral tributes there if they wish.
Lord Spencer was actually in the gift shop signing copies of his book and although no doubt he is profiting from the sales, I do think this was good as he is undoubtedly a busy person, yet he responded to the questions he was asked by the visitors without qualm.
If you have never been to Althorp, then do check their website for opening times etc and don't listen to the critics - go and see for yourself. I hope Althorp will be open for visitors forever. As the years pass and more people learn of Diana and her good work, they will want to find out more about her. And until we have a national memorial site that is worthy of Diana, then Althorp is the best place we have to remember her.
A friend and I visited Althorp for the Princess Diana memorial the first summer that it was opened to the public. We both wanted to go there for the opportunity to pay our respects to Diana, lay some flowers and then go home. Unfortunately, in order to do this we first of all had to take a tour through Althorp house, the gardens and a museum dedicated to Diana. I cannot deny that the house and gardens are beautiful but at the end of the day we were there for one reason and one reason only, Diana. The museum was lovely and in some ways a fitting tribute to Diana because there was lots of footage being shown of the unfaltering work she did for many charities and also a display of thank you letters etc from many of the people she helped. There was also footage being shown of the days after her death, the national outpouring of grief and the many bouquets of flowers that were layed outside Buckingham Palace. Several of Diana's outfits, including her wedding dress, was on display and I have to say that it was lovely to see her beautiful wedding dress in person. It brought back memories of the day that I watched Charles and Diana get married on the television aged just seven, when I dreamed that one day I would wear a dress just like that to my own wedding. Finally we arrived at the island, you were not allowed to go over to it but you were allowed to walk around it and then place any flowers at a memorial about half way around. It was a very melancholy moment when we stood looking over to the island, knowing that a woman who had touched so many people's lives was buried there, we paid our respects and reflected on how cruel it was that her family who loved her had been robbed of her and how she had been denied the true love that was blossoming between Diana and Dodi. In between all this was also a sense of annoyance, I personally could not help feeling that Viscount Althorp was cashing in on his sisters de
mise rather than genuinly wanting to allow people to say their last goodbyes to the woman who had touched the lives of people who may not even have had the opportunity to meet her. If he was doing it for our benefit and for no financial gain of his own, then why the need to charge us for the priviledge. For the first year, opening the house and the grounds was a nice idea but that is where it should have ended, after that Diana should have been left to rest in peace. I said at the time that I wanted to go once but never again after that and I never have.
I worked at Althorpe house in 1998 to earn a few quid over the summer towards the bills. It was a about a year after the death of Diana and part of the reason I took the steward position was to see if the mass hysteria that gripped the female and gay population had died away from that fateful bizarre day the previous year. The house itself has been neglected by her brother who now runs it since the late 80s when it was heavily in debt like most country estates who hadn't been bailed out by The National Trust. The improvements are very commercial but in keeping with the splendor of the land and you cant say he went over the top to "cash in" on the families and a certain section of the publics loss. For twelve pounds booked in advance you got to see the converted stables that contain a museum of some of her infamous dress and memories. The film of her skipping around with royals when she was small is quite intriguing as it shows even at a young age she was being groomed to be a possible future princess ,very much erasing any romantic thoughts of the peoples Princess. There is an extreme serenity about the place when the sun shines and you can hear the weeps of middle aged mums strangely effected by the passing of a woman who had nothing in common with pretty much anyone who paid the money to visit.It was a kind of hero worship like a young guy at the football or girl at a Take That concert.The patron saint of women as my supervisor put it. Its amazing how there's a certain need by some people to believe what the TV and Radio tell us to act and be and how the minority of the land that day was caught up in the haze of the death of a conceited bored women who did little for the people except some charity work that all Princesses do. The lake is the center point of the Diana exploitation errrrr experience where bored kids glued to thoughtful mums and designated male drivers stare at a small plaque at the middle of the lake which is supposed to contain
the casket with Diana's body in it but the whisper around these parts is that the body is in the family crypt and the local vicar who did the burial has turned to the bottle and Prozac with the secret he lives with. Even though im not a great fan of The Spencer's and especially the brother who dare to denounce the press for killing his sister when he was a journalist at the time in South Africa who went around famous peoples house and did Hello style interviews to make money,hypocrisy at its extreme.More so with Diana who courted at will the tabloids when she wasn't happy with her ego boosting coverage or the profile shots encouraging even more press intrusion.An ironic deaf if ever there was one. The park is still open this summer(2001)even though it was supposed to be a one year only deal although the numbers are small and the legend is dying as the media drives these lost souls in another direction as it did that fateful day in August one warm Paris evening.
After visiting Althorp house, the family home of princess Diana, I'd like to say what a moving experience it was.It's been 3 years now since the death of Diana, part of Althorp house has been turned into a shrine. What were once stables housing 100 horses is now an exhibition centre celebrating the life of Diana. It consists of 5 rooms which displays several of her outfits including her wedding dress and 2 of her bridemaids dresses. There are also displays of her school reports and letters she'd written as a child to her parents plus old toys and other personal belongings. In one of the rooms there are a lot of the flowers which people laid when she died, which have been dried out, the smell from them hits you as you walk in the room, it's really lovely. In another room there are 100's of books of condolences which people had signed after her death, from all over the country and various other countrys, one from china in chinese!!! You can then walk round the house itself, really beautiful, 100's of huge oil paintings of kings, queens, dukes and duchesess from 16th century onwards, most from the Spencer family, you can see the likeness in them, they've all got the same look about them, the Earl Spencer look!! this house is where Earl spencer still lives, you can tell people still live there, it's very different to other stately homes, amongst the C.D collection I noticed an All Saints C.d, I couldn't quite see what the others were. They are huge rooms, one room consisted of a snooker table and a mini bar. After going round the house we then made our way to the burial place, on an island in the middle of a lake. you can't go onto the island, but can see it quite clearly, the lake is nowhere near as big as I thought. There is a monument on the island marking the place where Diana is buried. At the far end there is a Temple which has been restored in memory of Diana, where visitors
can lay flowers, which is really lovely. The price to visit the house and gardens is £11 plus an extra £2.50 if you want to go upstairs in the house, which I did but I don't really think it was worth it as you only get to see 4 bedrooms and you don't know who they belong to!!! you have to arrive before 12 noon if you want to see upstairs. There is a cafe which do light snacks and drinks and a picnic area, you can bring your own food if you wish, it would be cheaper if you did this. There is also a gift shop, but all the items they sell are very expensive the cheapest item being about £20. Although they really are lovely things, from crystal vases to china mugs, all commemorating Diana, princess of Wales. There are also nice clean loos!!! the parking is free with a free bus service to take you up to the house as it is quite a way to walk.It took just over 2 hours to go all round, not a bad day out, well worth the visit!!! It is very easy to get to,M1 junction 18 going south or junction 16 going north, Althorp house is very well sign posted from M1