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September 2006


SPECIAL

All in the Family
By Jayne Chase

EARL CHARLES SPENCER TALKS ABOUT HIS FAMILY AND THE ALTHORP: LIVING HISTORY COLLECTION

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As the Ninth Earl Spencer, Charles Edward Maurice Spencer currently presides over Althorp, his family's 500-year-old estate in Northhamptonshire, England. With the exception of Christmas Day, the estate is open year-round to allow the public to enjoy the house and grounds, and to pay respect to Spencer's late sister, Diana, Princess of Wales.

Like many English country homes, Althorp relies on the public's visits to support the massive cost of upkeep. In order to further maintain the demands of this great country house, the Althorp: Living History collection was created with American furniture maker Theodore Alexander. Now available at Rinfret Ltd. Interior Design in Greenwich and Lillian August in Norwalk, Connecticut residents can enjoy beautiful treasures from one of Britain's oldest estates.

Recently, CTC&G contributing editor Jayne Chase caught up with Spencer during one of his trips to Connecticut.

Initially your ancestors were sheep farmers. How did Althorp become so richly full of collections?
My family built up a fortune from sheep farming. When Elizabeth I died in 1603, we were supposedly the richest family in the kingdom. Since then, my ancestors held various positions in politics and diplomacy, and they also married well. One of my ancestors was a favorite grandson of a fantastically wealthy woman—Sarah, First Duchess of Marlborough. She was so rich, she lent money to the Bank of England! Anyway, he did very well in her will. Another ancestor held a position equivalent to prime minister, and he amassed a huge collection of art here—some say he sold secrets to the French, our great enemies, but that was at a time when even the king, Charles II, was secretly in French pay!

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