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Several people involved in furniture over a long time have written to tell me that it is the most exciting range they have come across in their entire careers, which is very exciting and also a testimony to my ancestors' good taste. After all, it was they who commissioned or bought the pieces in the first place.
What are you and your wife doing to teach your children the responsibility they will inherit in terms of Althorp and its vast collections?
Only one child will inherit Althorp. I realize that sounds very odd to Americans, but that is the tradition here, and it is the reason the collection remains intact and has not been divided up over the generations. Louis, my eldest son from my first marriage, is only 11, but he seems pretty relaxed about the prospect of running this place. If he chooses not to do it, and to have another life altogether, then I am sure one of my other four children could run it well. You need common sense, patience and an ability to find good advisers—financial, administrative, legal and artistic. You also need a sense of perspective. I've recently planted woods that will only look good well after I am gone, but you have to think in terms of several generations.
What is your favorite time in history?
The 17th century. I am currently writing the biography of Prince Rupert of the Rhine, a hero of that period who fought in our civil war, but who was also an artist, scientist and adventurer. He set up the Hudson Bay Company, which opened up Canada. Nowadays, everyone is so focused and specialized. Then, there was more opportunity to try many things and I like that philosophy. As well as being curator of everything at Althorp and writing (this is my fourth book), I am also a partner in a company that gives high-level executive training. My specialty is presentation skills: I teach people to talk in public. My father made me give my first speech in public when I was four, so I have some experience. Anyway, of all the clichés, "variety is the spice of life" strikes me as one of the truest.