A housewalk in northwest suburban Inverness on Friday is co-sponsored by Honquest Furniture in Barrington, which is presenting a new furniture line that includes replicas of antiques at Althorp, the 500-year-old Spencer family home in England. Eighteen generations of the Spencer family have resided in the 90-room mansion, which is loaded with vintage paintings, furniture, china, and sculpture.
Charles, the 9th Earl Spencer, was recently in a furniture store in Tampa, Fla., in a promotion for Althorp furniture.
“When we were children, visiting our grandfather at Althorp, they were just [furniture] pieces,” said Spencer about the heirlooms amassed by 18 generations before him. “We weren’t allowed to touch them,” he told the Tampa Tribune.
“I’ve relaxed the rules. I’ve got six kids — which I don’t think is bad as a Protestant — and they have the run of the home.”
That policy led to one accident at the mansion. Years ago, his daughter, Kitty, now 17, dropped a tobacco box that had belonged to Admiral Lord Nelson, the Napoleonic war hero who died in 1805.
“It smashed,” Spencer said.
Spencer’s sister was the late Princess Diana, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1997. His appearance at the Tampa store included one strict rule: no questions about Diana. Diana’s image doesn’t appear on any of the Althorp furniture promotional brochures.
Charles became the Ninth Earl in 1992, and he considers himself merely the caretaker of Althorp.
“Ask any of the occupants of Britain’s great country houses what their greatest challenge is and they will — early on — touch on the responsibility they feel for preserving their heritage,” says Spencer in promotional material for Althorp Furniture. “But first and foremost, Althorp isn’t a museum, it’s still a home,” he said. The home is open for touring at times.
“In common with the majority of those entrusted with such duties, I view my role primarily as custodian rather than owner,” said the 40-year-old Spencer. “I would be proud if, in my final days, I felt I was handing Althorp on to my heir in a better state than in which I had inherited it,” be said.
Maintenance, insurance and staff costs about $1 million annually.
Another famous Spencer was Lady Georgiana Spencer, who is the subject of a new movie, “The Duchess,” starring Keira Knightley. Sun Times – Chicago.