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Spencer, Charles

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ISBN 10: 0670883220 / ISBN 13: 9780670883226
Published by Viking, 1998
Condition: Fine Hardcover
From Columbia Books, ABAA/ILAB (Columbia, MO, U.S.A.)

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Spencer, Charles. ALTHORP: THE STORY OF AN ENGLISH HOUSE. London: Viking, c1998. first printing. 168pp., color photographs. sm. 4to. Inscribed on "To Edward" at the top of the page "Charles Spencer, 10th July 2000" underneath the author's name. As new hardcover in fine d/j. Bookseller Inventory # 5705

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Bibliographic Details


Publisher: Viking

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


The story of the great house and grounds of Althorp is the story of a family, a family whose driving passions include art and the enjoyment of books: the Spencers.

Acquiring the 300-acre Northamptonshire estate in 1508, Sir John Spencer built the first house, and for over 500 years twenty generations of the Spencer family have lived and died at Althorp.

In recent times it has taken on added significance as the burial place of the most loved princess of the twentieth century, Diana. In 1998 there was further major work with the adapting of the quite beautiful Stable Block — once home to 100 horses and forty grooms into a centre for visitors incorporating an exhibition celebrating the life of Diana.

This fascinating account, written by one who acted as a guide there at just twelve years old, ripples with both personal insights and an appreciation for the architecture, art and characters of Althorp, and is a perfect guide to one of England’s greatest houses.

Charles, Viscount Althorp, became the ninth Earl Spencer on the death of his father in 1992. Since then, he has undertaken extensive refurbishment of the house and supervised the changes made to accommodate the many thousands of people who wish to visit the home and grounds following the death of his sister. An acclaimed, bestselling historian of works regarding Althorp and his family’s history, he founded the Althorp Literary Festival in 2003. He was educated at Eton College and obtained his degree in Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford. He is the author of five books, including the Sunday Times bestseller ‘Blenheim: The Battle for Europe’ (shortlisted for History Book of the Year, National Book Awards), 'Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I' and ‘The Spencer Family’.

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This account of Althorp, his family seat, by Charles, the ninth earl Spencer, only scratches the surface of its 500-year history. Nevertheless, whether he is describing the sleepless nights of his childhood, the ticking of clocks "always ... too subtle a sound, getting absorbed in the oak of the floorboards and the fabric of the tapestries," or appraising the forbidding character of his grandfather, the "Curator Earl," Spencer casts a candid, evocative light on his subject.

Indeed, Spencer's own efforts on the estate have been considerable. First comes the business of repairing the predations of his "short-termist stepmother," Raine, the countess of Dartmouth, who has laid down wall-to-wall oatmeal carpet in a 115-foot-long Tudor picture gallery. Now comes the death and burial on the estate of his sister, Diana, the princess of Wales. That Charles must now curate the family home as a site of global mourning is a trial quite the equal of anything the estate has ever faced.

Subtitled "The Story of an English House," the book has a structure, dividing the subject into buildings, grounds, family history, and collections, that is entirely conventional. Yet Spencer surprises by packing in many details about the social and political vicissitudes that shaped his family's wealth and taste. In doing so, he eschews his grandfather's regrettable elitism, while losing none of the old man's dedication to the family's heritage. Like all good introductions, this book suggests a world and time far exceeding its little compass. --Simon Ings

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