A Chest on Display in Princess Diana's Childhood Home Links Her Family to George Washington

Kelly Corbett
·4-min read
Photo credit: David Goddard - Getty Images
Photo credit: David Goddard - Getty Images

From House Beautiful

Princess Diana has been the talk of the town since the release of season 4 of Netflix’s original series The Crown. The latest installment spotlights Prince Charles and Diana's relationship.However, before she was the Princess of Wales, she was Lady Diana Spencer. She grew up in the Althorp House in Northamptonshire, which is also where she was laid to rest. The home, built in 1508, has housed 19 generations of the Spencer family. Here are 9 things you might not know about Althorp.

Princess Diana's brother currently owns and lives on the Estate

Historian and author Charles Spencer (9th Earl Spencer) lives in the Althorp House (or Main House) with his family. It's here that he grew up with Diana. He inherited the entire estate in 1992 and often shares photos of it on his Instagram account.

You can visit the Althorp Estate

Although it is currently closed for the 2020 season, the Althorp Estate welcomes visitors every spring and summer. Paid admission allows guests entry into the Main House (although photos are prohibited), and into the numerous gardens and exhibitions. There's also a gift shop and cafe. Besides tours, Althorp hosts private events from weddings to corporate retreats.

There are over 10,000 books in the library

What started off as the family’s sitting room quickly turned into the ultimate library. At one point, the bookshelf-lined room had accumulated over 43,000 early printed books (which were all sold in 1892). Currently the library contains roughly 10,000 books, which all came from John Rylands Library at Manchester University. The library features wooden floors with three large patterned rugs, cream-colored walls and red accent armchairs and sofas.

Althorp has an impressive wildlife scene

With miles of quaint and rolling countryside, it’s no surprise that the estate is also a hot spot for wildlife. From Tim the resident peacock, to the black fallows and red stags found in the estate’s Deer Park, Althorp is home to a number of rare animal friends. In fact, in 2019, the estate introduced the exhbition, Animals of Althorp, which takes guests on a tour of Althorp's lesser-known residents.

The estate spans over 14,000 acres

The Main House is just one piece of the Althorp estate. The entire estate spans across over 13,000 acres of Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Norfolk countryside—a parcel just slightly smaller than the size of Manhattan. The grounds feature cottages, farms, woodlands, villages and more.

Althorp features a piece of furniture linked to American history

A chest that once belonged to the ancestors of George Washington currently sits inside the Main House. As the official Althorp Instagram account recalled, Washington’s ancestors were related to the Spencer family and passed along this chest. The piece is currently is known as the Washington Chest and continues to be used to this day.

The Althrop House has no shortage of artwork

OK, sure we say this about a lot of estates, but the interiors at Althorp are downright spectacular. Just look at that painted ceiling! From the Painters’ Passage, to the Saloon, to the Great Room, this home is teeming with the finest European artwork and architecture.

There was a wedding in one of the bedrooms

Aptly dubbed the Oak Bedroom, this sleeping chamber features an oak bed and 'S'' embroidered on the curtains for “Spencer.” It’s in the Oak Bedroom where John Spencer (who would become the 1st Earl), secretly married Georgiana Poyntz. Winston Churchill also stayed in this bedroom in 1934 as he was conducting research for his book on the Duke of Marlborough.

The Althorp House underwent a 40,000 hour long restoration project in 2011

When a property is over 500 years old, it’s going to need some repairs. In 2011, the Althorp House got a major facelift. In fact, this restoration project, which took 40,000 hours to complete, received the ‘conservation project of the year award’ the following year from the East Midlands Branch of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

Repairs included over 48 tons of new stonework, 120 tons of lead added to the home’s roof, and 9,500 stainless steel pins added to secure the unique tiles in the House.

As Charles wrote on the official Althorp website, “I would be proud if, in my final days, I felt I was handing Althorp on to my heir in a better state than that in which I inherited it. This is a traditional, and not particularly original, aspiration; but it is heart-felt”

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