“Althorp is to me the essence of Englishness” An Interview with Earl Spencer

Charles, 9th Earl Spencer recently published a sumptuously illustrated book, ‘Impressions of Althorp’ which recounts his favourite objects in the house.

We were delighted to find that Country Life, the foremost periodical about aristocratic English lifestyles, has published an interview based on this book which highlights the love Lord Spencer has for the Althorp Estate and it’s unique legacy. In his own words:

“Althorp is to me the essence of Englishness… Understated but impressive, traditional but relevant, a historic house but also a warm and much loved home. Its contents have been assembled with discernment, over 500 years. If I had to sum up Althorp – itself the embodiment of the Spencer family’s heritage – in one word, it would be English.”

"The 5th Earl, named for his beard, gave Wimbledon Common to the nation. This painting of him and his wife, Charlotte, records a moment of history."

Above we see John Poyntz Spencer, The 5th Earl, who was known as The Red Earl on account of his beard. The portrait has been singled out for it is “such a wonderful and easy thing to live with”. It was The 5th Earl who commissioned a life size replica of his beloved hound, Forager, which now resides in the Billiard Room at Althorp.

"The duc de Chevreuse, attended by his faithful Talbot hound, by Frans Pourbus the Younger This is one of the most notable portraits in the house and I adore it. The man Pourbus painted was one of the great aristocrats of Europe and I admire his uncompromising self-assurance and the devotion of the dog. The ruggedness of the hound contrasts delightfully with the finery of the lace and the dramatic red backdrop."

In the picture gallery hangs a portrait of The duc de Chevreuse by Frans Pourbus the Younger (above) and the sitter is admired for “his uncompromising self-assurance”. Beneath this striking work sits an equally arresting piece of furniture – The Spencer House Sofa which we have previously featured here on Theo for its graceful lines and delicate carving.

Finally, of Lord Spencer’s “Favourite Things” highlighted in this interview, we love his mention of The Oak Bedroom (below). This decorative chamber features a benevolent ghost, one of the key romantic gestures in Spencer family history and a delicately carved oak cabinet.

"Every house deserves a ghost story. Here, there’s an old groom who comes in and blows out the candles. On the 1st Earl’s 21st birthday, so many guests came from London that the people of St Albans rang the bells because they thought there was an invasion. In the middle of the festivities, he came up to this bedroom and married his love, Georgiana Poyntz"

Quotations in this article are taken from Rupert Uloth’s interview with Charles, 9th Earl Spencer in Country Life, 31st October 2012.

‘Impressions of Althorp’ costs £20 and can be ordered from Country Books Direct on 01939 261616 or at www.countrybooksdirect.com

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