If you find someone you love in your life, then hang on to that love- Princess Diana
I have had some incredible luck throughout the past month regarding my ability to run into some very influential individuals, something I will get to at the end of this.
Yesterday, Jordan and I went to Althorp, the Spencer family estate where Princess Diana spent her childhood. The estate is only open from the day she was born (July 1) to the day she died (August 31). This estate has been on my to-do list since I got to England, especially having missed a visit by just one week when I arrived. I couldn’t put off a visit any longer, so we set out on a train to Northampton.
This visit has been the highlight of my time here so far. The house was absolutely gorgeous, although it paled in comparison to the Diana exhibit that was featured. I could have spent hours just walking through the exhibit over and over again. Unfortunately, though, photographs were not allowed. The first room focused on her childhood. I saw handwritten letters that Diana had written to her parents, her report cards, ballet shoes and school uniform. There was also a bible that her godmother had passed along, with a personal note to Diana on the cover page. The next room was all about the royal wedding. I walked in only to be greeted by her wedding dress, which shared a showcase with the box that housed pieces of the wedding cake, a card that Charles had written to Diana featuring one of his own watercolour works and bridesmaid dresses.
There was a room devoted to her charity work- Diana’s handwritten letters were once again on display, this time from years later, addressed to the heads of various organisations for which she was patron. Then came the rooms dedicated to her death. A projector flashed images of the sea of flowers placed outside Kensington Palace following the news. The was a case that was home to the handwritten revisions of Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind’, sharing a space with the handwritten draft of Earl Spencer’s eulogy. After walking through a room lined with some of Diana’s most popular (and some of my most favourite) outfits, there was a wall covered from floor to ceiling in 6-inch thick leather-bound books that were comprised of every single letter of condolence sent to Kensington Palace, St. James Palace, Buckingham Palace and Clarence House after her death. Some of the books were open to various letters, many of which were addressed to her boys.
Finally, the end of the exhibit focused on the Diana Princess of Wales memorial fund- photos of her in Africa lined the walls. I vividly remember watching her funeral in 1997, knowing that the world had lost someone very special. I’ve always been a fan of Diana’s, so seeing her personal artefacts was absolutely surreal to me. I still regularly wonder what she’d be like now and how she would have continued to contribute to the world. Walking around I truly appreciated the woman that she was and the woman that she likely would have been today- something hard to understand at 9.
After the exhibit, Jordan and I made our way to Oval Lake, where Diana is buried. Her remains (apparently) are buried on an island situated in the middle of the lake, but I must say the state of the island is rather disappointing. You’ll see in the photo below that the pedestal that holds an urn is almost completely overgrown by trees. I don’t know if there is significance to this, but it is quite an eye sore if I may give my honest opinion.
Although not pictured, four black swans reamin permanently in the lake, guarding her island
There is also a large Diana memorial at the top of the path. A bench that was given to her brother sits in the middle of the memorial, underneath a photo silhouette of the princess. There were flowers and cards scattered throughout the memorial, most of which were left on Sunday- her birthday.
The path leading to the memorial is lined with 36 oak trees, one tree for each year of her life. Other trees are scattered about, having been planted in her memory- some of which were planted by Princes William and Harry.
The Spencer estate from the back, returning from the lake.
Althorp from the front.
And now, finally, coming back to the topic of my luck. As it turns out, Earl Spencer was at Althorp yesterday. So I was given the absolute pleasure of meeting and speaking with Diana’s brother. I could not have gotten closer to her if I tried. If she was anything like him, she would have been a delight to talk to. He was very kind, taking time out of his day to sign a book that I had purchased (personalising it along the way) and posing for a photo. We spoke about school, what I’m studying and how long I’ll be here. He also, noticing my American accent, told me all about a visit from The Today Show, the crew of which was at Althorp two days prior, reporting on the passing through of the Olympic torch.
Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother
After snapping a photo he headed back to his office to finish up a day’s work. Jordan and I looked around inside the house for a bit and then I (begrudgingly, because I could have stayed forever) told her we could return to London.