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April - May 2008
In memory of 'People's Princess'
by Anil Mehta
The year 2007 marked the 10th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales making it the perfect time to visit Althorp, her beautiful ancestral home and final resting place.
Princess Diana (1961–1997) or the ‘People’s Princess’, achieved world-wide popularity not only for her grace and style but also for her tireless charity work especially for HIV/AIDS victims, the homeless, and for supporting the campaign to ban landmines. Her tragic death in a Paris car crash in 1997 led to intense international mourning. Even the traditional English reserve was abandoned in favour of public display and grief for the princess. Diana was finally laid to rest at her family home, Althorp House in Northamptonshire.
Some six miles from Northampton, Althorp House, the family home of Princess Diana has been the home of Spencer family since the 16th century. It’s a classic stately home with fine setting and contents. It has welcome the public for over 50 years, but since the death of Diana, it has become the focus of world attention. Today visitors can tour the house and its grounds, see an exhibition of Diana’s life and her island resting place in the midst of an ornamental lake.
Visitors start with a tour of the house. As you walk around the house, you will see the superb collection of priceless paintings, family pictures, furniture, china, and sculpture from all over the world. Its collection of portraits by renowned painters (Rubens, Van Dyck, Reynolds) is particularly fine and justly famous. There are excellent guides in each room to answer any questions you may have.
Princess of Wales is commemorated in a museum (exhibition), and a memorial in the gardens of Althorp House. After viewing the house, visit the converted stable-block beside the house which holds the fascinating exhibition celebrating the life and work of the Princess. Included in the exhibition are a comprehensive collection of many of her most famous dresses including a bridal gown, childhood letters, photos, and extracts from family movies. In addition, there are rooms depicting her charity and humanitarian work, people’s tributes, and virtually hundreds of books of condolence from around the world. One room is specially devoted to the work of the Princess Diana Memorial Fund.
From the museum a footpath leads to an ornamental lake known as the Round Oval in the middle of which is a serene island where Diana is laid to rest. There is no access to the island but you can see the urn which stands on the edge of the island. It’s quite appropriate and poignant that she has returned to rest in peace in the tranquil surroundings of her ancestral home. In addition, a simple Greek style temple is erected at the far end of the lake in her memory with her profile (image) in the centre and her message on either side.
Also in the Althorp Park are the picnic area, cafe, and an inevitable gift shop. The house and the gardens are open daily from July to September and are within easy reach of London and the Midlands. Profit from ticket sales goes to the Princess Diana Memorial Fund.