01 September 2007

Diana


If you, like me, admired the beauty of the person that was Diana, the once Princess of Wales, this weekend you are probably thinking of Diana and of your own special memories of her. Everyone that knows me, in real life, is keenly aware of how much I adored Diana. There was a point in time where books on Diana and the Royal Family dominated my library. I have scores of these books, books about Diana's outfits, books about the Royal Jewels, books about the Royal castles, and books about their private lives written by fired or disgruntled past employees. The one book I own about the royals that I think would be of interest to design bloggers is The Garden at Highgrove, written by The Prince of Wales.


It is a beautiful garden book, somewhat similar in tone to David Hick's garden book, My Kind of Garden. It chronicles how Prince Charles bought a rather plain country home and turned it's barren land, save for one magnificent, aged cedar of Lebanon, into a magnificent parkland, filled with secret gardens, wildflower pastures, and garden paths, all the while using a environmentally sensitive approach to gardening. It details the help Charles received in designing his gardens, and how special care was taken to how the garden would look from inside the home, not just from the outside. It is a wonderful book, and is a companion to another book by the Prince written a year prior titled Highgrove, Portrait of an Estate. Filled with glorious pictures of wildflower fields, garden sculpture and pottery, garden gates and pathways, one does not have to be a horticulturist to enjoy it.


Aerial view of Highgrove. Note the cedar of Lebanon behind the home. Over 200 years old, the tree is now overtaken by fungus and other nasty things and is being dismantled.

A garden walk of yews, with another picture of the cedar.

From inside the home, a view of the yew walk. Doors are held open with the help of blue and white garden stools.

A garden walk through an arched wall.

A touch of whimsy in a garden.

A wildflower field at the front of Highgrove.

A dewy morning shot of Highgrove.

Cows grazing at Highgrove.


A door covered with climbing roses leads to a secret garden.


In the ten years since Diana's death, the Royal family has gone high tech. Prince Charles' own web site is top rate and if you are interested in visiting any of his homes or learning of their history, I highly recommend a perusal of it. Most interesting, is the fact that you can actually stay as a vacationer on his land. In cottages owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, a huge land holding that is the Prince of Wales' birthright and his main source of income, you can rent out these rather fashionable vacation homes. The information is on the Duchy's web site, along with pictures of the cottages that apparently are rated a 5 star by the English travel bureau.


One of the charming cottages available for holiday rental on the Prince's land. Interior shots of a few of the cottages are below:

With all this talk of Prince Charles, you may, like me, still have trouble believing that Charles would give up a wife like this:



To marry a wife like this:


If so, perhaps you are better off siding with the Spencers, Diana's own blood family. The Spencers home base is at Althorp, where Diana once lived. Althorp also has a wonderful web site. Her brother, the Earl of Spencer, currently lives at Althorp and opens it each summer to visitors. You must have a ticket prior to going though, don't expect to show up and visit without one. Diana is buried on an island in the middle of a small lake at Althorp and there is a wonderful exhibit of her childhood, life as the Princess, her wedding dress, and her charity work in the former horse stables. Another book I highly recommend was written by the Earl of Spencer and it chronicles the history of Diana's ancestral home:

The small lake which surrounds the island where Diana is buried at Althorp.

The monument at her grave.

Diana's handsome brother, Charles, has cashed in on all the fame as her only brother and heir to the estate of Althorp. He currently sells reproductions of the antiques at Althorp. Theodore Alexander is the company that markets this very expensive line of furniture.



Charles, the Earl of Spencer is ruggedly handsome and single, though it is reported he has a new girlfriend following his second divorce. But, if you want to try to catch his eye and become his new Countess, the Earl will be in Houston at Louis Shanks, of all places, on September 7 from 10 to 12 noon. Good luck!

34 comments:

  1. Oh, what a wonderful post! I am also a big Princess Diana fan. I am currently reading the new Diana biography by Tina Brown, and it is fascinating with lots of new information. Highgrove is mentioned quite a bit, so it is interesting to see the pictures. What a beautiful house!

    A friend of mine visited Althorp last week and said it was well worth the trip. She met Charles Spencer in the bookshop (he was signing books) and had a nice chat with him! She saw spotted him across the room at dinner in London the next night (he was dining with another gentleman, not a girlfriend and not his sisters), which was the night before the memorial.

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  2. What a beautiful visual story! Definitely interesting to know that you can vacation on the royal family's land...

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  3. Some of the recent pix of Camilla (as we used to call her: Camilla Park and Ride) look like she's had some work done... maybe a bit of botox. She's just ghastly.

    I saw Charles & Camilla at their first public outing in Wales (he's prince of...)and she was so frumpy.

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  4. What a wonderful post! Thank you. Re: Camilla....Working in the design field, I think we have all come to realize there is just no accounting for taste. Some like the sleek and modern. Some like the overstuffed and slipcovered.

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  5. Joni...a wonderful post you have done here and not without your great Southern sense of houmour.
    Too funny the comparison of Dianna & Camilla. I adore English Country Gardens. The British do the Country gardens and homes better than anyone.

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  6. Such a shame the sleek and modern could not accept or understand her role - and elected to behave like a celebrity rather than the aristo she was born.
    The overstuffed and slip covered, on the other hand - however morally questionable she may be - knows and understands her role, and more importantly, her place.

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  7. Sarah: apparently he appears each day at the shop to sign books!
    Bhavna: yes - I was so surprised to learn you can stay there too! But the houses look very nice and very English.
    Fairfax: I do think she's had some slight work done. God knows she needs it! haha
    Katie: Exactly! Watch how HOB takes your words, too funny!!!
    Patricia: You would like this book. He has a new coming out about the naturalistic approach to gardening.
    HOB: You crack me up!!!! That was exactly the problem, Diana was young and the aristocratic way of life is changing and she wanted a true marraige - for god's sakes she was only 20 when they connned her into it. They used her and when she realized it, she said screw them, and she did, royally. In the end - she did behave just like them, she took a lover or three.

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  8. Oddly enough I admired her courage in standing up for herself - just did not respect her for it. She was not an outsider she knew the game (even at 20) - one of her sisters is married to the Queen's private secretary for Pete's sake - duty comes before all else.
    Even happiness.
    Have you seen "The Queen"?

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  9. What a great post. Diana was such an inspirational person and still is after these years. I had to laugh when you made the comparison between the wifes, it does make you wonder what he was thinking?
    Theresa-Garden Antqs

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  10. Diana was a special woman. So real. Not really ever fitting in with the royal family, yet more royal in many ways.
    I have that book too, the Gardens at Highgrove, I gifted it to my MIL and when she passed away last year it came back to me. I always think of her when I look through it.
    As for Camilla, we never know what chemistry (or lack thereof) lies between two people that goes beyond the superficial.
    Diana, had the beauty.
    Camilla, must have something.
    xo
    Blue

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  11. Fabulous post Joni! Thank you so much for the links and book review!

    Pat

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  12. Thanks for such a wonderful post! I really enjoyed all the beautiful photos and will have to check out that book.

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  13. Hands down the best post I've seen about Diana! I can't say enough about what you wrote. You rock!

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  14. I loved this post. Thanks for the book suggestions and witty commentary.

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  15. The story of Diana was based on illusion and carefully crafted image -- first created by the Palace for tourism dollars and THEN by Diana herself. First -- read about the horrific public spectacle of her parents' divorce and then realize that both children were severely affected by the aftermath. Diana was not the bartered bride that the Palace had paid for -- the bride was supposed to be her sister (who then declined the honor) So the Spencers were not going to let that chance at immortality and the throne (and what the upper families of Europe had fought for for generations!) get away -- and so Charles got Diana (with her well-known stubborn NOT shy nature) Charles was raised amongst old people (his grandmother and Diana's grandmother were old friends) and the Upper Crust -- so yes indeed! Camilla WAS the better match to his personality (and having a royal affair was hardly a new invention!) BUT Diana was deemed better for breeding (the all-important heir-and-the-spare) and for publicity. Diana simply ran true to form -- and to her own mother's legacy during her own divorce -- created an image that appealed to the media and public. Both parties were very much at fault by the end of it all! Just some thoughts .....

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage who is still a romantic but studied way-too-much English history to believe THAT fairy tale!

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  16. Jan: Well, the reason Charles couldn't marry Camilla was after they broke up when they were both single, and he went away she married someone else. They could never have married as long as the Queen Mother was around since she Camilla was now a divorcee. The Queen Mother and Diana's grandmother picked Diana for Charles. Actually, the Spencers are really more English uppercrust than the Windsors who are German by blood lnes. Diana was conned at the age of 19, she believed Charles loved her. He never did - 'whatever loves means' - he needed her to give him sons and once she had done that, her days were over and he was with Camilla. I personally don't think he ever left Camilla at all, despite what he claims. What the Royals did to a 19 yo child was criminal, there's no other word for it. The ONLY thing she did wrong was agree to marry him. She was used, conned, lied to, schemed against by the highest in the land and she won in the end. And they tried to call her crazy, because she was in love with her husband. Ridiculous.
    Thanks for your lengthy comment.
    Joni

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  17. Yes -- indeed the Palace (or The Firm as the royals call iself) and the surrounding Spencers (including romance novelist Barbara Cartland) did indeed con the very young Diana into believing that Charles would turn out to be a true "prince of her heart." Diana was supposed to be an "quiet English Country wife" but she was young and far preferred the City. But time (and the sheer truth of Charles' true nature) proved otherwise -- and she fought back by creating a new worldly "Diana" which infuriated The Firm. A sad story -- with a very sad ending!

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

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  18. Fascinating post, Joni. It certainly inspired many to comment, didn't it? I was a big Di fan as a teenager- bought a lot of books and even tried to copy the haircut, etc. I didn't quite cut the mustard, though! LOL
    Her life story is so tragic - I guess none of us will ever really know just what transpired between she and Charles, but it's a topic that's always sure to draw a reaction. As for her brother, he seems a very sad and restless sort of fellow. Maybe he's done seeking a Countess. As for women going after him, I think anyone driven to seek money and position has no real idea what misery may lie ahead. It masks itself in glamour, but many times it ends in bitter disappointment and broken lives.

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  19. Joni, great post, as usual. You have a way of being terribly funny and informative all at once. Love your humour and your taste! Terri x

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  20. Wow Joni! who knew your post would spark such an interesting debate! Great job!

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  21. How extraordinarily rude to add a Camilla slam re looks in your otherwise interesting post! It's obvious that, for you at least, surface glamour is the most important attribute in a mate.

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  22. How extraordinarily RUDE to leave RUDE comments like this without have the nerve to leave your real name - like the rest of us do here. Coward! And for your information dear, Charles is the one whose chose beauty over plainess, when he opted to marry Diana instead of Camilla in the first place. Don't you think it's a little ODD that he did choose someone with beauty to be the mother of the future King of England when he was actually in love with someone of lessor beauty???? Ever ask yourself that question while you are so busy judging others? My posting of their two faces was merely done in jest, for comedic value, and as such, it should not be taken as a window into my thoughts of inner beauty vs. outer beauty. If you have a problem with that, take it up with the Royal Firm who just happened to pick out such a world class beauty for their breeding program, my dear, letting the poor lessor attractive, yet preferred woman be forced into a life as a mistress. Camilla has only one person to thank for her marriage and that is Diana who refused to live a lie any longer in comparison to her husband who was quite happy with Camillia just being his mistress. Once Diana was dead, he had no choice but to make an honest woman out of her.

    And, start using your name, instead of hiding behind the cloak of deception that anonymity brings.

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  23. god, i was just about to tell you that you crack me up. and that i loved this post. and that i felt the emotion of it and then BAM! you got 'tagged' by the anon, ding-dong-ditcher-scardy-cat-commenter

    i'm all for leaving a not so happy and up beat message. as long as there's a point. and as long AS YOU can own your opinion.

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  24. Re: anon: Here Here!
    Re:my earlier comment and HOB's take, they crack me up too! They actually did get my meaning. I meant that people sometimes prefer the familiarity of an old comfortable chair rather than the glamour of the modern. Sometimes you have a hard time prying those broken in Lazy Boy recliners out of a man's clutches. I'm just sayin'.

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  25. Fantastic post! I, too, was and am a big fan of Diana and was very affected by her death.

    I was living in London at the time and I actually lived a 5-min walk from Kensington Palace.

    Regardless of what personal opinions may be on her historical role, she was, to me, and above all, a symbol of class.

    Along with Jackie Kennedy and Grace Kelly, I think she is one of the classiest women ever.

    As for the nasty anonymous comments - even though we are all entitled to an opinion, I think that, as my mother taught me, "if you have nothing pleasant to say, then don't say anything" - I find that particularly true with blogs. :-)

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  26. Stumbled upon your blog....lovely post on Diana!

    I still remember sitting up late and watching the details of Diana's death on T.V and feeling really sad.
    She was a beauty with a beautiful heart:-)

    Arch

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  27. What a wonderful post. Diana was in a class by herself...thanks so much for sharing all these lovely photos with us!
    wishing you a lovely weekend,
    Lidy

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  28. Just thought I'd mention that I received an invite today from ABC Carpet and Home in NYC for a cocktail reception in honor of The Earl Spencer next Friday for his Althorp Living History Collection. It says he will be "pleased to personally sign selected items available for purchase." I might have to buy something just to meet him!

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  29. Well Joni
    What a riot of comments.
    You go girl.

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  30. Katie - your post did put the nail on the head, so to speak, So true! And HOB, too. Thanks everyone for your comments. I think we are all pretty much around take 10 years older or younger than Diana, so she was this generation's Audrey or Grace, yet she was flawed (or so the Firm would have us believe). You know - they always cite that she was crazy becuase she would call people and hang up on them a lOT - like old boyfriends. Before the age of *69 and phone ID, what girl didn't do that? god, I used to phone stalk BFs like crazy. I'm glad you enjoyed my post and sorry I got a little angry at the Anon crazy person. I wonder who it is? Any clues???

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  31. A great post of an amazing lady, but i did have a huge giggle of the two women in charles life!

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