'They used to cry in the first two years'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

There's only one painting of Diana, Princess of Wales, hanging in Althorp House, a melancholy portrait that draws the biggest crowds at the Spencer family home. "They used to cry in the first two years," said the usher, pointing to the group milling beneath it. "Now they just stop and look. It's the passage of time, I suppose."

There's only one painting of Diana, Princess of Wales, hanging in Althorp House, a melancholy portrait that draws the biggest crowds at the Spencer family home. "They used to cry in the first two years," said the usher, pointing to the group milling beneath it. "Now they just stop and look. It's the passage of time, I suppose."

Some still do weep. The occasional visitor could be seen wiping away a tear as they meandered through the stable block last Friday that houses the "celebration of Diana's life". The occasional visitor, too, laid flowers at the mock Greek temple that sits at the top end of the lake in the middle of which is the island where Diana is buried.

But the vast majority of those touring Althorp on Friday did not weep, did not bring flowers. They were daytrippers on an outing to a magnificent stately home.

Visitor numbers are expected to be down at Althorp, just outside Northampton, when the attendance records are finally added up at the end of the month.

It is open each year for just 61 days from 1 July to 30 August and while 145,000 people visited in those first two years, numbers will be down this year. That will be partly a reflection of atrocious summer weather but may bear witness to waning interest.

Last Friday, despite glorious sunshine and it being the eve of the busiest Bank Holiday weekend of the year, tickets were still available on the day - even though Althorp limits numbers to 2,500 people daily.

Once inside the main gates, the visitor enters via the stable block that now provides the setting for the Diana exhibition. It is an eerie experience, but at the same time moving, watching cinefilm of a young Diana dancing and larking about to strains of classical music.

Next comes the room with row upon row of dresses including that wedding gown. And then the room containing the thousands of condolence books - a reminder of the extraordinary outpouring at the time of her death, and in stark contrast to the near-silence that is likely to greet the third anniversary.

Comments