Most people know that Princess Diana married Prince Charles, and for a lot of people that is the extent of the Spencer ties to the British Aristocracy. That assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. The Spencer family is one of Britain’s preeminent aristocratic families. In the family line, there have been knights, baronets, and members of the royal family. Hereditary titles include dukedom of Marlborough, earldom of Sunderland, as well as Spencer and Churchill viscountcy. Of course, the two most well known members were Sir Winston Churchill and Princess Diana, with the current addition of Princes William and Henry, and now George.
So the question remains, how did this family rise to wealth, or were they born into it? The answer is that the Spencer family rose to wealth from humble beginnings. A close relative of Henry Spencer who died in 1478, was John Spencer who in 1469 had become a feudal lord of Wormleighton in Warwickshire and a tenant of the now famous to most people, Altrop in Northamptonshire in 1486. His nephew, Sir John Spencer, who died in 1522, first made a living trading in livestock and other commodities. He was able to save enough money to purchase both the Wormleighton and Altrop lands, and the estate of Altrop with its moated house and several hundred acres of farmland. The family grazed sheep on the land. As time went on, he purchased more and more land. He then rebuilt the Altrop house in 1508 and it became the family home for the next nineteen generations. By the 16th century the Spencer family had entered Parliament in the person of Sir Robert Spencer (1570 – 1627) who represented Brackley in Parliament. He was made a Knight of the Garter and created Baron Spencer of Wormleighton in 1601. During the reign of King James I, Sir Robert Spencer was reputed to be the richest man in England.
There were those in the British aristocracy, such as the more established Howard and FitzAlan ancestors, who didn’t approve of the Spencer’s rise to wealth through sheep herding, and who tried to act more officially aristocratic, but they were shot down in a heated debate when Lord Spencer replied, “When my ancestors, as you say, were keeping sheep, your ancestors were plotting treason.” I’m sure this did not go over well, but apparently, they were not able to dispute that accusation, and so the subject was dropped. There have been countless other Spencers in the British Parliament, as well as the House of Commons. The Spencer family has been influential in much of the lawmaking in England, as well as in the area of British economics.
I guess I don’t quite understand why the other aristocratic families didn’t like the way that the Spencer family rose to wealth, but I think that in the area of wealth and politics, the old money and old political families often don’t like having new upstarts invading their supposed territory. I don’t think it is much different in any country. The wealthy families tend to like their power and prestige, and really don’t want to share those things much. I seriously doubt that they ever gave any thought to where their own wealth came from. Later, after the upstart families are established, they simply have to accept it. It reminds me of the unsinkable Molly Brown on the Titanic. The established money didn’t like her marrying into her money. They didn’t feel like she belonged, but she didn’t care, and she was nevertheless a force to be reckoned with, so they had to treat her with respect. That is what has had to happen with the Spencer family, and now, their aristocracy is no longer questioned by any of the British aristocratic families.
Every so often in the royal family, someone enters the royal scene, who single handedly manages to breathe new life into an otherwise stale lineage that has been filled with people who have been in the family so long that they possess little or no…well, zing!! Kate Middleton is this generation’s breath of fresh air. Don’t get me wrong, because I very much like Prince William and Prince Harry, and I feel that both of them have gone a long way toward making the British Royal Family popular and accessible to a large degree, but they were, nevertheless caught up in the humdrum, and even a little bit tired, feel that the Royal Family has exhibited in recent years. Kate on the other hand, has a smile that lights up the room when she appears. She is vibrant and full of life, and she is not shy or afraid of the camera, so she has captured our imaginations and our hearts for a while now. From the time they started dating, we hoped that she would be the one Prince William would choose, because when they were together, he changed into a vibrant, smiling man too. She had that affect on him, and I’m sure that feeling of being alive again was the main reason Prince William could look no further for his bride. Yes, he was concerned for her emotional wellbeing, after the terrible time his mother had as a member of the Royal family, and so he gave her some space, but they could not stay apart, and the British Monarchy is far better because of their marriage.
Now that their little family has grown with the addition of precious little Prince George, there is even more life being breathed into the family. While we haven’t been treated to a lot of pictures of Prince George yet, it is hard to get that cute little face out of your memory. He is such a handsome little man, and I am so happy for the royal couple. While I don’t expect it to be very long before we find out that another royal baby is on the way, for now, we will just have to wait patiently for more views of the current royal little one.
I think the main reason Princess Kate was able to bring about such a royal transformation is that she was not raised in all the stuffiness of the British Hierarchy, but rather was a commoner, and so the best choice to bring a much needed change. She may be a commoner, but it is in standing only, because she has style and flair, beauty and brains, and definitely grace. She is in every way…a princess. I think the Queen would do very well to pass up Charles in favor of Prince William and his bride, Kate for King and Queen of England…and that is my opinion on the matter. Today is my cousin, Princess Kate’s birthday!! Happy birthday Princess Kate!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!
Most people think of Prince Harry as a playboy, and to a degree I suppose they are right, but there is a side of him that most people never see. Prince Harry has a heart for the children who, sadly, have been orphaned by the AIDS pandemic in Lesotho. He has visited the small African nation several times since 2006 when he set up Sentebale with the help of his good friend Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, who is the younger brother of the king of the small African nation of Lesotho. I had the opportunity to watch a segment a while back about the prince and his charity, and I was very impressed with the love he had for those children…and the love they had for him. He was not aloof with them at all, which is what most of us would expect from royalty, or any politician. His interactions with these children was honest, open, and sincere, unlike so many who lightly shake the hand of their admirers, or politely kiss their babies. No, he showed a love and respect for them that was so obviously real, and in turn, they came out in droves to see the person they loved back. I was very moved by that segment, and I’m quite sure I’m not really doing my feelings justice, because it was so amazing.
Prince Harry walked through their villages, and gathered information on what they needed an how they were doing. He took the time to speak to the children…to find out what their interests were…and what they needed, worried about, and indeed, feared. These children had no parents, and those caring for them, while loving people, are often stretched to their limits in time to spend with each individual child, so to have a Prince from England come and take the time to spend with them…personally…well, it must have seemed surreal to them, and yet, here he was, and it wasn’t the first time. He named is charity Sentebale for a reason. Sentebale means “forget-me-not” in the language of the Lesotho people. It is the word they use when bidding farewell, so that they will remember those who have left their presence for a time. He wanted them to know that he was not going to forget about them. And he has not.
Prince Harry is my 19th cousin on my dad’s side of the family, so what he does interests me, whether it interests other people or not, but even those who aren’t particularly interested in the Royals, must admit, that Prince Harry’s work on this charity and the others he is also a part of with his brother and sister-in-law, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, make him more than many people thought him to be. And to top it off…he’s an uncle now, to little Prince George. Today is my cousin, Prince Harry’s birthday. Happy birthday Prince Harry!! I hope you have a wonderful day!!