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.
It’s been a fast year in the royal family. Little Prince George has wowed everyone he met. He is a sweet little boy who’s parents’ hands on style has proven to be pretty perfect for bringing up a happy and well mannered little prince. Every time I see his little smile I have to smile too. He is just so cute. We all knew that his handsome parents would produce a handsome little boy, and we were not disappointed. Prince George did not come home to the palace after his birth, but rather went to visit he mother’s family for a time…a very unusual event, and one that the royals really didn’t like. I suppose that like all grandparents, they worried, but this family worried about Prince George’s safety. He was, after all, a very famous boy…even before he was born, and that makes for possible threats to his safety. Nevertheless, while security was high outside, the family had their privacy inside.
Prince George is already a world traveler, having traveled to New Zealand and Australia with his parents at just 9 months of age…one of the youngest princes to travel abroad. Something that not everyone can say they did in their first year, but then Prince George is a special boy. He is the future king of England, behind his grandfather and his dad. He has many things to learn, and there is no time like the present to begin. He will be expected to act in a certain way, and smile even when he doesn’t feel like it. He will be expected to be at least tolerant of
the press, and if he is like his parents, he will do so with winning style. He will host many events himself, such as the opportunity he had recently, to have a play dates with some children at the residence of the Queen…who was away at the time. Not everyone could get away with that, but then Prince George holds a special place in the heart of the Queen. I don’t say he could get away with just anything with her, but maybe more than most kids could.
While he is still a baby, Prince George will soon have royal obligations like all the other royal family members. When you are a royal, people expect you to make appearances at different has a lot learn, but he has a while for that yet. Right now, all Prince George needs to do is show us the cute little faces he makes, and we’ll be satisfied. It’s always a bit sad to realize that before we know it Prince George…like all babies with grow up and those baby days will be long gone, but for now, we can enjoy his smiley face for a little while longer. In the years to come, Prince George will be an integral part of the royal family and their face to the world, but for now, he is very much a little boy, and I hope he gets some time to be just a little boy. Happy 1st birthday Prince George…my 18th cousin twice removed!!
As very young girls, my sisters and I were well aware of our Spencer roots. We are among the descendants of Michael Spencer, who is one of the four Spencer brothers who, along with their sister, came to America together, leaving behind all they knew in England. Michael was our 8th great grandfather. The information about our English heritage was passed down from generation to generation. We knew that we were related to Winston Spencer Churchill. We knew that we were related to Princess Diana, who is our 18th cousin, and her children, William and Harry, and now William’s son George. We always knew about all of the things that tied our family to the Spencer line in England.
Mom and Dad were always very proud of our Spencer background…of anything Spencer, really. I remember as a little girl, being allowed to stay up late, even on a school night, to watch the movie “Spencer’s Mountain” whenever it came on. It always felt like it was a story written about our family, even though the number of children didn’t match, and there were no boys in our family. Our family values, and the closeness we all shared, just meshed so well with the family in the movie, that it really was like they were a part of our family. We watched the movie many times, and it was almost like they were our alter egos.
“Spencer’s Mountain” was not the only late night viewing, that occurred in my life, that had to do with the Spencer family, however. When Diana Spencer married Prince Charles, I stayed up late to watch the ceremony, and when Prince William married Kate Middleton, I stayed up late to watch the ceremony, which took place on my birthday…something I really liked. Could I have recorded these events for viewing at a more normal time of day? Yes, and I did record them, but that would never be the same as watching the event live. Maybe other people would think I was crazy, but to me, that’s what growing up Spencer was all about. These people are my family, and this was an important event in their lives. I wanted to watch…first hand. When it was announced that Princess Kate was in labor with George, I was glued to the television set. I couldn’t wait to hear the happy news. I know many people aren’t interested in the English Royals, and I wasn’t really either…until Princess Diana married into the family. That connected my family to the royal family…in modern times at least…the Spencer family has royal ties centuries back too, but I didn’t know of those and wasn’t around then anyway, so Princess Diana was the first royal I knew of.
Every time the name Spencer showed up in a product, movie, or even the phone book, we felt an immediate connection. In reality, for the people in the phone books at least, there is a real likelihood that we are related. I have run into many people over the years that bear the name Spencer, and I only wish that there had been a way to find out for sure what our relationship is. I know it would be something that would be of interest to all of us, because everyone becomes intrigued by the possibility of being related to someone they didn’t know about before. There are a number of Spencers in Casper, and I’m sure we are related, but it would take time to trace the ties and find the connection that I have no doubt exists. It is another aspect of growing up Spencer, that will have to wait for another day.
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!!