4/22/2011

Sleeping Beauty and The Prince.


As the nation prepares for the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, there has been much press coverage about the couple. One article in particular attracted my attention, that was a visit to the lake and island at Althorp.

Years ago, I was invited along with another designer and a ceramic manufacturer to visit Althorp the home of the Spencer family and the final resting place of Diana, Princes of Wales. The home is open to the public between July and August; although we went in the autumn long after the visitors had departed. The purpose of our visit was to suggest possible china designs suitable for inclusion in the exhibition shop. Sadly, my designs never made it into production, which was a major disappointment!


It was, however, a most unforgettable experience. We were shown so many things that day: the wedding dress, the exquisite shoes with details on the soles, the designer dresses displayed alongside photographs of each occasion. We later visited the stables, the memorial and the house, all bathed that day in a glorious golden light.

There was one thing that stuck in my mind more than any other and that was the lake. On that particular day it was resplendent in autumn colour as we walked along a path set with thirty six oak trees, one for each year of Diana’s life. I was told that the little row boat at the edge of the lake was used by the Princes William and Harry, to enable them to have some privacy whilst visiting their mother’s grave on the little island in the middle of the lake. When Diana was laid to rest there were four black swans swimming on the water amidst lilies and surrounded by carefully planted lakeside gardens filled with white roses, which were Diana’s favourite flowers.

It seemed to me so very beautiful and a fitting resting place for the Princess. Dan Pearson, the garden designer managed to create a scene from a fairy tale, it was in fact how I imagined an illustration from the pages of Sleeping Beauty.

22 comments:

  1. What an interesting post Valerie - sorry your designs didn't make it but how fascinating to see all that at close quarters and when there were no other visitors there.
    She really was such an iconic figure wasn't she?

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  2. what special memories for you, such a shame your designs wern't used though. love the painting of the swan, beautiful.

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  3. A tender story. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. I must say, I'm SOOO out of the news loop, I do remember hearing that there was to be a royal wedding soon! The place sounds beautiful. I'm struck with the remembering that Diana was only 36 years old! I haven't thought about that in a while, really, so young.

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  5. So few oak trees.
    Still breaks the heart.

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  6. Valerie, thank you for telling about your visit to that resting place. I'd not before known of any details involved in the design of the island and of the princes' way of reaching it.

    Something very touching there. I, like others, can still remember when I first heard about that Parisian car wreck. I'd just gotten home from an outdoor concert of magical Brazillian music at Lincoln Center.

    My mood changed instantly.

    xo

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  7. I love the beautiful swan painting....and the soles of the Princess's shoes!!!

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  8. I've found your tales of Althorp most interesting. The wedding shoes are gorgeous, and I like the garden design of Dan Pearson too. Thanks for sharing Valerie. Wishing you a very Happy Easter weekend. x

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  9. I just saw 2 lovely black swans with their fuzzy grey ducklings the other day! What a peaceful post you've done about Diana's resting place. Her family is lucky to be able to visit her in private.

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  10. Poignant. Such a feeling of a life unfinished... especially considering how young Wills and Harry were when they lost their mother.

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  11. you have such a kind and open heart
    happy easter

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  12. Great post Valerie and what a lovely swan painting! Many memories of Diana have been stirred all over the world with the upcoming royal wedding. The receptionist in my dentist's office said she was going to stay up all night (US time!) to watch the wedding live on TV next week. This as a mark of respect to Diana whose wedding she also stayed up to watch! I'm going to do the same.

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  13. Thank you Valerie for the memories of Diana's resting place. The painting of the black swan is so tender. The garden place of repose is magical. Happy Easter, Lori

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  14. I'm sorry your designs didn't make it. Never seemed fair that the young Diana should die when she did. I find your description of her resting place most lovely.

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  15. What a beautiful painting, and a touching memory of your visit. It does indeed sound like the perfect resting place for such a beloved Princess.

    ♥ Carolee

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  16. thank you for sharing your trip. These past few weeks have brought up so many wonderful and sad memories. It appears Diana's son has learned a lot from his mother and her life. Both boys are a tribute to her.

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  17. Thank you for this touching post. It looks like a very peaceful, fairy tale place to visit. I love the illustration of the swan.
    xo,
    Heather

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  18. Absolutely wonderful!
    I enjoyed the visit!! ;)

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  19. They were shortsighted not to use your beautiful designs Val.

    I visited Althorpe with a friend about 9 months after the funeral and I found it a very moving experience. I loved the dresses and was amazed at how tall Diana was. We saw all the memorial books returned from all over the world and occupying a huge wall in one room. The lake was amazing - flower tributes everywhere. It was hard to believe that she was actually buried on the island but what a lovely spot. I wonder if William has rowed Kate over the lake.

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  20. You really go to the heart of the matter Valerie,both with your words and your illustration.

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  21. Thank you for sharing your view with us... your friends across the water :)
    Wishing all of you joy in celebrating this treasured wedding/marriage~

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