Make us your home page
Instagram

Princess Diana's brother visits Tampa

TAMPA — Only one ground rule stood for those fortunate enough to catch the Earl Charles Spencer, Princess Diana's younger brother, during his brief visit here Monday: There would be absolutely no questions about the late princess or the royal family.

Spencer wasn't here to talk about painful memories, sordid affairs or royal secrets. He was perched on a fine upholstered chair in West Shore Boulevard's Livingston Furniture for one reason only: to talk about furniture.

Livingston Furniture is one of only a handful of furniture dealers in Florida who sell the Althorp Living History line. It's a 350-piece collection that features replicas of antique furniture from Althorp, the Spencer family's 500-year-old ancestral home in England.

Spencer, 44, now owns and lives in the home, and he launched the Althorp Living History home furnishing brand in the United States four years ago. Since then, he has taken annual tours through North America to promote the furniture, and a few months ago, Livingston Furniture owner Dick Greenfield learned he was on "the short list."

"It's definitely the most exciting thing to happen in this store," said Greenfield, who has owned Livingston since 1978.

Greenfield wasn't the only one giddy over the visit from nobility. Around a hundred customers, collectors and Princess Diana enthusiasts showed up at the store, hoping to catch a glimpse of the tall, rosy-cheeked, blond aristocrat.

Though no one was allowed to bring up Diana (unless the questions pertained to her life at Althorp or her favorite furniture), her influence over the crowd was hard to ignore.

John Hoatson, 35, has been collecting Princess Diana memorabilia since he was 8 years old, and his Venice home is now covered wall to wall. He has written letters to Diana's mother, but this was his first time meeting a Spencer in person.

"I'm very excited," he said. "I brought a piece of her wedding cake that I bought at an auction four years ago. I've collected many Althorp pieces and think it's a lovely way to acquire a part of her family's history."

Spencer autographed many of the store's pieces, which included a $13,950 replica of an 18th-century cabinet that contains 100 drawers and his favorite, a $1,980 Washington cabinet, replicated from the one George Washington's ancestors owned in the 1600s. The most affordable pieces, picture frames and mahogany boxes, began at around $120.

Spencer marveled at the timelessness of the pieces, and how the public still seems very much interested in the Althorp legacy.

"The history just keeps trundling along," Spencer said, "and it's fascinating to watch from both the outside and the inside."

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio couldn't be there for Spencer's visit, but she sent over a hand-painted plate rimmed in bright green and featuring a colorful minimural bearing Tampa's name.

"Oh, good," Spencer said as people around the room chuckled. "This will be a nice addition to the Althorp collection."

Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3431.

Princess Diana's brother visits Tampa 09/08/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 9, 2008 10:15am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  2. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times

    Business

    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]
  3. The Iron Yard coding academy to close in St. Petersburg

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Iron Yard, a code-writing academy with a location in downtown St. Petersburg, will close for good this summer.

    Instructors (from left) Mark Dewey, Jason Perry, and Gavin Stark greet the audience at The Iron Yard, 260 1st Ave. S, in St. Petersburg during "Demo Day" Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, at The Iron Yard, which is an immersive code school that is part of a trend of trying to address the shortage of programmers.  The academy is closing this summer.  [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  4. Florida's unemployment rate drops for fourth straight month

    Markets

    Unemployment in Florida hit a 10-year low in June, clocking in at 4.1 percent, down from 4.3 percent in May. The state added 19,400 jobs over the month, and saw growth in most industries. But there's one glaring missing piece to the economic recovery puzzle: wage growth.

    Florida's unemployment level dropped to 4.1 percent in June from 4.3 percent in May. |  [Times file photo]
  5. Is sinkhole damage sinking Tampa Bay property values?

    Real Estate

    On a scale of desirability, the house for sale on Whittner Drive in Land O' Lakes would rank fairly low. It's a short sale; it sits on an unstabilized sinkhole and it's within a few miles of two houses that collapsed into a gargantuan hole July 14.

    A gated community in Hernando's Spring Hill area, Pristine Place has long been susceptible to sinkholes with nearly a third of its houses with documented sinkhole damage by 2012. Today, however, many houses with repaired sinkhole damage are selling for more than houses without any issues. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times file photo]