​Charles Spencer on Diana, Althorp and the death of kings

"Minding his manor" is where you're most likely to find Charles, the Earl of Spencer. Many Americans still remember him for the eulogy he delivered years ago for his sister, Diana, Princess of Wales. His stately home has seen a great deal of history, as Tracy Smith now shows us:

Two hours north of London, the Althorp estate is 13,000 acres of English farmland and forest: a spread roughly the size of Manhattan, and upon which sits one very grand house.


At 506 years old, Althorp House is truly magnificent. But oh, the upkeep.

Charles, the 9th Earl Spencer, is the owner and current caretaker.

"I've been in charge for about 20-odd years, and I've done a new roof, new exterior, new plumbing, new heating," said Charles Spencer.

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Althorp House in Northampton, England
CBS News

It's been the Spencer family home since it went up in 1508. It hasn't changed all that much.

"I'm very conscious always that I'm just passing through," he said.

But it's a pretty nice place to "pass through." Each and every room is ridiculously beautiful, with furniture that often pre-dates the American colonies.

But even in this living museum, there are clues that a real family lives here.

"What strikes me is that you have all these beautiful formal portraits," said Smith, "and then family photos like any of us would have in our house."

Charles pointed to one family shot: "This is last month with my seven children, which is not bad for a Protestant!"

And sometimes those kids run the house: "I've still got little children 'cause I've got quite a range of kids. But they go down the main staircase on trays, you know, like breakfast trays, really fast. And I just think that's great. You gotta enjoy the place!"

"They sled down the main staircase on trays?"

"I did it, my father did it," said Charles. "I think it's a bit of a family tradition."

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Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer, with correspondent Tracy Smith at Althorp House.
CBS News

History is in the walls here, and ON them. Charles is an historian by trade, and found inspiration very close to home.

Consider his distant relative King Charles I.

"Well, Charles I was a disastrous king," he said. "He sort of brought to the surface a war that, rather like your American Civil War, remains the bloodiest conflict this country's ever been involved in. So that was a big surprise to me how hopeless he was."

The king was found guilty of high treason, and in 1649 he was beheaded.