ad info

CNN.com
 MAIN PAGE
 WORLD
 ASIANOW
 U.S.
 LOCAL
 POLITICS
 WEATHER
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 TECHNOLOGY
 NATURE
 ENTERTAINMENT
 BOOKS
 TRAVEL
 FOOD
 HEALTH
 STYLE
 IN-DEPTH

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 CNN programs
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

  CNN WEB SITES:
CNN Websites
 TIME INC. SITES:
 MORE SERVICES:
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines
 pointcast
 pagenet

 DISCUSSION:
 message boards
 chat
 feedback

 SITE GUIDES:
 help
 contents
 search

 FASTER ACCESS:
 europe
 japan

 WEB SERVICES:
  y banner

Althorp: new Mecca for paying respects to modern-day saint

Blystone

By Richard Blystone
CNN Senior Correspondent

July 3, 1998
Web posted at: 1:27 p.m. EDT (1727 GMT)


Editor's note: Richard Blystone wrote these reflections for CNN Interactive after covering Wednesday's opening of the late Princess Diana's ancestral home to the public.

In this story:

ALTHORP, England (CNN) - "I was afraid it would be tacky," said one departing pilgrim, "but it was very moving."

gate

A Belgian woman who came to drink in the serene parkland, with its ancient trees and honey-colored stone, complained that now they've taken even Diana's childhood -- her scrawled notebooks, the toys she cuddled -- from her private life and set them under the spotlight she hated and loved.

They came the first day without the volume of votive offerings -- the earrings, bottles of champagne and flowers in their paper coffins -- that we've seen at makeshift Diana shrines. And they didn't leave their trash.

These were not Diana-slammers, these 2,500 people who took the trouble to travel to these rolling hills, an hour and a half north of London.

But many were acutely aware of the cost of too much love, the toxic fascination that eats away the layers of magic and mystery and then is appalled that only the common is left.

Borderline public and private at Althorp

Althorp
Althorp, England  

From outside the wall, Althorp House glows with tranquility, confidence, dignity and permanence.

For the Spencer children inside, Diana's brother recalled, it was a place that creaked in the motherless night. It was an old man's house, full of the smell of hair oil and the sound of ticking clocks.

The house, with the marble-paved hall where a teen-aged Diana practiced her ballet steps, is not included in the ticket prices.

Television news crews were not let into the grounds at all. One U.S. network gave a visitor a home camera, and asked her to make some shots for them. They never saw her again.

Also out of bounds to the public is the lake island where the princess's body lies, at last beyond the reach of the paparazzi.

A local rumor, authoritatively denied but still believed, says she's not there at all, that it was all a ruse to keep the adoring public from burrowing into her real resting place, the Spencer crypt in the local church.

Public fascination enshrines a princess

In the estate shop -- visitors most welcome -- one can buy Althorp knickknacks and lavender soap.

By the lake, one can see a neat little temple fit for a goddess or a saint.

shirt

The shrines, the offerings, the posthumous devotion to Diana -- all suggest that her public has conducted a kind of pop canonization.

Any great religious shrine has its hawkers and hucksters, said Lord St. John of Fawsley, a friend of Diana and of Britain's royal family.

"We're a people with a profound but suppressed imagination," Lord St. John said.

"When we [English] went Protestant at the Reformation, we threw out Our Lady and all the saints ... And into this comes this extraordinary figure, and she is appealing to those very deep emotions ... I have no hesitation in saying that she had certain characteristics of saintliness."

And saints, he noted, do not have to be perfect.

Related stories:
Latest Headlines

Today on CNN

Related site:

Note: Page will open in a new browser window

External sites are not
endorsed by CNN Interactive.


SEARCH CNN.com
Enter keyword(s)   go    help

Back to the top
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.