The death of Princess Diana in 1997 took the whole world by surprise. At the time, many of her fans chose their own ways to memorialize her life and death. Perhaps the most famous memorial came in the form of Elton John’s modified lyrics to his famous “Candle in the Wind” song. But it was one of the unchanged lyrics that best summed up Diana’s legacy: “Your candles burned out long before / Your legend ever will.”
Those famous lyrics still ring true today. Shortly after Diana’s death, her family created a kind of shrine for her in her childhood home. Nicknamed “Dianaland,” this shrine saw mourning visitors from all around the world in the years after Diana died.
But what does that shrine look like today? What does it tell us about Diana’s legend? Keep reading to find out!
Details on Diana’s luxurious childhood home
Those who visit Diana’s home to attend her shrine aren’t just walking into a piece of Diana’s life. They are also walking into a piece of living history!
Long before she was a princess, Diana grew up in Althorp House. The place is half a millennia old and is located on 550 acres of land. And this Northhampton residence has a whopping 90 rooms.
Those rooms are filled with interesting things, too. As Hello! reports, it contains a huge library that Prince Charles once described as “the best room in the place.”
Diana’s home: a bittersweet site
Putting Diana’s shrine in her childhood home makes a lot of sense. After all, it is a place that was full of many amazing childhood memories for her. However, for the older Diana, we can only imagine that Althorp House was a very bittersweet site.
That’s because this is the house where Diana first met Prince Charles. He was the man who would ultimately make Diana a member of the Royal Family by marrying her. But he was also a man who would end up breaking her heart time and again, culminating in a very public and very messy divorce.
Even the circumstances surrounding Diana meeting Charles for the first time are bittersweet. As Town & Country reports, Charles was dating Diana’s sister, Sarah, at the time. That relationship didn’t last long, and Sarah later reportedly declared that she wouldn’t have married Charles “if he were the dustman or the King of England.”
Diana likely understood her sister’s position by the time she divorced Charles. Despite the bittersweet association with Prince Charles, though, Althorp House was chosen as the site of her shrine back in 1998.
The creation of Diana’s shrine
What is Diana’s shrine like? The answer to that depends on who you ask.
Ostensibly, the shrine is a very solemn place meant to honor the life and legacy of Princess Diana. It is run by Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, and he has provided a simple shrine for his late sister. This includes a simple bench where people can lay flowers and a tasteful silhouette of Diana above the bench.
At the time “Dianaland” first opened, though, many critics saw the entire endeavor as little more than a tacky cash grab on the part of Diana’s brother. As The Washington Post reported back in 1998, Althorp serves as a museum that visitors must pay to enter. There is also a restaurant and a gift shop. Critics decried the entire thing as “vulgar,” and Rev. David Hope went so far as to call it “the last thing she would have wanted.”
Since 1998, some have looked at Althorp as a cynical way for Charles Spencer to make money. Others see the estate as Diana’s brother doing the best he can to honor her life now that she is no longer with us.
Regardless of the estate’s complex legacy and reputation, visiting Althorp is still the best way for many to pay their respects to Diana. And, as it turns out, her shrine still gets plenty of love and attention!
Diana’s shrine is still very popular
Charles Spencer still manages Althorp House. And he posted a picture on Instagram recently that showcased how popular Diana’s shrine still is.
The picture showcases the black bench and silhouette of Diana we described above. As Hello! reports, the image shows flowers left on the bench and the following caption by Charles Spencer: “Flowers kindly left by day visitors to Althorp.”
While flowers are the most traditional offerings to the shrine, others choose to leave cards or other special gifts. For visitors, this is the only real option for paying respects to the deceased princess: her body is buried on an island within the Round Oval Lake at Althorp. While that area is never open to the public, the shrine provides a suitable place for visitors to honor their beloved princess.
Those who want to book tickets to Althorp House can do so at its official site. But you might want to plan ahead for next summer. In 2022, Althorp House is only open to visitors from July 1–August 29.