Sir John Spencer: Althorp House

Sir John Spencer: Althorp House

Unless you were born in the mid-90’s (or later) or have been under a rock for most of your life, you know who Diana was – former wife of Charles, Prince of Wales. When she married Charles many said that she was a commoner, but she was not, she was an aristocrat.

If we look back at her family tree and her family estate of Althorpwe’ll find it goes all the way back to the Tudor period with her ancestor Sir John Spencer – the “sheep-keeper”. Some have said that he was a descendant of the great Norman House, La DeSpencer.

John Spencer was born around 1455, during the reign of King Henry VI. Little is known about his life other than he was a wealthy English landowner who lived during the reigns of Henry VI, Edward IV, Edward V (if you can call it a reign), Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII.

From 1486, John Spencer was a tenant at Althorp and grazed sheep on the estate, it is here that he fell in love with the potential of the property and in 1508 purchased it from the Catesby family. When Spencer purchased Althorp he was already the owner ofWormleighton in Warwickshire which he purchased the 3rd of September 1506 from the Cope family. At Wormleighton he had a household of some sixty people. Clearly he had money.

Althorp House

  • Located 75 miles north of London.
  • It’s an English manor house that rests on a 14,500 acre estate.
  • Althorp has 90 rooms.
  • 19 generations of Spencers have lived at Althorp for over 500 years.
Althorp in 1677 by John Vosterman
Althorp in 1677 by John Vosterman
 Copyright Kenneth Allen
Copyright Kenneth Allen (2008)

A newspaper article about the Spencer family from the Spectator, dated January 30, 1864 also states that in the third year of Henry VII’s reign (1488), John Spencer purchased the manor of Brington near Althorp from a Thomas Woodville, Marquis of Dorset. I cannot find a “Thomas Woodville, Marquis of Dorset” anywhere, but I do find one Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset. If this is the correct person, than John Spencer purchased the manor from the eldest son of the dowager queen Elizabeth Woodville. It also states that he exchanged some land with the Marquis of Dorset at Bosworth in Leicestershire for the manor of Wykedyve in Northamptonshire and purchased from him Wyke-hamon.

John Spencer married Isabel Graunt (sometime before 1506),daughter of Sir Walter Graunt, of Snitterfield. They were the first generation of Spencers at Althorp, along with their children.

John was knighted by King Henry VIII in 1519 and became Sir John Spencer. He died on the 14th day of September 1522.

It was239 years after his death that a descendant of Sir John Spencer, also named John Spencer, was named Baron and Viscount Spencer(in 1761). Four years later, in 1765, he was named as the first Earl Spencer. The man who currently holds the title of 9th Earl Spencer is none other than the brother of Princess Diana, Charles Spencer.

Sources: (birth year for John Spencer noted here)

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3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. To whom ever put this together I have a source that puts Sir John Spencer, who I have recentl found out is an ancestor, his birth year at 1524. With that said it also lists who he served under, except one person, but I would assume it is safe to say that the one person is Queen Elizabeth I. Here is my source which comes from The History Of Parliament,Birtish Political, Social and Local History

    pray do look at this site. I believe you have some decent information, however not 100% accurate, if it is accurate can you please provide your source. Thank you!

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