Portrait of Lord Althorp, 1782-1845
Prudence Hannay profiles a sporting magnate in the midland shires; Viscont Althorp was also a Radical Whig who piloted through the House of Commons the Reform Bill of 1832.
John Charles Spencer, Viscount Althorp, was born on May 30th, 1782, at Spencer House, St James’s, the eldest child of the second Earl Spencer, and his wife Lavinia, daughter of the first Earl of Lucan. In addition to Spencer House, the family estates included Althorp House in Northamptonshire and Wimbledon House, near the Common which had been inherited through Lord Spencer’s great-great grandmother, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough.
In common with his sisters, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Harriet, Lady Bessborough, Lord Spencer possessed great personal charm and warmth of heart. His wife adored him; she herself was amusing and intellectually-minded, but her forceful personality made her intolerant of those less clever than herself, who included her own children.
Although his political activities obliged her husband to spend a large part of each year in London, he was a countryman at heart, never happier than in supervising improvements to his property in Northamptonshire and at Wimbledon where Henry Holland carried out extensive alterations; or in leading the Pytchley Hunt into the field for another day’s sport.