106. Charles Spencer; Historic Monarchs, Worldwide News Reporting and the Ghosts of Althorp - The Big Travel Podcast

Episode 106
September 24 , 2020

106. Charles Spencer; Historic Monarchs, Worldwide News Reporting and the Ghosts of Althorp

Earl Spencer, best-selling author and historian, has a superb talent for bringing history to life. His new book, The White Ship, explores England’s worst ever maritime and royal disaster, a tragedy that changed the course of European history forever. From childhood trips to an unknown Ibiza, friskings at the iron curtain-era Russian border to covering everything from Cannes to Cairo as an NBC news reporter, the late Princess Diana’s younger brother has fascinating travel tales not least those starting in Althorp, the grand estate the Spencer family have called home since 1508.



On this episode we cover:


The 900-year-old tragedy that shaped British history

The inspiration behind his new book, The White Ship

Henry I and 19 years of civil war

The perils of being intoxicated whilst driving

Sea wolves, sea elephants and sea goats

Drunken oafs chasing away monks

His Queens of England speech at Leeds Castle that inspired the book

Henry I, a great king overshadowed by other Henrys

Stellar reviews of the book

Taking a flash point in an interesting Monarch’s reign

The family homestead of Althorp, in the family since 1508

The stately homes of Britain contributing to national heritage

His imposing and rather terrifying figure of a grandfather

The stately home that was burnt down for one scene in a Hollywood movie 

The 98% income tax scuppering many stately homes

Sleeping in the nursery with flickering candles and the sound of night watchmen

Like being in a museum with a very scary man in charge!

The rumoured ghosts in Althorp

The ancient sound of people being killed in the former weaponry room (!)

Travelling to over 30 countries as an NBC News reporter

From Islam in Malaysia to the Cannes Film Festival

The privilege of being paid to travel the world

The terrible hotel fire he reported on in Cairo

The man living in a small cage in Hong Kong

Interviewing Mel Gibson in Cannes

Don’t mention the diet to the King of Tonga

Lisa’s Dad and the Queen of Tonga

Lisa’s podcast for India and Pamela Hicks

(India was Princess Diana’s bridesmaid

Meeting Captain Cook’s tortoise

Lisa remembering the whole of Tonga being on a diet

People thinking you want your own food when travelling

Baked beans in Fiji, fish and chips in Tonga

Moving to Johannesburg and exploring Soweto and Swaziland

The Scottish man apologizing for slavery

Porpoises by the sea making for a better school run than Northampton

The Peter Ustinov journey that inspired a trip behind the iron curtain

Being frisked at the Finnish-Russian border

His step father ‘being treated better in Nazi Germany’  

Visiting Paris with his father and sisters in the late 70s

His mother taking them to a tiny unknown island called Ibiza

Returning to Normandy to research the book

The conflict of development and over tourism

Canada having the most cleverly persevered places

Civilised wilderness at the lakes north of Toronto

Covid being terrible, but has it addressed over tourism..?

The joys of teenage interrailing to Istanbul, Dubrovnik…

Being kicked out of the carriage somewhere in Romania

Passing fields of Oxen ploughing fields

How the discomfort of travel can create the most memorable times

Sleeping in a Graveyard in Northern Spain

Supertramp, the soundtrack to the foothills of Kashmir and the children who had never seen a Walkman