About Earl Spencer
Author, Journalist and Broadcaster
"Running an Estate like Althorp is
a historic responsibility; it’s been
in my family since 1508."
Earl Spencer is one of the most enthralling and charismatic speakers around today. He engages his audiences through inspirational speeches, based around his life, experiences and maximising opportunities, both personally and in the business of running Althorp, the family estate. His speech at Diana’s funeral was judged one of the 10 best of the 20th century.
Earl Spencer and his family live at Althorp, which was built by the Spencer family in 1508. It is one of the most beautiful and best-loved historic family homes in the UK. At the age of 27, Charles Spencer inherited Althorp, becoming Ninth Earl Spencer and over the last 25 years he has worked tirelessly to ensure that the Estate continues to thrive and adapt to modern times. He is also a bestselling historian, broadcaster and journalist, whose six books include the Sunday Times bestsellers Blenheim: Battle for Europe, and Killers of the King. He was a reporter on NBC News’s TODAY Show for a decade.
In addition, Earl Spencer is the driving force behind a venture called the ‘Althorp Living History’ furniture collection. The collection comprises reproductions of some hand-picked pieces of furniture from the Estate, which are available for purchase by members of the public. The proceeds of this go towards the conservation and upkeep of Althorp House .
Continuity often equates to stability and strength. There is always a need for flexibility, and tweaks in the way things are done, but often continuity is key. Slavish imitation of the past is no good, but an appreciation of what has gone before is wise good sense.
History, for me, is largely about people-watching. And, since we humans really are a very slowly evolving species, it is valuable to look back at how people have behaved and reacted to certain events in the past, to help navigate the present, and to plan for the future.
A true leader can have the essential ingredients engrained in their DNA, or they can simply have characteristics that suit the moment. Winston Churchill, for instance, was seen as a self-promoting chancer during much of the 1930s. But his keen understanding of history made him understand what Hitler’s Germany was capable of – he identified it closely to the more distressing parts of Louis XIV’s despotic rule of France, in fact. He was the ultimate man for the moment.
I inherited Althorp when I was 27. I started working as a reporter for an American network news division when I was 22, producing nearly all my own reports. So I had experience of being responsible for others, who were often much older than me, from a very early age. I’ve never shied away from responsibility of any kind, and relish challenges.
I love to lure in the audience – throw out some lines, and gently hook them in, so they are silent and motionless, except for laughter, for as long as my talk lasts.
I enjoy feeling them learning exciting new angles on things they know a little about. I love serving up the quirky details, the foibles of people, and the universality of lessons from the past, and the present. I don’t talk with notes because that detracts from the electricity in the room.
Journalism is a very broad church. I have met reporters who would rather die than tell a lie, and I’ve often encountered others who have worked in the slaughterhouse of the tabloid world for so long, they no longer see the bloodshed caused by their bullying and rank dishonesty. Every country I know has a broad span. In this country, surveys repeatedly tell us, journalists are trusted less than lawyers, politicians and real estate agents. That makes me very sad, both as someone who has been on the receiving end of their worst behaviour, but also as someone who has tried to serve up true journalism. The USA has an added problem, in the tribal nature of many of the networks. FOX News and MSNBC have decided, in my opinion, to reassure their viewer base’s prejudices, rather than seek the truth.
Business leaders and entrepreneurs tend to know that rejection is something that is bound to happen, and that perseverance is the key. Many great ideas have foundered on the rocks, because the people behind those ideas have wrongly accepted the views of others who don’t get what they are proposing. I am married to a social entrepreneur who believes passionately in her cause. Anyone else would have folded their hand, and walked away, many times over the past 14 years; but she has ploughed forwards, with steely resolve, so that her charity (Whole Child International) is making great strides on behalf of abandoned and orphaned children in the Developing World. I was at school with Johnnie Boden, and others who have taken the same attitude into the business arena. It’s amazing how resilience is such a key to success. It is something I keep front and centre, when looking at how best to preserve an estate that has been in my family’s care for more than 500 years.
A bestselling historian, broadcaster and journalist, whose six books include the Sunday Times bestsellers Blenheim: Battle for Europe, and Killers of the King, he was a reporter on NBC News’s TODAY Show for a decade. Lord Spencer’s wealth of knowledge across so many diverse areas makes him the perfect choice for keynotes, leadership talks, hosting and presenting and television and media work across a wide range of topics.