“When I came here as a child with my sister, it was my grandfather’s house and he was very strict,” Spencer, 52, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview in this week’s issue. “We weren’t allowed to touch anything or even speak that much.”
But times have changed and now Charles and his wife Countess Karen Spencer – who have nine kids [eight are from previous marriages] – proudly display an inflatable bouncy castle in the state dining room.
“It’s a proper castle,” laughs Spencer. “What else would we have?”
Asked what his grandfather Albert would think of the new addition to the 508-year-old estate, he chuckles: “I think I can hear him right now quietly revolving in his grave.”
Now Charles and the countess – whose nonprofit, Whole Child International is changing the lives of children living in Third World orphanages – are opening up Althorp, the estate where Princess Diana spent part of her childhood, in a fundraising effort for the charity.
The couple will host 20 benefactors at Althorp for a traditional English country weekend, complete with a black tie dinner. [Starting price: $25,000.] In addition, they will also offer a similar weekend at the estate for six small donors, including those who solicit donations from the largest number of friends, family and others – and for the winners of a 90-second video / 500-word essay contest.
“I love our weekends here,” says Spencer, 44, whose non-profit provides a relationship-focused approach for caregivers and children. “It’s such a privilege to share this house with people with similar interests. You really get to know someone differently over a weekend as opposed to over a dinner.”
As for the bouncy castle in the dining room, Karen is convinced that Althorp – which sleeps 60 guests – can handle it. “If it’s survived the previous 18 generations of Spencer children,” she says, “I’d like to think our three-year-old daughter won’t destroy it.”