Livingston Furniture Customers Get Royal Spencer Treatment

Even in the former Colonies, people are expected to observe proper courtesies when addressing nobility. For Charles, the 9th Earl Spencer, that includes being introduced as Earl Spencer, though afterward, Charles is OK.

And for the media, it means absolutely no questions about his famous sister, the late Princess Diana.

“Mention Princess Diana, and that’s it. It shuts down immediately,” warned Spencer’s host, D.J. Lanzoni of Sarasota.

But it was hard to believe Charles Spencer wouldn’t have taken such a question in stride. He was affable and even funny during his visit today at Livingston Furniture in Tampa, his only Florida stop on a U.S. tour promoting the furniture line based on pieces in his ancestral estate, Althorp.

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Earl Charles Spencer signs a piece from his collection of replica furniture Monday at Livingston Furniture. Tampa was the only Florida stop on an ongoing U.S. tour for the earl, who is the brother of the late Princess Diana.

And certainly, many of the 150 or so people who visited the store today did so because of Diana.

Michele and Michael Davis bought a dressing table for their daughter and a more masculine table for their son.

“I’ve been following Diana for a long time,” said Michele, who drove over from Seminole.

Cindy Flowers loves the furniture; it’s perfect for the look she and her partner, Chuck Levine, are trying to create in their new home. But the Diana factor helps, too, she said.

“I admired her work with charity. Chuck and I are both involved in charities we founded” — the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts and Kitty City.

Spencer spent about three hours at the store, answering questions, signing pieces and explaining the collection. Designed and manufactured by Thomas Alexander, a fine-furnishings company, Althorp Living History was introduced in the United States in 2004. It has been popular here, Spencer says, so about a year and a half ago, it was introduced in Europe.

How’s it doing in England?

“It’s a bit like selling ice to Eskimos.”

His favourite piece, by the way, is a blanket chest left by George Washington’s ancestors, who were cousins and tenants of the well-off Spencer’s.

It dates to about 1650, about the time Washington’s great-great-great-grandfather immigrated to Virginia. The replica includes all the little dings and scars from its 350 years; and the original is still in use.

“I’ve got all my tennis and cricket gear in the original,” he said.