Diana's grave will go on view Tourism: Earl Spencer offers 152,500 tickets to the island and the family estate.

January 06, 1998|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON -- Callers from around the world jammed 24-hour phone lines yesterday as tickets went on sale to view the burial site of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Despite the massive volume, only 10,000 tickets out of 152,500 available were sold in the first eight hours, as more than 200 operators were seemingly overwhelmed.

Diana's family estate at Althorp in Northamptonshire will be open to 2,500 visitors a day between July 1, the princess' birthday, and Aug. 30, the eve of the anniversary of her death in a car crash in Paris.

On Aug. 31, Diana's children, Princes William and Harry, and members of her family, the Spencers, are due for a private visit to her gravesite on an island set in an ornamental lake called the Round Oval.

Tickets cost $15.60 for adults, $11.50 for senior citizens and $8.20 for children, and can only be purchased in advance. Profits will be donated to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.

Althorp House, built in 1573, was the place Diana thought of as her home. However, her brother Charles, the ninth Earl Spencer, once said his family had always been uncomfortable in the house. He even told how devil worship had taken place in woods open to the public on the estate. In recent years, he has lived in South Africa.

Residents in the adjacent village of Great Brington have feared that the site could be transformed into a British Graceland, similar to the Memphis, Tenn., mansion that has become a shrine to Elvis Presley.

In the past few months, property prices have rocketed in the village that is home to nearly 150 people. Sites for businesses have also been snapped up in nearby towns.

The public won't actually be allowed on the burial site, but will have a clear view of a memorial erected on the island. A temple at the lake's edge is also being restored and dedicated to Diana's memory.

Tickets also will give access to the sprawling estate, the 121-room Althorp House and its collection of art, furniture and china, and a new museum dedicated to Diana's life.

The museum will be built in a converted 18th century stable that once housed stalls for 100 horses and sleeping quarters for 40 grooms.

Among the items due to be put on display are Diana's childhood toys and her school uniform. Also on display will be the Spencer tiara, which Diana wore at her wedding with Prince Charles, heir to the British throne.

Diana's life also will be told in video displays prepared by her brother.

Rasshied Din, an interior designer working on the museum project, said: "The design approach is contemporary and will deliberately contrast with the historic architecture. It is our desire to represent a contemporary woman in a modern context."

(U.S. callers for tickets can dial 011-44-1604-592020. This is an international call. Information on the site is available on the Internet. The address is http: //www. althorp-house.co.uk)

Pub Date: 1/06/98

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