How Princess Diana’s House Inspired the Set Design for “Bridgerton”

Just wait until you see the staircase.

Princess Diana home Althorp
(Image credit: Getty)

Althorp Estate is a sprawling house in the English countryside, complete with crystal chandeliers and 500-year-old paintings. It is where Princess Diana spent her teenage years before marrying Charles, and is currently the residence of Charles Spencer, her younger brother. 

It also happens to boast another claim to fame: inspiring the setting for Netflix’s Bridgerton.

Back in December 2020, days after the first season of Bridgerton premiered, show runner Chris Van Dusen shared some insight on Twitter: “The interior of Bridgerton House was inspired by my visit to Althorp when I was developing the show. Elegance. Opulence. And that #staircase.”

Charles Spencer re-tweeted the news shorty after, writing, “Just seen this, below—such a compliment to those of my family who went before me, making Althorp House what it still is today.”

Fans of Bridgerton are probably familiar with the fictionalized version of Princess Diana’s home, but what exactly does the real Althorp Estate look like? We now have a much better idea, thanks to a segment that aired on The Today Show yesterday.

For the video, NBC News correspondent Molly Hunter traveled to the 13,000-acre estate, where she received a personal tour from Charles Spencer himself. Hunter was greeted at the house’s entrance hall, which stuns with a black-and-white tiled floor and towering paintings.

Princess Diana house Althorp, staircase

The grand staircase at Althorp Estate.

(Image credit: Courtesy Althorp Estate)

The first glimpse of the house sure looks opulent to most average viewers, though Spencer claimed, “It’s not bling. It’s not overpowering.” He then added with a laugh, “I hope!”

The video then followed Hunter and Spencer to the famous staircase, which is lit by a crystal chandelier and surrounded by family portraits—including a lovely painting of Princess Diana.

“[The staircase] just pulls everything together, and I can see this would have an appeal to a creative guy,” Spencer said, referring to Chris Van Dusen.

“When I was writing the pilot script, I actually wrote that there was this grand central staircase in the middle of the Bridgerton house with portraits suspended above it, much like Althorp,” Van Dusen told Hunter. “Those words are literally in the script.”

The rest of the tour included stops in the Painters’ Passage, a room featuring many self-portraits and busts. Spencer jokes that it might have to be called “The Bridgerton Room” going forward, due to its striking resemblance to one of the show’s sets.

Princess Diana house Althorp, picture gallery

The "Picture Gallery" at Althorp Estate.

(Image credit: Courtesy Althorp Estate)

There was also a stop in the Picture Gallery, a long room where practically every inch of wall space is covered with gold-framed paintings. While most of the portraits come from the Spencer family‘s 500-year-old art collection, there are a few newer pieces snuck in—namely an ultra-modern retelling of Britannia, the national personification of Britain typically depicted as a female warrior. The 2008 painting shows Britannia wearing a red tank top and smoking a cigarette.

“People get whiplash," Spencer said. "When we have the public walking past, they see all the 17th century, and suddenly there is something from 2008.”

For Spencer, adding subtle modern touches to the house helps keep it alive and kicking for generations to come. And Althorp’s new correlation to Bridgerton is just one more way to breathe new life into the family home.

“I think it’s fabulous,” Spencer said, when asked about Van Dusen’s repurposing of the estate. “It's a huge compliment, not to me, because these designs have been here for a very long time, but to my ancestors who were lucky enough to be able to employ great artists to make the interior of Althorp great. And there they are, living on in a slightly different form.”

Caitlin Morton
Freelance Writer

Caitlin Morton is a freelance writer based in Kansas City, with more than eight years of experience covering travel, pop culture, and fashion. Her byline has appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, Vogue, Architectural Digest, AFAR, Real Simple, Thrillist, and many more publications.