The official website of the Countess of Carnarvon

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Welcome

Welcome to my blog, inviting you behind the scenes of my life and home and sharing anecdotes from my everyday life at Highclere Castle. The world of Highclere still exists with its own community of Chefs, Gardeners and Housekeepers, Colin the Butler and Jo the Groom as well as all the other people who make the ‘Real Downton Abbey’ a welcoming place for visitors today.

From Earl to Earl

 

Part of the utter joy of living at Highclere is the contrast between practical jobs (often outside) and the glamorous evening dinners. From evening kit one moment to animals and mud the next.

 

One night we were at a New York Gala, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving to support St Andrews University. Long dresses, amazing fund raising (I think our auction prized hit the top note) and then back today to chasing naughty ponies round fields. I often feed the horses in the winter mornings, usually slightly late and this time perhaps jet lagged. The little chestnut pony, [...]
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From Highclere Castle to New York

Following the American War of Independence, the United States were keen to mark their differences from the United Kingdom. No titles: “Mr President”. Furthermore, George Washington wanted to help create a political system which did not lead to “taking sides”, the idea was to work for the common good.

However, Downton Abbey and the British Royal Family today, seem to have caught the American imagination and there is much curiosity about titles, Stately Homes, and about the past. Who would have through US TV viewers would switch from Super Bowl to Downton Abbey? Even in this century, Highclere Castle remains a [...]
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St Andrews & New York

November 30th was St Andrew’s Day.

I was one of the first students from my school in London to go to St Andrews University. It is an old town on the east coast of Fife and as well as a renowned university, and well known as the home of golf. There were three main streets, one supermarket, a coffee shop, a fish and chips shop, a baker, a chemist and a charming shop selling watercolours.  (It was some time ago!) There were a lot of pubs and it was a wonderful few years. I loved the architecture of the older houses, [...]
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Remembrance Sunday

Two global stories have been consistently in the press over the last few weeks; the first being the extraordinarily vivid poppy commemoration of the First World War around the Tower of London, capturing our imagination and hearts; the second being the current tragedy for millions of people in Syria.

Like many other people, we have helped raise money to support soldiers, and their families today both to remember those who have died, and to support those who live.  Like many others we have raised money as well for those charities working to give any aid they can to the desperate, to [...]
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Halloween at Highclere Castle

I have been writing about recipes at Highclere from our old books and letters and was thinking about this time of year, about all the pumpkins and of course Halloween. In actual fact, October 31st, “All Hallows Eve” or “Holy Day”, really began as an evening to give comfort, to reflect on those who have died and to remember them. In my imagination, however, Halloween is about ghosts, shrouded figures and disturbed souls rather than those at peace. Working alone at the top of the Castle in the archive room and remembering all the ghostly tales I abandoned trying to [...]
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No Mercy

I have recently decorated Mercia bedroom here at Highclere Castle. It is a lovely bedroom looking south, so when you open the shutters in the morning, the views are glorious across the lawns, to the russet coloured woodlands of Sidown Hill,  with the arch of  the folly Heaven’s Gate at the top.

It has an 18th century four-poster bed with beautiful silk embroideries. The room used to be a bit of a shiny cold blue, which worked better on TV rather than in real life. Downton choose it for Lord and Lady Grantham’s bedroom.

The curtains in Mercia were, however, disintegrating; they [...]
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Harvest Festival

Last Sunday we celebrated the Harvest Festival at Highclere Church. It is traditionally held on the Sunday nearest the full moon following the Autumn Equinox (the latter being towards the end of September). So it was a pagan festival acquired by the church……it is however a beautiful time of year, one of  “mists and mellow fruitfulness” and one in which to take stock of what we have successfully stored in the barns  for the coming months.

We operate an in-hand farm here at Highclere growing wheat, barley, oats, linseed, oil seed rape, haylage and of course sheep (and about 3000 lambs) [...]
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Inter-connecting Doors

Downton seemed to be full of action last Sunday. Different threads of the story and characters were exploring potential relationships whether old or young. The 1920’s seemed in retrospect an era of glamour and daring, un-chaperoned parties, treasure hunts in cars, exciting meetings in smoky nightclubs, and of course opportunities for flirtations and liaisons at weekend house parties.

The visitors’ bedrooms around the gallery at Highclere have a series of inter-connecting doors. Whilst the Downton actors come in and out of our rooms onto the gallery landing in “Downton” there would in fact have really been no such need in real [...]
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Autumn at Highclere

We have just closed to general visitors for the summer.  So for once Highclere is quiet ,and everyone has the weekend off before we prepare for an Autumn of tours, lunches, shoots, charity runs, a car rally, a conference or wedding and so forth. Luis, one of our banqueting managers, is in France playing golf and tasting champagne (on my behalf). It sounds good. Jorge has returned to Portugal, Jo is looking for a horse for me, Sid is not on his digger, but instead he is fishing and so on.

Our guides gathered for tea on their last day, about [...]
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Sunday Cricket

We have just played the last cricket match of this year on a lovely warm day and Highclere won which was exciting and fun. To be honest it was slightly unusual as we had lost most of the matches this season, sometimes when we thought we had nearly won too. I am trying to concisely explain cricket in a few paragraphs for my next book.

As children, my sisters and I always found the fielding names [...]
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