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.

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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Fire….Fire!

I am sure you will have read in the newspapers over the last week, of the great fire that is set to blaze through “Downton Abbey” in the opening episode.

We had obviously been aware of this story line when they were filming it here, and careful with what we could achieve here and what could be achieved in Ealing Studios, as Highclere Castle has suffered enough of its own fires.

The first one was 150 years ago in the North Library, if you look closely at the gilded ceiling when you are watching the TV series you will see that  it is far [...]
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Thank You To Everyone

Thank you to everyone who came to Highclere on Sunday 3rd August. We have had such lovely e-mails, letters and reports from the charities of generosity from the guests who came.

It was the following day, August 4th, 100 years ago that we declared we were at war with Germany. The peacemakers of Europe had lost their battle and somehow thousands of similar men who might have played in concerts, travelled together and of course played football together were stuck in opposing trenches.  The football match here was a draw and the footballers were excellent sports to play on an imperfect [...]
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Marvellous Men In These Flying Machines

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julian Fellowes set the first episode of Downton just over 100 years ago.  The early 20th Century began  to lay the technological foundations for  all the modes of travel, the shopping, the civil rights and above all the gadgets on which we rely on (without thinking) today.

Horses for riding or carriages were being replaced with the horsepower of early cars.  Women’s clothes became less restrictive and in the 1920’s somewhat shorter than fashion had permitted in any preceding years. Aviation was beginning. In fact, the first flight in England was made by Geoffrey de Havilland from Highclere in September 1910.  [...]
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In Flanders Fields

I am sitting on the high chalk downlands above Highclere Castle amongst the swathes of poppies specially sown around the fields this year. It is extraordinarily beautiful and peaceful.

The story of how the red field poppy became known as the international symbol of remembrance for those fallen in war is fascinating and moving. It began with the bright red colours of the poppies on the fringes of the battlefields in Belgium and France flowering in the warm spring of 1915. The actual battle lines and trenches were a scene of grey devastation and wasteland but on the edges the churned [...]
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This month at Highclere Castle we’ve had a very different project: we have been hiring rollers, sweepers and different lawn mowers to create a one off football pitch for the Heroes at Highclere event.

My husband played football, so he has various views of how to create a football pitch, as do all the men who have happily turned to this project. Simon and James from the farm along with Paul, Robin and Don from the gardens, have been cutting and trimming, Sid and Bob have been in charge of diggers and rollers and Sid [...]
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