Highclere Castle is one of England’s most beautiful Victorian Castles set amidst 1,000 acres of spectacular parkland. The Carnarvon family has lived at Highclere since 1679, and the current Castle stands on the site of an earlier house, which in turn was built on the foundations of the medieval palace owned by the Bishops of Winchester for some 800 years.
A former auditor for Coopers & Lybrand, Lady Fiona Carnarvon is the wife of George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon. Today, she manages affairs at Highclere Castle, home of the worldwide television drama Downton Abbey,including overseeing its grounds and gardens and many special events such as the Egyptian Exhibition in the cellars of the Castle.
Fascinated by Highclere’s history, Lady Carnarvon has written three books. The first two are about the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb with Howard Carter in 1922. Her latest, New York Times Bestseller Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere, is an amazing tale covering the same period as the first two series ofDownton Abbey, beginning in 1894 with the marriage of 19-year-old Lady Almina into the Carnarvon family and continuing through the Great War.
In September Lady Carnarvon will publish the follow-up to the international best seller, this book moves the story into the 1920’s and focuses on the remarkable American heiress who came to reign at Highclere Castle. Sometimes the facts are even more extraordinary than the fiction… ‘Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey’ tells the story of the beautiful American heiress who lived at Highclere Castle, the setting for Julian Fellowes’ award-winning drama Downton Abbey. Glamorous and wealthy, Catherine became the toast of London society when she travelled across the Atlantic in 1920 to marry the Earl of Porchester, or ‘Porchy’, as he was known. At just 19 Catherine had to learn how to organise and host the lavish banquets and weekend house parties that Porchy so loved. She found herself suddenly in charge of the more than eighty staff working at Highclere Castle, and persuaded her husband to improve their living and working conditions. But things were far from perfect. The demands of running such a large household were greater than Lady Catherine had expected. Her new husband gradually revealed himself to be a scandalous rogue, squandering their money and pursuing silent movie stars across London. When World War Two broke out, there was yet more turbulence, with Highclere transformed into an American airbase, and host to several hundred soldiers, as well as fifty young evacuees from East London. Drawing on rich material from the archives at Highclere, including beautiful period photographs, Lady Carnarvon transports us back to the thrilling and alluring world of the real Downton Abbey and its inhabitants.