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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, Luis our Butler and Maggie the Groom as well as all the other people who make the ‘Real Downton Abbey’ a welcoming place for visitors today.


At Home at Highclere Goes Beyond the Castle Doors

We are pleased to announce the completion of Lady Carnarvon’s new book ‘At Home at Highclere’ which is now available for you, our dearest readers, to buy and enjoy. Read more

 

 

Costumes and Dress Codes

 

Costumes and Dress Codes

I grew up and went to school in London. During weekends my sisters and I explored (sometimes under duress) the various museums that London has to offer. The one that I never needed to be persuaded to go to was the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington. I would head straight towards any exhibition of fashion and costumes – they have an extraordinary collection depicting what we wore that spans at least four centuries. You could stare for ages at the tiny waists, beautiful, delicate lace, the velvets, dresses with enormous hoops, the shoes and the [...]
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Journeys in Time

Journeys in Time

I have never been very keen on heights: I have to tell myself to breathe and climb steadily as I go up ladders or, indeed, on ski lifts. Much to my surprise therefore, I remained remarkably calm as I climbed a very long ladder to look at the restoration work currently being done on an ancient barn on the Estate.  So many visitors and guests admire the Castle, its setting, the landscape and gardens, yet that only represents a proportion of what Geordie and I are restoring and sustaining. This is not a “normal” investment with a chance [...]
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A Constitutional Walk for Canada Day

A Constitutional Walk for Canada Day

Reading the 4th Countess’s of Carnarvon’s diaries in her lovely clear script, I have begun to understand a little more about life here 130 years ago. Some things never change. The family liked going for walks or riding on their horses, perhaps up Beacon Hill as I did yesterday evening. They were keen to ensure they spent time outside and considered it was good for their health, for their “constitution”, so much so that if the weather was miserable, they walked in the dining room for 30 minutes!  The thought of Lord and Lady Carnarvon, arms [...]
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From Jeeves and Wooster to Downton Abbey

I hope, like all of us here at Highclere (aka Downton Abbey), that you are rather excited about NBC’s announcement that they are making a “Downton Abbey” film.  Michael Edelstein,  president at NBC Universal International Studio, said that the movie is in the works although it is a logistical challenge to assemble the cast of 18 or 20 much loved characters into one time frame. Of course the largest and oldest “actor” has always been delighted to collaborate and to my eyes, even in old age, has never looked better.

 

Casting back in time, before “Downton Abbey,” [...]
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MayDay

May Days

When I was a student at St Andrews University there were various optional ancient traditions one of which was swimming in the freezing North Sea on May 1st. Curiously enough, whilst it was not then a preferred pastime, I do now rather enjoy swimming in colder waters. It is very invigorating especially within sight of a warm bath afterwards.

May Day remains a bank holiday in many countries for any number of differing historical reasons. In England it has a long and varied justification from dancing around maypoles (banished by Thomas Cromwell and then reinstated by Charles II in about [...]
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Where words end, music begins

My mother-in- law began the Newbury Spring Festival 39 years ago. It is an international music festival with some 59 different events spread over two weeks around this area, using churches and houses, as well as theatres, to listen to outstanding orchestras, choirs, violinists or quartets.  One of our contributions is to host a concert here at the Castle. Mark Eynon, the festival director, had persuaded the Sacconi Quartet to come and play for us and, in turn, I had persuaded my great friend Karine Hagen, of Viking Cruises, to co-sponsor it with us. We were honoured that the Festival’s [...]
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In this, the bicentenary of Jane Austen's death, Cary Johnston visits Highclere Castle in Hampshire to meet Lady Carnarvon to discuss the celebrations due to take place at the Real Downton Abbey to remember one of Britain's most beloved authors.

Click play to watch the interview in full or tune in to ITV Meridian News at 6.30pm on Friday 12th May.

Play

Easter at Highclere

My husband’s parents first opened Highclere Castle to the public in the summer of 1989 and thereafter each July and August.  When it came to our turn to take over, Geordie and I decided to open during Easter and the surrounding school holidays as well, hoping for reasonably good weather so that visitors would be able to park on the fields around the Castle. Of course, as some of you may remember, that hope went horribly wrong with the rainfall last Easter but that is another story.

Having decided to open earlier in the year, we then had to focus on [...]
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Stones and Homes

Not far from Highclere lies Stonehenge, an extraordinary outline of the remains of architecture from c. 5,000 to 3,000 BC around which people lived, farmed and planned their lives. Highclere also has remains of tumuli and forts from the same period. Every time I walk there, it seems a place of timelessness with just the outline of our ancestors’ building works.

Christopher Wren, an outstanding British architect who rebuilt perhaps 52 churches in London after the Great Fire in 1666 including, of course, St Paul’s Cathedral, wrote that “Architecture aims at Eternity” and sometimes, in places like Stonehenge, you really begin [...]
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Highclere Castle and the Ritz Hotel

Highclere Castle and the Ritz Hotel

The 6th Earl of Carnarvon, my husband’s grandfather, never had a house in   London: he simply stayed at The Ritz. Built during the reign of Edward VII on the  corner of Piccadilly, it emulated the classical French architecture, including the front arcades which echo those on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris.

 

 

  Both high society  and the press enjoyed the  opening party and it became hugely  successful.This  was in part due to a simple dearth  of hotel  space in London at the time – visitors    were even  using converted offices – but mostly [...]
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