Adventures with Patsy
Time seems to have flown by since I wrote my first book ‘Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey’ in 2010. As a new author I had absolutely no idea that I would be expected to give talks to help promote it and that came as quite a shock. It was later published in several other countries and inevitably I began to give talks abroad as well. Given the mass of entertainment platforms available these days, authors’ talks are now ever more a priority in order to share their endeavours.
Patsy Arnett lives in Richmond, Virginia and, as President of Arnett & Associates Speakers Bureau, contacted me to do a talk in the United States. I took my first flight and, never having visited before, utterly failed to realize how large the USA is and how long internal flights can be. Lesson learned, I now pull out a very large Times Atlas of the world on to the floor to see where I am going, slightly to my son’s horror who does apps not maps.
Patsy later merged her bureau with Worldwide Speakers Group out of Washington, D.C. and I went with her. Over the last few years Patsy and I have had many adventures together in the USA and have become firm friends. ‘Lady Almina’ was followed by ‘Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey’ which again looked not just at the history of Highclere but also at the real characters who lived here in the 1920s: at their loves, lives and challenges. I was even able to share the appropriate royal signatures from our Guest Book, given that this is the time period when the Downton Abbey TV series ends and the film begins, although my book ‘Lady Catherine’ carried on through the 1930s and into the Second World War.
Patsy and I continued on our travels, taking with us presents and auction prizes. One memorable talk was in Nashville which I had thought was for 650 visitors but expanded to well over 2,000. Luckily for my nerves I didn’t realise that until after I got there.
We have now become better organised, sending ahead by courier the gifts we have for the kind sponsors and organisers. Patsy, who is always annoyingly better organised than I am, then starts labelling the gifts with ribbons and name tags which she has brought with her, chatting away whilst I am still unpacking and ironing in my hotel room.
Each engagement aims to raise money for a charity or endeavour chosen by the organisers who invite me. The events take place through the generosity of sponsors -perhaps a tea, a dinner, a talk in a theatre or a gala evening, sometimes all of them. There is often a reception to say thank you to supporters. It is marvellous that so many love Downton Abbey and it is that which acts as the starting point to draw people in to enjoying talks about living in a Castle, about history or architecture or gardens or even to discussing marketing and authenticity. It is a way of creating a fun event, of involving people and, I hope, always leaving a waiting list for tickets and much money raised.
Sometimes the purpose is to raise funds to support education or mental health , sometimes a charity such as the Red Cross. Patsy and I have often supported PBS, a platform which dovetails well with the love of Downton and heritage.
One sort of charity which I would dearly love to support is one which raises money to help look after families left behind, grieving and lost, because of death through war, of which I understand there are some 80,000 in the United States alone. I have been so lucky not to have experienced such a loss but I remember clearly the dreadful pain my sisters and I felt when my parents both died very young of cancer, one after another. We muddled and cried our way through it but it is still a sudden and never expected loss in a relentlessly on-going world.
Patsy always prefers that I speak without notes. I cannot quite remember why but I think it does work best for me. Anyway I would probably have lost the notes… just like I lose my car keys and phones. Without doubt, I am the odd one on the WWSB list, which has many far more important and economically focused speakers than me.
It is an honour that they include me but also true that, beyond the big economic and political matters, are the communities and people that make up daily life. Like so many US companies, Geordie and I are essentially a “Mom and Pop” business, though perhaps the Castle has been around a few hundred years longer than most. The most important part of what we do here, is to support and encourage the people who work with us every day. Unique, sometimes quirky and always committed, it is their happiness which then leads to good business. So many of articles these days are about the work/life/health and conservation balance and this is never more so than at Highclere. It is about our Challenge 2050, our stewardship, of how we live over the next 30 years.
Am reading your book Lady Catherine now, after being at Highclere recently. Love it! You are a great writer, the details are so interesting, nice to know you did your homework in your writing!
You are kind – I hope you continue to enjoy it.
I am visiting Highclere castle tomorrow as a bucket list trip. A final tribute to my Mother who sadly died last year. A journey with grief and sadness which has lead me to happier times. She loved the show and we talked about doing this trip together I will bravely visit alone and hope she will be smiling down on me.
I had the pleasure of meeting you at your recent chat in Toronto and am loving your book.
My husband left today on his Clipper round the world sailing race….his bucket list adventure. Sir Robin runs a smashing event! Mine will be slightly less adventurous.
Have a lovely day out – slow walks, good memories …
Patsy is lucky to have you, I am sure she treasures your talks as much as your blog readers treasure your updates. My family from the US and my partner and I from Ireland look forward to Oct 16th where we’ve booked into one of your special events – and the film will be out before then too.
In all our dealings with your staff they have been courteous and “over the top” helpful. Please thank them again for us.
This is our Highclere castle year! May everyone have a great 2019-2020!
Thank you. I look forward to welcoming you to Highclere in October – I think it will be a fun event.
I recently found your blog and feel blessed to read from the resident of Highclere
My sister Deborah and love watching the show. We plan on taking a trip to Europe near Christmas
Does Highclere offer teas or something special at Christmas Season? Jodell Cook
There are many fun events around Christmas – I have a new book out – nearly – and that has been an inspiration!
Thank you for sharing. I just learned about your books about the real people of Downton. I most definitely will go online to find them. I love history. Thank you again.
My husband and I were two of the over 2,000 people in your Nashville event. We thoroughly enjoyed your presentation. You were very informative, charming and spoke from your heart. The following year we visited your home, Highclere Castle. It’s one thing to see on television, but seeing it in person exceeded our expectations. We even had Afternoon Tea there. Everything was spectacular.
Thank you for coming to both my talk and to Highclere. I am so glad you enjoyed your experiences.
Will you ever travel to Ontario Canada? I would love to attend one of your events
I did a number of speaking engagements in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto in April of this year as a guest of the Canadian Museum of History and thoroughly enjoyed my time in Canada so I hope to return soon.
I also look forward to reading your books. You really do some much with writing, helping others and caring for the castle. Thanks for all you do. I live 75 miles north of a Richmond and work in Washington DC. If ever this way promoting a book again, would love to meet you. It is such a treat to read about the real people who lived at the castle. I look forward to visiting Highclere next fall. I wish Julian Fellowes would write a prequel to Downton about the early life of grandma Crawley.
I hope to be back in the US next Spring for a speaking tour with, of course, dear Patsy.
You are a gifted speaker, with or without notes, because you speak genuinely, from the heart. I suspect you’d never promote something you didn’t truly believe in and that quality always shines through with you. It’s no wonder you draw crowds wherever you go — it’s a pleasure to listen to you!
Thank you – you are very kind
I hope you come to Hawaii to do a PBS event in the future. After all, Hawaii has many ties to England: our flag, Capt. Cook discovered the islands, our deposed Queen corresponded with Queen Victoria, one of our kings visited England, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
and Prince Phillip visited in the 70’s. I was so fortunate to see them at the hotel they were staying at, and visit Highclere in 2014! Aloha!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
You never cease to amaze with your energy and zest for so many incredible projects.
I won’t embarrass you with any further praise because I know you do not seek it and my words wouldn’t do you justice. It’s just that your efforts and contributions hail you for all to see.
I particularly agree with your reference to looking beyond the political and economic and instead consider the communities and people who make up everyday life, Those sentiments also reminded me of a quote by Jesse Jackson:
“Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping them up.”
I will simply conclude by saying ‘thank you”.
That is a great line – thank you Jeffrey
Looking forward to your spring tour. I’m outside of Washington, DC and – in the small world department – went to the same girls school as your mother-in-law .
How amazing! I think of her stories often..
What a wonderful posting today about your adventures as a speaker. I did smile at your description of Highclere as a “mom and pop” business. I can’t remember ever hearing that term applied to an Estate before. Your authenticity truly engenders such admiration from a diverse audience. Well-done.
We multi-muddle our way through life.
It is coincidental that you started out with Patsy when she was in Richmond, Virginia, a state so filled with English history. Your two books are also full of the gentile and gracious life at Highclere Castle, a life which the early leaders in the colonies revered as they brought this new nation to adopt many English customs and traditions. Even though we did declare our independence, like many youngsters, we remember the lessons taught by our ancestors.
Thank you for writing about our ancestors across the pond. I hope you will visit America more often. Raleigh, North Carolina, is yet another city with English ties.
Come see us!
I would love to – thank you
Dear Lady Carnarvon – I too live in the Washington, DC area – and will look forward to learning when you might be in the area on your spring 2020 tour. Thanks in advance for letting us know!
I eagerly await the upcoming Downton movie as much as I enjoy opening up your latest blog. You are such a good writer and bring us into your life and interests. You were fortunate to find such a good speakers bureau in the U.S. I would travel anywhere to hear you speak if you are here in the future. As for now, I look forward to another visit to Highclere in the next year or two.
Thank you – please do come.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Another great read!!! One of these days I hope to enjoy one of your talks and visiting your home next year!!!!
All the best,
You are so refreshingly real… especially in admitting you hadn’t been to the United States before your book tour. Some years ago I met a “Lady So and So” who divided her time between England and her California estate. I mentioned that we sent our daughter to take college courses in England that year, but had yet to visit there ourselves. She responded with great disdain that we were not better traveled. After reading your blog, I have a feeling I should not have felt so embarrassed.
I think the wonderful part of getting older is not worrying about such things. Disdain is never necessary
What fun times you shared today. Life is full of unexpected experiences. Your words brought to mind a favorite book I used to read to my boys when they were young; “Oh the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss.
My husband and I have had the opportunity to go on several international trips. Some of our trips have been to Brasília, Rio de Janeiro, and Kiev, Ukraine. Oh the travel stories we could share! The best part of our travels have been meeting so many wonderful people and making new friends.
I am wondering if you have a new book on the horizon? The stories of Lady Almina and Lady Catherine were excellent.
You said, “The most important part of what we do here, is to support and encourage the people who work with us every day”. Your commitment is quite evident!
Have a great week!
My new book – ‘Christmas at Highclere: Recipes and Traditions from the real Downton Abbey’ is out this month and takes you on a journey from the very earliest Christian celebrations right up to the present day and how we celebrate Christmas as a family.
Thank you! This will make a wonderful gift for Christmas. I have a few family and friends in mind.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Without your voice, viewers would never know the legacy these amazing women (the Countesses’ of Carnarvon) have contributed to the upkeep of the Castle, their war effort in Britain (WW 1& 2) and of the financing of the Howard/Carnarvon excavation work of Tutankhamen.
Not to mention the humanitarian causes that you and
(Patsy et.al.) have helped to improve by raising monies for the various causes. For so long women’s voices went unheard, it is only since the late 1970’s this started to change. It must have been daunting for you in the beginning but I feel your voice is needed now and in the future. Please continue.
Ps: I thoroughly enjoyed Ernie Manouse and the Stuart McNish interviews of you. Very insightful.
Thank you! I follow in good footsteps
I am completely and unabashedly humbled by your kind words. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with you over these many years. The greatest gift of all is the friendship that we have forged during those years. For that I am very blessed. Here’s to many more adventures and travels together and to all the new friends and surprises that await us!
I do hope so!
I know “your” Patsy and you are so right – she is an amazing woman. Her gifts are many. My husband & I hope to make a trip to visit Highclere Castle in the next couple of years. I have had a penpal from the UK since I was 12 (more than 40 years now) and we still write letters to each other after all these years. We have never met so am looking forward to meeting Sally and visiting you at the same time. And of course, can’t wait to see The Downton Abbey movie. Love your blog & books!
Ah yes….We’ve learned that writing books seems almost easy compared to publicizing them. But you seem to have gotten the hang of it 😉
David and Deb White
Thank you – you are quite right!
Hello Lady Carnarvon,
Today, more than ever, the women can say: “Veni, Vidi, Vici!”
I wish you this!
With sincere admiration and appreciation,
Viorica, Rama – Israel
I was thrilled to be at your beautiful home on August 21st of this year, part of a tour group from Canada. I look forward to reading about Lady Almina and Lady Catherine, their history and lives at Highclere.
Also I was very impressed with the Egyptian exhibit you have put together. It brought back many memories of visiting the Valley of the Kings, the tombs, Luxor and Cairo way back in 1993. I can’t imagine the excitement of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter when they first entered the tomb of Tutankhamen.
In September when I go to see the Downton Abbey movie with my two sisters and another friend (who were also on the tour), we will be thinking, I saw that room, I walked down that staircase and enjoy every minute of it.
Thank you for sharing with others the grounds around Highclere Castle and the amazing rooms inside.
Thank you Diane!
MY DEAR LADY CARNARVON,
I JUST BOUGHT YOUR CHRISTMAS BOOK FOR AMAZON DO BRAZIL AND I RECEIVE IN OCTOBRE. THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS WONDERFULL BOOK.
RIO CLARO – SP
Thank you – it was written from my heart
MY DEAR LADY CARNARVON,
MILADY NEEDS TO KNOW BRAZIL, ESPECIALLY OUR BIG AMAZON RAINFOREST, RIO DE JANEIRO AND BRASILIA TO KNOW THE ARCHITECTURE OF OSCAR NIEMEYER.
LOVELY WEEK FOR YOU.
RIO CLARO – SP
Thank you – I would love to!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
What a delightful post, giving us an inside look at your “adventures in speaking engagements”. I hope you will include sunny Los Angeles in your US itinerary.
I would love to give a talk in LA..
Always enjoy your blog and absolutely loved meeting you in May last year at Highclere. My hairdresser has just returned from her trip and also visited Highclere. I will definitely make a return visit. Keep up the writing. Margaret from Brisbane, Australia
I visited Highclere Castle on the 14th of October 2018 and understand you had hoped to greet us, but your husband Lord Canarvon was running in a local 10k and you went to cheer him on!
We did visit the Gift Shop, but I wasn’t prepared to buy any books at that time. I loved the tour of the castle and would love to know how to buy your books online! You are so lucky to have Patsy as your liaison here in the USA!
All the books are on Amazon in the USA
I hope your speaking tour in the spring brings you to southern California! Have just pre-ordered your Christmas book, and have reserved tickets for the Downton Abbey movie – my friends and I are happily steeped in “Downton-ness”!!!!
I have not yet been to southern California, travel is good it helps give the colour to life! Thank you for preordering the book! Wonderful
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I had the pleasure of meeting you at an event held in Naples, Florida. I enjoyed your talk and the fact that I could get you to sign one of your books. I was lucky to bid on one of the prizes, a Christmas ornament of Highclere that I have sitting in my window all year around. One of these days, I hope to be able to actually visit your castle.
Some friends and I are going to view Downton Abbey, the movie, together and we are all excited to get back to our “beloved Downton Abbey and all the characters inhabiting your lovely home”.
Dear Lady Carnarvon: I’m not surprised that your books, all of which I have read, and your associated promotional activities are so successful here in America. I believe that we Americans see the great English country houses, which often have hundred of years of history behind them, as symbols of a solidity and a continuity that we lack in our modern world. Not to mention a gracious way of life that we will never experience! I realize that the first half of the twentieth century, in particular, was anything but calm in Britain. Yet people like you surmounted the challenges and preserved and enhanced the heritage that was bequeathed you. You and your associates deserve great credit.
I agree that these houses give us a sense of continuity – an anchor in a tumbling world …
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Love love love this!
Hoping to see you in the spring…talking to the lovey Patsy;)
Palm Beach County, FL
What good news!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Please excuse my post being late. We have been preparing for the possibility of being hit here in Florida with this hurricane, Dorian. It seems that at this moment we will miss the worst of it. But we never know until it is over…they can change course at any time.
This was a wonderful post. Does your web site list your speaking engagements? How can we know when and where you might be speaking here in the US? As others have said, we would drive in order to hear you speak.
Counting the days until the Movie Premier in the US!!!! Looking forward to your account of the UK Premier…hint, hint!!!
L. Sue Smith
I enjoy your blogs so very much! I love your books also . I enjoyed Lady Almina& Lady Catherine books. Special shout out to Sally who was an tremendous help to me in getting them to Memphis to me !
We live outside Washington DC. Next time you give a speech in D.C., please let us know, we we’ll love to attend. Also, we’re supporters of PBS, they have a fantastic programming including great documentaries and British shows.
PBS have a great list of programmes! It would be good to find a large hotel in Washingtonin order to collect together for a tea or dinner in aid of them!
You just gave me food for thought!
Our book club certainly enjoyed Lady Catherine last year. I made your upsidedown tomato tart for dinner again last night. Through the book and your website, the tart has become a favorite of mine and my husband. Have given the recipe to numerous friends!
Thank you !!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Last year it was possible to buy a short break to enjoy a Christmas meal at Highclere, whilst staying in London. I was unable to attend on the given date. Do you know if this is likely to be repeated this year?
Do have a look at our ticket website they are all listed – there are Christmas afternoon teas and tours and carols for example. The dinner in the Dining Room has, I think, already sold out.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
My husband and I had the pleasure of coming to Highclere from Connecticut to attend the Downton Abbey concert in June. It was an unbelievable experience. We also attended the tour two days later. This was also unforgettable and was the envy of many of my friends. It was a pleasure meeting you the day of the tour and buying your book, Lady Almina and the real Downton Abbey and having you sign it for me. It is a wonderful book and I am enjoying every chapter. I hope we can visit again or I
can attend a function when you are in the US again. Thanks again for the most memorable experience.
New Hartford, Ct
You are such a warm and REAL person and I think that it transfers down through your whole organization. I love how you made friends with Patsy. Robert, Cynthia and Sam were so hospitable when we came to visit Highclere. I wanted to mention them especially because every little kindness makes this whole world a better place! Thank you again for all your contributions – We need people like you in this world these days!
HI, Highclere is on my bucket list! One day soon, I will be there. You say there are apparently 200-300 rooms in the castle. What were they all used for? I would love to see floor plans of the castle with the rooms all labelled with their purpose & photos of, if possible. How did Highclere get its name?
I bet you have no problem getting your daily walk without even stepping outside the castle?
Hello Lady Carnarvon
It is so much fun to read your blog
And I like your book about Lady Chaterine .
How was it in USA ?
It is also my birthday this Sunday
You are a busy lady.
Hope you enjoyed your stay in the USA.
I love reading your blogs. And great success with your current book.
Dear Ms Carnarvon,
I know only a tiny bit about you, your family and home, and the “Downton Abbey” phenomenon. But, above, you wrote, ” The most important part of what we do here, is to support and encourage the people who work with us every day.”, and I remember how the Earl (or whatever) in the TV show said that the purpose of their estate was basically to give work to the people who lived there. Which sounds kind of circular to me, but it is a good use of the land – to create food and housing, and support the population, and so on. I wonder how much of that is actually true, both now and in the past?
I hope the heart of Highclere today is kindness
Lady Carnarvon: No doubt you will be prompting this last book and hopefully you will once again visit the USA. How does one get to know whether you will be in ones’ neighbourhood? I would love to hear you speak, perhaps meet you–one can hope, and also help a charity while doing so. Thank you.
I hope to take a little time out and get my diary together!