Christmas at Highclere
It is December so we have begun to decorate the Castle, the driveway leading from the gates to the front door, and the tearooms. Despite all the careful thought that goes into this, there is always something that doesn’t happen quite as planned. The main one for us this year was the height of the tree. We ordered a 20ft Christmas tree but the one that arrived was 30ft. Even with my maths that is quite an increase. Ever optimistic however, with men helping and even more men watching, it was hoisted aloft. Sadly it then had to come back down to earth and be significantly reduced in size. It was all quite tricky.
More Christmas trees arrived for the Castle drive and Courtyard with a lack of certainty over their position, the numbers of tubs and quantity of lights. However Sally and Camilla were making good progress with winding the garland and lights down the oak stairs as well as creating the decorations around the fireplace. Later on Sally’s team (her Christmas elves) were found surrounded by Christmas paraphernalia winding wired red and gold ribbons together for table decorations. Eventually the tree was hoisted loft again and on the work went.
Christmas marks a time in the year to bring people together and to give as well as to receive. Through carols, through stories about early refugees (Joseph and Mary) we take time out to celebrate the start in life of a tiny baby. Last week I gave a talk in London in aid of the British Red Cross, a long established charity which responds to conflicts, natural disasters and the individual emergencies.
Next week on December 7th we are organising a day here at the Castle to help Oxfam called “Songs for Peace”. The impulse behind this event is simply my way to try to say we have not forgotten the desperate plight, the homelessness, the hunger, the grief and trauma of millions of people in camps around Syria and to help raise some money for a much needed cause at a time of year when other families are coming together for happy memories.
Highclere is a large house with a prominent profile which we are trying to use to raise as much money as we can on the day and give it to an organisation, Oxfam, which has the skill set to use it where it is most needed. The challenging state of the world today means that it is ever harder to raise funds and we hope that people might enjoy seeing the Castle at Christmas and buy tickets to come along for the day.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
for you and your whole family I wish a wonderful christmas -time
and a merry christmas! 🙂
Thank you for your blog, sharing, what is happening on Highclere Castle.
With kind regards an many good
Maya Amerein Meritay
Happy Christmas to you!
It would be so much fun to be a Christmas Elf and help decorate at the estate! That is quite a large tree to wrangle. It looks wonderful, though, after all the hard work!
My thanks to you for helping Oxfam with their work. There is a flood of assistance that is needed, for sure. I hope your event next week is a wonderful success.
May you, your family and friends have a blessed holiday season. I hope you have a chance to step back from the madness and enjoy all the hard work you are putting in to make Highclere ready for Christmas.
Maybe we should run a competition to join us as a Christmas elf next year!!!!
It is beautiful! Merry CHRISTmas!!
Will candidates have to go through an Elf and Safety scrutinisation programme?
I love that you are able to spontaneously plan a fundraiser to help others.
Surely the castle will look beautiful! Wish I could join you.
I am going to take some evening photos tomorrow of all the trees lit up – it does look lovely, very warm and welcoming.
So glad to read of your efforts for the Oxfam fundraiser. While on a 10 month personal sabbatical in the UK and Europe, I volunteered in the Salisbury Oxfam book and music shop, and know what a good organization it is. I wish you well in your efforts to help this crisis. As a musician myself, I wish I could attend, but I have returned across the pond.
Your tree trimming efforts will I’m sure be magnificent, congratulations!
Play where you are and think of us! In fact think of Oxfam..Their shops are good too -what a kind thing of you to do! They brought a vintage clothes shop here once for a charity event – it was so successful.
What a great cause! I’m so ashamed of how many leaders in the US are denying entry to the Syrians…at least admit women and children until they can go home in peace…if ever!
I , too, am ashamed. And I am an American.
Our xenophobic governor in Kentucky, a state in which the Queen boards horses, is doing all he can to keep Syrian refugees out.
It warms my heart tremendously, to see the 8th Earl join in rigging-up the foundation of festive display. On another note, what you and he have done to preserve Highclere’s legacy is nothing short of astonishing — such great stewards, you both are, indeed! I hope you’ve chronicled the renovation, from ruin to restoration, for future generations to learn a lesson on neglect. I’d love to read your published account of the magnificent Highclere Castle’s transformation, with before and after photos included. What a testimony your success would be, to encourage others to do the same?! Very well done!
Dear Lady Carnavon,
What a treat to peek behind the Castle doors and to see your Christmas preparations for peace in progress, during this Advent season. I must admit, that it felt like I was viewing preparations being made for scenes from Downton Abbey (I keep confusing Downton and Highclere)! 🙂 Some of my favorite scenes from the drama center around Christmas–such as Matthew’s now famous proposal to Lady Mary at Christmas midst swirls of sifting snow. I live in St. Louis, Missouri, and it may be snowing for all I know when the last season premiers here on January 3rd. How I hate to see Downton swirl away into our collective memories. But I shall remember it so fondly (and the lovely viewing parties we have hosted in our home). And I love that Highclere is a real place, which I had the good fortune to visit in 2013, and that you are a real and compassionate person, who will continue to open the Castle doors for good cheer and good deeds. The world is, indeed, in such great need of peace more than ever. I salute your efforts in combining the beautiful music of the season with efforts to raise funds to help refugees. I can’t begin to imagine their desperate plight. I sing with a Bach performance group, and I will mention what you are doing. Perhaps we can do something similar.
May I take this opportunity to wish you a joyous Christmas and to pray for peace on earth.
I have always enjoyed listening to Bach – I thought of the idea of singing together because any group of people anywhere can sing together and give a little money. It does not matter where you are and we have homes and those in camps do not. You will all have to have iconic Downton evenings the following year in 2017 year and we should try to connect in from here!!! We can all agree a menu…
Beautifully written ! The castle is on my bucket list in life. Beautiful home; beautifully kept ; so much history !
Lisa Tulanowski- Niescier
Bethlehem , Pa.
Lady Carnarvon, I am just seeing this response. Thank you for replying. I really resonate w/ your enjoying Bach. There is none like him (except maybe Handel’s Messiah). We are preparing for our Downton Dress-Up Dinner for the finale’s premier here in the US on January 3rd, just after Christmas. I’m so glad no one has revealed the ending to us. I love your idea of continuing the tradition. I can’t imagine a Downton devotee not having all the seasons on DVD. Yes, do give us menu ideas, and we will carry on the tradition! this year we are having roasted chicken (or turkey), mashed potatoes, stuffing, carrots and peas, Yorkshire pudding (I love its elegance, and yet it is so simple to make), and a Blitz torte. I know it should be Christmas pudding, but my daughter and husband are not big fans of it. So we will all check in at the Castle blog to see if you have any ideas for a Downton Dinner continuation and even sing-alongs for fundraising. Also, and I don’t know if this is true, but we’ve heard the Julian Fellowes would like to write a movie script. we’re game!
Merry Christmas, Lady Carnarvon.
You never cease to amaze! The photo of you on the ladder by the tree is awesome, taking your duties as “Lady of the Manner” quite seriously. You, are fearless! Wishing you and your family, the best during this wonderful holiday season.
Should have been wearing trainers!!
Now that is one more beautiful Christmas tree. I would certainly rival the tree that will be displayed in the White House. Of course, there will be an “army” of volunteers to decorate that tree. But it would appear that you, as usual, have got this handled yourself (with a few staff members). Please post pictures of the finished decorations when ready. Merry Christmas to you and your family and thank you for remembering why we celebrate Christmas.
It was real team effort this year. I will put up some later photos as the garland down the stairs looks great too as does the Mantleshelf in the Dining Room
God Bless you all at the Castle!
This was a lot of fun putting this wonderful 30ft Christmas Tree up, the team work was fantastic & the camaraderie second to none helped along with lashings coffee & lovely cookies 🙂 which I only had one of 🙂 🙂 ok maybe three was more like it hee hee 🙂 Then next day the Highclere Christmas elves were in to finish the job & its look just magnificent 🙂 🙂
I can only imagine how beautiful Highclere Castle is when bedecked with all the lovely trees and decorations. It would be such fun to see it! And a 20 foot tree is not so shabby, after all. The 10-foot remainder was undoubtedly used for greenery throughout the house. Your event on the 7th sounds fun and is such a wonderful idea. Always making a difference, is how I think of all of you; your family and exceptional staff there at Highclere. You make the world a better place-and what a perfect time of year think of these children of God who are in such a desperate situation. Thank you for posting this uplifting and encouraging article (and photos)
Happy Christmas to you, to Russ and your family. PS You are right -we used the remaining branches for a garland in the Dining Room!
There was a lot of hilarity….wondered who had all the biscuits!!!!
You have a heart of gold. Blessings to you and your family for a very Merry Christmas.
Dearest Lady Carnarvon, as a former homeless veteran, I wish to say how I think you &Lord Carnarvon are truly the standard for: when one is given much, one should give much. I so enjoy reading your blog, the basic principles of a just, caring individual comes thru your words. forget the fact that you reside in one of the grandest homes, that we’re all rabid fans of Downtown Abbey , and we subscribe to the blog for a glmpse inside that world few enter. you don’t have to avail your selfs to so many charities, yet you and your husband do…that speaks volumes!! you Madame, are a wonderful human being, and it shines thru in the writing of your blog. happy holidays to you, your family and staff. Lea
Happy Christmas to you – thank you
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
You have written a beautiful ode to Christmas, not just by providing such a wonderful description of the beautiful Christams tree and decorations, but also through your generosity of spirit and thoughtfulness.
The following verse from a poem by Catherine Pulsifer comes to mind in sending a Christmas wish to each and every refugee:
May you never feel lonely,
because there are those who care.
That you realize: you are special,
you are unique, you make a difference,
not only at Christmas, but all year!
I look forward to being part of the very special day on the 7th December.
Hope you enjoyed the 7th – it had a lovely atmosphere
Oh how wonderful Christmas must be at Highclere! I do wish I could be there to help decorate. Your efforts to help the less fortunate are certainly in keeping with this wonderful season. May You and your Family have much Joy and Peace this Christmas Season, and a wonderful New Year.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Your tree this year is the most beautiful tree I have ever seen. Because of where it stands I think it looks more spectacular and alive than all the other decorated outdoor trees in the world. I see this beautiful tree as a centerpiece for your great work in giving back and helping people in need this holiday season, it helps remind us of all the good things people do for others.
Thank you for everything you do for others and all your hard work. Hope the event will be a huge success. I enjoy reading everything you write about Highclere Castle and its history and I wish I could attend the event.
I think it’s a wonderful idea with a fun competition to be an elf decorating your castle. It would truly be an honor to be part of decorating your beautiful home for the holidays. One idea could be who can decorate the most beautiful wreath, submit a picture and you choose a winner or two among the contestants:-)
Have a joyful Christmas season with your family and friends and have a blessed new year.
All the best.
We can clearly have some fun next year!!
Dear Lady Carnarvan
I think you’re very brave up on that ladder!! Well done!! Your tree looks beautiful and I can imagine that lovely Christmas tree smell. I bet the castle will look stunning thanks to all of your “elves”. Have you heard about the big discovery in Egypt? How fascinating…and to think it all started with another Lord Carnarvan all those years ago. I still think one of the most amazing discoveries was that of King Richard III. Who would ever have thought to find a King of England buried under a car park in Leicester. Who can tell what other discoveries wait even at Highclere Castle!
Have fun decorating!
I am always checking under slabs and in hidden rooms !!! Actually I think I have found golden nuggets – they are the real stories and people..
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Wishing you and your loved ones a holy Christmas,and a happy and healthy 2016.
No chance of us having a white Christmas in Australia.
The Castle looks very festive,and I am sure it will be magical at night.
Thank you for sharing your life with us.
It is magical at night and I thought later this month I would share more photos on the blog of the Castle at night and some of the events this part week and tomorrow.
What an inspiration you are and such a beautiful Christmas Tree with all your elves to decorate Highclere so festively. Good luck with your musical evening. It would be wonderful to be able to attend to support such a worthy cause but alas I live in sunny Luxor with all its links to Highclere. One of these days I hope to be able to visit the Castle . Looking forward to seeing your evening photos . A peaceful and blessed Christmas to you, your family, house, workers and not forgetting your lovely animals.
Animals will be included!!!
Just wish I was able to take flight at a moments notice and attend each one of the fabulous celebrations of the season worldwide! The music alone is such a gift! Throw in the lights and you have heaven! In the current world we need both so badly. Thank you for what you are creating in your little corner of this world! Merry Christmas!
Another year catch a plane!
Dear lady Carnarvon , thank you for being such an inspiration to all of us, by sharing all your good works, and charitable deeds. May you and your family have a very happy and healthy Christmas and New year. And keep the wonderful blogs coming. Desiree
Thank you for your lovely and cherished blogs. The house and the tree looks amazing, being the history enthusiast that I am, and quite possibly Downton Abbey number one fan, I can not wait to see it all for real when I visit your beautiful home tomorrow evening.
Congratulation for the Chritsmas tree. I lve the chritmas decorations and the Chrismas time . I would like to go the concert, but I Will be in England, for three days next week. Good luck for the concert.
Recently found your blog and it is delightful to visit. Loved seeing the pictures of the Christmas decorations! Very excited that you are having a concert in aid of the Syrian refugees. It seems just the thing that should happen at Highclere. Happy Christmas to you!
From your most beautiful and elegantly decorated Highclere Castle, to the humble village dwellings on the Greek Island of Lesvos, to the cold rain drenched tent-city of refugees at the northern border of Greece (because other countries have put up “walls” of “no-entry”)…may the spirit of Christmas prevail! Your generosity and love is so apparent at the Castle, may the music event raise much needed funds and also much needed prayers for Peace!
We are only taking a small step and maybe next year more people can join.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thanks so much for sharing the goings-on at Highclere Castle a sit prepares for the Christmas season. I share the sentiments of all the others in being thankful to you for sharing what you have to benefit others in need, especially now with all the strife in the world. Thank you for raising funds to aid such a good charity that helps so many. We all can do a little in our world & eventually spread the joy of Christ in the world! May all your works of charity be blessed by Him who blessed us with life! I had a chance to visit Highclere in August & wondered what Christmas would look like! Thanks for the great pics! Can’t wait to see the finish! Happy Christmas!
Covertly watching Season 6 of Downton Abbey which won’t be shown here in the USA until January, reminds me of how much I love love love Highclere Castle. We were so happy to be there for a visit summer of ’14. Our 2014 Christmas cards were a perfect picture of us with the Castle in the background and not a single other tourist in view. We will visit again, God willing! When the credits begin on each Downton Abbey episode, and the music starts, I have a dreadful feeling that i’m going to cry! It’s as though I have a real connection to your awesome home. Something inside me knows it!
Will you be sad that Downton Abbey is finished? Please keep your Castle in the news, if possible, for those of us who feel a true emotional connection.
And hopefully, your charitable efforts will be successful.
xxx, Sandra, Northern Wisconsin, USA
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
My thanks and gratitude to you and all the persons involved in setting up the beautiful Christmas tree. It was hard work indeed, with a dose of the unexpected. However such a sign of team work and even more, a loving act of solidarity with all who will benefit from to morrow’s “Song for Peace”.
I am looking forward to tomorrow. May Prayers and Peace abide.
The Castle was never open at Christmas which I thought was shame as it is a fun time of year to share it. The first week of December has become a fun week for the last 12 or so years and always around charities. Monday Songs for Peace is an extra step this year which I would like to build on….
What a fantastic view of how much you do for all of us to enjoy your venue! Thank you! Please continue to keep making this a place we we will want to come to in the future!
I wish you and the team at Highclere the best of luck tomorrow! I love reading your post not just because I get to see your home from your perspective but because of your efforts to help those in need by means of Highclere.
May the team at Highclere and you have a Merry Christmas!
We visited Highclere yesterday for the first time and what a special day it was…firstly we got to meet a “virtual” friend who I have known on line for a good while now, and as he works at the castle he was our first contact as he sold us our tickets, he is as delightful as I imagined he would be…it was really lovely to meet you Paul. Then off to the delights of the Castle and grounds. What treats awaited us, The amazing tree in the hall was quite magnificent, as were all of the decorations, what a wonderful backdrop your home is to really enhance the spirit of Christmas. We toured the rooms, chatting to your knowledgeable guides, and admiring the beauty of it all. Then on descending that splendid staircase we found the choir assembling around the fireplace to sing carols. What a super group they were, perfect harmony, perfect timing and a delight to listen to, it was very moving. We found the Egyptian exhibition fascinating…so much history, and far too much to take in on one visit, which certainly guarantees a return in the Spring. Lunch in the Coach house was very yummy, delicious hot dogs served again by charming staff. Then off we went around the grounds to take in as much as we could of the beautiful gardens, the rain kept at bay, and apart from rather wet feet we stayed dry. Of course after all of that walking we couldn’t leave without tea and cake, and as we were leaving we had the added pleasure of actually meeting you Lady Carnarvon…what better way could we have ended a very happy day. Thank you so much for sharing your home with us, because that’s what it is, not a grand castle, not Downton Abbey, but first and foremost, truly a home.
Thank you – delighted you enjoyed it and the hot dogs are very good…Happy Christmas
The Christmans tree is lovely.I will be an volunteers to decorate that tree. God bless you and all at the castle.
What lovely pictures and feelings. Best of luck with your charity events.
Thanks for a great way to liven up my coffee break on a Monday!
Delighted to help you coffee break!
Greetings from New Zealand, and how simply wonderful that you took this step to open the Castle for Christmas in aid of charities. I have the good fortune to be in a position, where I am spearheading in NZ, the United Nations drive towards Enabling Good Lives for all citizens, and I know how important a role charities play, in moving us one step further towards this admirable goal. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a wonderful, happy and peaceful Christmas.
Happy Christmas – all best wishes with your endeavours.
Such a stunning tree and you’re very brave up that ladder!
Merry Christmas to you!
Happy Christmas to you and your family
Dear Lady Carnarvon: Thanks for sending me the nice card last month! What’s your favorite Christmas punch? We’re making one on Christmas Day with Deep Eddy Texas Lemonade, Kentucky Bourbon, Triple Sec, and some juices as well. Over Thanksgiving we made a punch with English gin.
I’m glad you visited us here in Texas, I saw your blog post. Visit us in Dallas in the future, and I think you’ll like all our food, culture, and everything else.
I would very much like to visit Dallas – I only saw the airport!!!
I love the occasional sip of whiskey – but a little champagne cocktail is always excellent.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Hello and Merry Christmas! This UK expat obviously like so many the world over is a fan of the Downton Abbey and really liked the documentaries they’ve done which have included you. You appear to be proud and have enjoyed sharing the castle which itself is a main character in the program. I think your tree looks far better than the trees they’ve had on the show. Perhaps due to a period recreation. I haven’t been home for almost 20 years to my small town in the east of England. I hope to after I get a cancer situation sorted or at least manageable (it always seems like life gets in the way of planning that next trip.. when younger I would visit family at least every two years. Oh youth!) There really isn’t another place in the world come this time of year I’d rather be; though I too have a love of the decades I’ve lived in the USA. I just happened to look you up online and found your blog after a show documentary.. I’ll be reading for some time. I’m glad I found it and do hope if you have time will share some exterior photos of Highclere Castle. It’s a most incredible home and she’s fortunate to have you to steward her maintenance and history. Thank you for sharing your home with the world, it’s been an interesting and fun guilty pleasure to watch over the six series. I’m looking forward to seeing the Christmas special and though sad it’s ending we’ll always have the show to remind us of the estate and the generations of people that have called her home. WELLNESS to you and yours over the holiday season. If.. no, X that.. when I am healthy enough and can pull time and funding for a trip home, I would love to venture your way to take the tour of Highclere like so many others have enjoyed.
I think it’s great that you’re opening the Castle for the holidays! it will be a treat for visitors and in support of charity and no doubt all will be impressed at the hard work and imagination it takes to show off the castles festive side for Christmas into the New Year.
Thank you for your comments- I am going to post some photos next blog… Happy Christmas.
Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year 2016 from Romania, with admiration and respect! Minodora
Hola from the United States. Awesome blog. Surreal but beautiful. Good luck in all the endeavors. A hard working bunch. It is my hope that the Duke & the Duchess can make it a success. God willing. God is on your side. So much TLC goes into the Highclere. I hope it’s handed down for ever & ever. Excellent holidays to the ones who make Highclere exist.
Dear Lady Carnarvon- I’m a journalist (mostly I write about religion) and noted with interest your comments about Oxfam and Jesus, part of a refugee family. I’ve written one column about British refugee efforts, and am trying to write another one on the interfaith and community work being done in the U.K.. I believe you now have my email address. Is there a way in which I could contact you or your agent? Many thanks for your kind consideration, and more importantly, the great work you are doing, Elizabeth
Hello! Is the castle ever open during the week prior to or after Christmas? My family wants to spend Christmas in London one year (we are in America) and touring your castle is at the top of our list of Holiday wishes!
Hello dear Lady Carnavon,
I have stumbled upon your blog while sitting in my hospital office working in downtown Winnipeg on a cold Feb night and it has warmed me up!
I think the thing that draws me into these stories of the castle and it’s histoy, more so then anything, is the diversity I see in our lives, mine as I work with the cities most impoverished people daily, my own “average life” and the sheer opulence of the inside of a grand grand castle. I love to watch your castle in Downton Abbey and piece together how that fascinating and surreal existance operated conjointly at the same time as the world was changing so rapidly. And then I come upon your pictures, the ones of you doing the ordinairy things we all do, like trimming the tree and planning Christmas events. All in an extraordinary place like this castle and I smile. A children’s choir singing about Peace and a giant Christmas tree that came too big and had to be cut down. The ordinary things in a extraordinary place, that I am sure at times to you is just as ordinary as my home. Thanks so much for sharing yourself and a piece of the life of a Lady in this day and age with us cold prairie folk in Canada!
Dear Lady Carnarvon
I was very pleased to have a day out at Highclere Castle on Tuesday 11th March with Group Travel from Shrewsbury.
From the moment the coach drove up the drive I was very impressed and I thank you and your family for allowing us to experience the true Downtown effect and step back in time for a day.
I would also like to thank the young gentleman outside the cafe who was an employee who let me use his phone to ring home to say I had arrived and was having a fantastic day.
All the staff from the Greeter and the lady selling books in the house to the girls in cafe and the Gift Shop were very pleasant and I look forward to coming back in the not so distant future.
Thank you all and very well done.
It is a bit late, January 8 2022, but still I would like to wish you a very HAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR!
I am Swedish and love your fantastic castle so much. Would love to visit it! I have just ordered your beautiful book, Christmas at Highclere, and I can not wait to receive it!
Please have a wonderful new year!
Lots of Swedish greetings,