Highclere and the Birth of Canada
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After spending time researching three unusual names in the Castle visitor book of 1866, I uncovered the story behind the birth of Canada as a nation and the 4th Earl of Carnarvon’s role on the world stage. Those names were John A Macdonald, George Etienne Cartier and Alexander Galt.
I discovered in the archives nearly eight weeks of almost daily correspondence between the 4th Earl and the first Prime Minister of Canada Sir John A. MacDonald. Diary entries and letters show the discussion of key elements of the Canadian Constitution, such as how Lord Carnarvon sought to safeguard the rights of minorities, the terms of the Senators and the respective powers of the federal and local legislatures.
It is clear that Highclere Castle was at the very centre of the discussions surrounding the British North American Bill and its drafting. Indeed, it was the 4th Earl himself who took the British North America Act to Parliament in February 1867, which led to the creation of the Dominion of Canada on July 1st of the same year.
As I can, I hope to transcribe more letters and share them through this page, and first of all below I have included a poem in French by Monsieur Cartier which he wrote in our Visitors book and I would really appreciate if any of you would translate and share back on here! There are stories about the Intercolonial Railway which Lord Carnarvon promoted and persuaded the Cabinet it was a sine qua non. And thus the new nation would stretch “Mari usque ad Mare”, “From Sea to Sea” and “D’un océan à l’autre”.
I feel very proud that Highclere and the 4th Earl was regarded as a true friend of Canada. I hope Canadians will feel very welcome at Highclere today. On July 1st 2018 Highclere will again celebrate Canada and seek to share our “Constitutional Walk”.
As a Southerner in the United States, it’s still clear that our hospitality skills seem to come from our British DNA. I do love the casual style that you bring to entertaining at Highclere, and the heritage you honor as you share your lovely home. Hopefully the occupants of the new mega homes with lovely gardens being built here now will embrace a love for sharing their good fortune and embrace the joy and fulfillment of entertaining. Although most will not enjoy the great benefits of the rich history at Highclere, every cellar could be a tribute to the history of the land it sets on, and contain objects of art, and perhaps the odd jar of preserves that pertain to the area. Regardless, you and Lord Carnarvon are setting a marvelous example by sharing your home so graciously. Downton Abbey could not have had any greater inspiration than the history you have dug out of the archives. I hope Julian will bring these important and vastly interesting historical events to the screen, and thus increase your “to do” list exponentially.
Thank you! I think these homes were built to share, the space had to be shared whilst organised around unwritten access rules and respect for privacy. Large homes today are built behind “screens”
As a Canadian who fell in love with the estate during the viewing of Downton Abbey, I am excited to be visiting in June for a nearby family wedding and hope I can make it to the June 3rd 2018 musical exhibition. The history that the castle has with Canada is truly remarkable as the dominion was marked out inside the very space you currently live! (I just recently discovered this thanks to my husband’s keen interest on all things historical!) How formidable! Thank you for honouring that history and for your continued efforts in preserving the lovely life and architecture of Highclere. Take Care!
Thank you – it has all meant so much to me!