Suddenly I have lots of friends. My email inbox dithers between being merely “out of control” and “completely out of control”. What a marvelous reason to celebrate and open the champagne! Downton Abbey was such a lovely series: it charmed millions of people worldwide and we are lucky to have been part of the journey. It has made Highclere Castle an exceedingly well known home for which we are incredibly grateful and I think the Castle plays its starring role beautifully – even if I am slightly biased.
Thus we can all now wonder and imagine what will happen. I suspect Lady Mary will simply become ever more beautiful but will Lady Edith, now happily married, pop back to see the family? Lord Grantham already lost his money in Series 4 but it might be fun if his American relatives were to appear. We have had a few fictional deaths and I imagine the film may make us all distraught at some point. I cry in most films – even Cinderella.
The sixth series of Downton left us in the 1920’s. This was the time in which, in real life, the 6th Earl and Countess, Catherine and Porchey, lived at Highclere. They held the most glamorous parties with guests from the world of film and theatre, as well as the Royal family, enjoying a never ending array of racing and shooting.
Researching my book “Catherine” about the 6th countess, I found it a fascinating time in British politics where the rise of the Labour party knocked against the hard edged glamour of Evelyn Waugh’s world of decadent aristocrats. In fact, Evelyn Waugh married, in turn, two nieces of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and I have to admit that “Brideshead Revisited” is one of my favourite books.
Revisiting my memories of previous storylines as I cross back and forth over the Estate, I wonder if any of the cottages will be needed again. Many of them have even more roses around them and look rather scrumptious at present. Downton used a number of fields, follies and tracks over the years but of course none of the farm scenes were shot here. We have sheep and arable with not a pig in sight although that wasn’t always the case. Historically, both the 4th Earl and his mother won prizes for their pigs. Indeed, that is all about to change again as Simon the farm Manager and I are just about to buy some Lop Eared pigs. So now Lady Mary can film any such scenes here at Highclere without going off site!
The National Long White Lop Eared Pig (a very catchy name) is a traditional British pig but it is on the endangered list and recognised as a rare breed. There is an area behind the old walled garden which would be perfect and it just needs fencing. They will have fun clearing it up and I have already planned to name one “Babe”, from the film of the same name.
Possible pig scenes notwithstanding, the film will be an adventure with long hours, a few dramas, masses of people everywhere , too many articulated lorries, a great crew and much laughter.
There will be an exciting period of editing and marketing during which I can give some thought as to where Highclere should go from here in terms of its long term heritage. Both the great tower and the Medieval Barn need extensive restoration. One option I have been mulling over is the possibility of creating a “Friends of Highclere Castle” club. I can share advance tickets and rare archives, hold a special drinks parties. It’s a thought. Sometimes I find the task of stewardship so daunting but then I remember Arnold Bennett’s comment (a contemporary of the “Downton era”) that “It is easier to go down a hill rather than up, but the view is from the top”.