From Highclere Castle to New York
Following the American War of Independence, the United States were keen to mark their differences from the United Kingdom. No titles: “Mr President”. Furthermore, George Washington wanted to help create a political system which did not lead to “taking sides”, the idea was to work for the common good.
However, Downton Abbey and the British Royal Family today, seem to have caught the American imagination and there is much curiosity about titles, Stately Homes, and about the past. Who would have through US TV viewers would switch from Super Bowl to Downton Abbey? Even in this century, Highclere Castle remains a world apart, but still the stories and the people engage today. Highclere is framed by an inspiring Park, with cedars, woodlands and farmland. I don’t know which I love more, the building or the landscape, but perhaps it is the people, present and past.
Of course Catherine, the 6th Countess of Carnarvon, was American, and she was born in New York in 1901. She had two brothers and a younger sister Philippa. Their ancestors were from Virginia, in fact she is related to the Lee family and they would have sat in the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg 250 years ago. Catherine, her family, her marriage and challenges both upstairs and downstairs are the contemporary figures and times in the 1920’s where Downton Abbey has now reached in the forthcoming US series.
Researching “Lady Catherine” from Catherine’s archive boxes, I found some intriguing notes in files named “misc” (miscellaneous) and have scanned a few, to share on this blog. One is from Theodore Roosevelt to Catherine’s father, Jac Wendell; another is an invitation to the White House 100 years ago.
The last, is a note signed by Robert E Lee, the man who rode away from Gettysburg yet remained an admired and extraordinary gentleman. I just found a letter I had not seen before addressed to Mrs Washington and a note whether real or not signed by George Washington and Joseph Kilgour.
For all the differences between countries, I find the threads which join stories together fascinating and full of hope. I am sure I shall find a few more stories yet…. However I haven’t packed for New York and the taxi comes soon so I need to abandon the archive boxes and run downstairs. At the last part of the Red Stairs, I can slide down the bannisters, which saves the dusting of course; though I am not sure it is much quicker.
Wow! What a great honor, to be the holder and caretaker of these wonderful archives. It would be so hard, for me, to tear myself away from all the fascinating information contained within. As always, thank you for taking the time to share! It is refreshing, that you realize the importance of the valuable history and the preservation of such.
I love it but feel swamped and excited, it is Highclere’s pot of gold, I just need to make it come alive and I need a few more hours in each day at the moment !!
While Highclere is magnificent and amazing . . . the grounds by far surpass the man-made edifice.
Last summer I had the pleasure of taking my daughter-in-law and twin fourteen-year-old granddaughters to visit. We loved it all, but spent hours walking the grounds and sitting; recharging.
Thank you for preserving Highclere and sharing.
As for the royal visit . . . we are a forgiving lot. 🙂
Would love to see the slide down the bannister!
Wonderful history lesson, thank you so very much!
Definitely not seeing the sliding down bit – the dogs and Diana our housekeeper are my only audience…!!
Dear Countess ~ wishing you every delight on your NYC holiday visit, I am in NY State, about 8 hrs away. You will find NYC a sight to behold, especially at Christmastime!
It is wild and windy and wet – but we still went for a walk in central park..
Oh Lady Carnarvon , how exciting to go through those family archives and find such lovely historically important things ! Have a good time in New York !
Thank you so much for sharing with us your families historical archives! What an honor to be the caretaker of these wonderful documents, and of course Highclere Castle. I look forward to visiting England next year, with Highclere first on my list!!
I am so very envious of what you are surrounded in. I get so lost in the Downton Abbey story and then your extraordinary castle. It’s like a fairy tale that comes to life right before our eyes. Like your previous reader, I wouldn’t be able to tear myself away from the historical documents you have access to. Thank you so much for bringing things alive in your blog and pictures. Looking forward to visiting your home in September 2015.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Last night, I had the pleasure of introducing my mother, who was with us here for dinner after she and I attended a Vivaldi concert at our symphony hall, — of introducing her to your blog. She doesn’t have a computer, so this was a treat for her. Like me, she loves all things British, and she was most impressed with your writing and love of beauty and civility.
In this post, you point out some of the things which led to the founding of America, and the breaking away from Britain, and yet, as you suggest, there is far more that unites us than separates us, and Great Britain will always remain America’s friend and a source of inspiration. I daresay, many Americans’ ancestral roots, including my own, are intertwined with Great Britain. As an American, I boast several different nationalities, but I’m proudest of my English heritage.
I think, when you visit here, you will find many Anglophiles in residence! We love taking tea, reading Jane Austen (and other great British novelists–the Brontes are my favorite–and I love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlockian tales), we love watching British Royals, and, of course, we have a passion for British drama. Mother says that the English are really the only ones who know how to produce elegant movies and television dramas–filled with superior acting, gorgeous sets, sweeping pastoral landscapes, and yes, again, exuding civility!
While I love America, no question, I always wonder why someone would come here, when she could visit the British Isles and the European continent. But my English friend assures me that there is something gorgeous in our sweeping American landscapes, etc. When I lament to her, “But, Deborah, we don’t have any castles to show you!” she immediately replies that she will appreciate all here that is different from what she knows at home.
So it’s my hope that you find here things that fascinate and intrigue you, and that you will experience in this relatively young nation a maganimous and welcoming spirit. One thing we do extremely well is volunteer our time to charitable causes and we give financial support to those in need at home and abroad.
On another note, I will say that of late I am saddened by the unrest in America. I live in St. Louis, Missouri, and no doubt you have read about the protests here or seen them on television. Our nation was founded on protest, and it’s certainly not a bad thing. We need to change some things in our country. Still, I long for peace. And I might add that what the media shows you is but one small aspect of our lovely city, St. Louis.
It’s my hope that on your trip you will see the beautiful and great things about our country and have a safe and fascinating journey. Thank you so much for your generosity in writing here. I love all you have to say.
Welcome to America!
I must let you know how much I enjoy your messages-an insight into England and the history of your home–My dream is to visit England someday. Thank you for sharing and my best wishes for a wonderful Christmas!
Have a wonderful time in NYC!
Dear Lady Carnarvan,
Wishing you a safe and pleasant visit to NYC. Hope there will be another book soon!
All the best
Would also love to see pic of you sliding down the bannister – HA! Love the archives and love how you treat history so tenderly – Keep the stories coming – thank you so much – enjoy NY, it is most beautiful at this time of year – Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas
I also panic about losing papers – I am sure I saw a John Adams invitation somewhere…
History never ceases to fascinate and to hold it in your hands is priceless
Oh Wow Lady Carnarvan I have just looked on Google Maps & Lady Catherine house where she was born is still there looking just as it was back then.. I just love history like this, I hope when you are in New York You get the chance to go down there & get to look inside this is just pure history & this is why I love it so much 🙂
I meant to see the street and take a photo from the same standpoint but that will have to be another time – I am less deft on google than you I think!
I hope that Lady Carnarvon on her next visit to The US will be able to visit Catherine’s childhood home on New York and also where she holidayed as a child in Wentworth by the Sea, New Hampshire.
Closer to home to home in England for us who live in the East End Robert E. Lee’s family were connected to Stratford, on the River Lea. One of the Lee family built a house which he named Maryland after Maryland USA today is remembered by Maryland station on the District.
I love the history thank you for sharing Lady Carnarvon, I hope you enjoy your stay in New York.
Good evening Lady Carnarvon,
I think it must be so exciting to have so many historical documents to look over. If you ever need a Canadian assistant just let me know. History is fascinating. I’m currently tracing my own family genealogy.
Have a Merry Christmas to you, your family, and staff at Highclere.
I caught a documentary on public television that featured your home and I was impressed with how down to earth you and your husband both are. I am more of an Upstairs/Downstairs fan then Downton Abby though.
Hello, I just finished reading the book about “Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey” and the events surrounding WW II. I have never read so much detail about the history of world war 2, not even in all of my 16 years of school It was superbly written. Can’t wait to read about Lady Almina. Thanks Lady Carnarvon for a wonderful book, I couldn’t put it down I Hope to visit Highclere Castle one day.
First, what incredible finds, important to both our countries. Second, I couldn’t help, but be amused at the mental image of you sliding down the banister. Thank you so much for the smiles your blog brings.
Our fascination must be representative of ties that bind. Our heritage, our beginning stems from those who came from your shores. We are like cousins. Both our nations share the same names and beautiful bounty of landscape, flora, and fauna and spiritual resolve. Ours is an extension of all that is good from you. Welcome to America – especially New “York”.