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.