From Paris to Billiards.
Everyone at Highclere has been touched and heartbroken by the terrible tragedies that unfolded in Paris. The destruction and grief that has been continuing around the world in the wake of these endless attacks is awful as people live afraid, “strangers … in a world they never made” to quote A E Houseman. It is the merciless and random nature of the violence. At the same time, there have been some amazing moments of unity and kindnesses which it would be wonderful to “bottle”. Let us hope they continue.
In between everyday life here at Highclere, I still find moments to disappear into the archives and recently have been reading letters from the 1880’s. It is so easy to get completely immersed in these past lives and go off at a tangent. One such brief excursion has been Alan Herbert, brother of the 4th Earl of Carnarvon and therefore a few great’s uncle of my husband, Geordie. Renowned for his charm, he settled in Paris as a doctor, living there through turbulent times whilst his family at Highclere worried about him. In the event he lived a long life (he died in 1907) and was awarded the honours of both a Knight of the Legion of Honour and an Officer of the Legion of Honour for his courage in the face of crisis and his compassion for patients of whichever nationality.
One of the next entries I found concerned the ordering and delivery of a billiard table by the then Earl and Countess. Subsequent diaries note how often and how much they clearly enjoyed using it which led to one of those bizarre little coincidences that mark life.
The other, more mundane, thing occupying my time this week was the issue of how to put in some central heating at one end of the upper floor of the Estate Office, which is at the back of the courtyard behind the Castle. We needed to find a place to site a boiler. Looking round the adjoining rabbit warren of rooms, the plumbers Mark and Geoff asked what was in a nailed up cupboard behind a bench as it looked like a possibility. Whilst I watched, they pulled out the bench, undid all the screws and nails boarding up the door and revealed a lovely large space that would be just right. We shone the torches in and there, neatly stacked in pieces, was clearly what had once been a billiard table.
Some weeks ago we experienced an simmilar situation. My son went into the cellar bring some apples that were stored there upstaires. The apples laid in basket which was placed on another basket. My son lifted the upper one and found a three or four months old watermelon lying inside the lower basket. The next day we ate the melon. luckily we did’t get food poisoned!
Dear Lady Carnarvon
Thank you for posting these delightful insights, and strange coincidences into your life as a Countess and chatelaine of Highclere.
I am researching, for a school assignment, the heirloom jewels owned by the British aristocracy. I have not found much information on the Carnarvon jewels.
I would be delighted if you could do a blog post about the Carnarvon family Jewels.
Some questions I have are:
– The Carnarvon pearls, engagement gift to Almina, Countess of Carnarvon, which were sold by the 6th Earl in the 1920s, are they the same pearls worn by Almina, Countess of Carnarvon on one of the covers of your book, and at the 1902 coronation? If so, when were the pearls restrung from the one strand worn by the 1st Countess in the Van Dyke portrait, to the two strands worn by Almina?
-Are there any pictures, other than at the 1902 coronation, of the Tiara worn by Almina, Countess of Carnarvon? I have seen a picture of that same tiara, when I google searched “Carnarvon Tiara.”
– Is this the same tiara given by Sir Alfred to Almina, Countess of Carnarvon? As mentioned on page 9 of your book on Almina.
– Are there pictures of the tiara, wedding gift to Catherine, Countess of Carnarvon, that was sold by her, to pay gambling debts?
– The Tiara and necklace, that you wore for the Queen Charlotte’s Ball at Highclere in September, 2014, are those pieces family heirlooms, or loans?
I would be very grateful, if you could answer my questions.
Hopefully, you can tell us more about the jewels that the Carnarvon family have owned and still own.
I hope to receive your reply soon!
I do have some papers on Almina’s jewellery – some photographs as well as lists. I kept falling over the papers and then I put them some where which is always fatal. It would be a good blog,you are right.
The famous pearls are in various paintings around the house. They are worn by Lady Carnarvon in a small van Dyck (circa 1635) in the Dining Room and again are in another painting in the Smoking Room.
Catherine Carnarvon did gamble away some rather lovely presents – I have not really looked for such photos as it was rather a sad episode.
I borrowed a tiara from Andrew Prince as he produces the costume jewellery for Downton. I thought it was fun to work and promote his range! Funnily enough we also well some costume tiaras our gift shop now, we keep meaning to photograph them but hey are sold before we remember to..
I cannot remember the necklace that may well have been my own!
Thank you, Lady Carnarvon, for replying to my comment. I appreciate your response and I hope to read the blogpost on Almina’s jewellery soon.
I love when you write about your research of Highclere history and exploring your the surroundings. Thank you for sharing.
What is so bizarre is that after I put up the blog we then found another letter in the archives confirming that this was the old billiard table..I find it all amazing !
Fascinating bit of History. It’s fun to read old manuscripts and get an insight into the daily happenings a hundred years or more ago. I bet the writers never thought someone way down the road would be sharing their interesting stories with so many! It makes our current lives much more interesting when we can Interact with the past. That’s a neat discovery of the Billiards table coming close on the heels of your journal reading!
Thanks for sharing your discoveries with us.
It is good to read of manuscripts where you can read the script! Elsie Carnarvon’s writing is easy to read which is a treat.. the diary was a delight to read, I enjoy the everyday details.
I enjoy reading all of your blogs. They bring back a time in History that we are not priveledged to.
Being of the older generation and recalling my early days makes. Me want to know what transpired befores me. Once again Thank you.
Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful finds. I am a history major in the US but am particularly interested in British history.
Thank you, tack så mycket, (!) dear Lady Carnavon, for your insights from daily life and stories from long ago. Your way of writing and telling is enchanting!
So interesting about the Billiard table – will it come back to life and be one piece again do you think ?!
Thank you for another wonderful journey into the past of Highclere ! Always very interesting and your inquisitive mind does make your blog so well worth reading !
Can the billiard table be reassembled?
What a find!!
I do want to reassemble it – I would like to decide where. I suppose I could go on a hunt the billiard cue round the Castle …. perhaps that is a game a cold rainy day in the New Year!
Daily life around Highclere , as you write about it, sounds so very interesting, and more often than not, filled with new discoveries. It must be great fun with the revelation of each new discovery!
Fascinating!!! I hope the billiard table can be reassembled!! What a glorious discovery!
I find your study of Highclere’s history very enchanting. We in the states could learn a thing or two about leaving reminders for our future generations. Thank you for sharing your amazing life with us.
Thank You Lady Carnarvon for the interesting findings on Highclere. Amazing. Do you know that sometimes a simple postcard on which the writer asked a question can lead to a novel! So, your diaries and findings could perhaps ill a long series of books. Thank you again for sharing this with us.
I think it would be a book and I sometimes write other blogs I do not post, as a way of recording some of the utter hilarity. In truth the real Downton – has a cast of eccentrics…
Love your wonderful posts! Makes one wonder how many other hidden treasures might await further discovery. I don’t know how I would get anything done. I would just become so immersed in the history of it all.
Your blogs are an absolute delight in so many ways and I enjoy them tremendously. I truly look forward to them and often feel I am right there in person. Thank you so much!!
Thank you again for blogging about the history of the people that lived in the past. Its so interesting to read about them, so different than what we experience now. Wish America would keep old things instead of always tearing them down. We have an old post office (by our standards) and they don’t want to spend the money to repair it after the earthquake damaged it. So sad… so I really appreciate hearing about the history and how you are preserving it. Thanks again.
I like old as well as new, how our predecessors lived, what mattered to them. I feel it is a mark of respect.
Hello Lady Carnarvan
Thank you for another interesting blog. I hope the billiard table can be reassembled. What a piece of history…my favorite saying “if walls could talk”. I would spend all day reading through all those fascinating letters and journals! On this side of the pond I am in the process of planning a Downton Abbey tea at historic Summerseat. I recently discovered there is a place called Summerseat in Lancashire. I wonder if that’s where our historic house took it’s name from. I’ll have to do some research.
Best of luck with the new boiler!
Let’s hope for a kinder and more peaceful world in the future..
I am just compiling tea recipes and thought I would photograph some of the silver teapots and beautiful china.
I thoroughly enjoy all that you write on your discoveries and everyday life at the castle. I hope to visit one day
I enjoy your blog and look forward with great anticipation for the next one.
What a wonderful find the billiards table must have been. Although I am not a fan of the game, my wife and I have enjoyed the odd game of billiards over the course of our 33 years together. Also, I should just like to say how wonderful and kind this is of you to share this history of Highclere. My wife and I struggle with restoring an old house(210+ years) here in Nova Scotia, Canada. I say struggle in that it would be easy to just borrow the money and finish it, but we chose early on to not go down that path. After 25 years, the end is coming into sight and our children don’t think their parents are quite so crazy for buying an old house now as they did when we first moved in. In closing, one hopes that a more tolerant and compassionate world will in the end be the lasting legacy of the victims of terrorism.
This has been my first time reading one of your blogs, and I must say it has been very interesting. It is akin to unwinding a ball of twine than has been wound up for many years and there is always something new to be discovered, as it is unwound. I am looking forward to the next entry.
I have seen this billiard table all be it in bits hiding away from the modern dangerous world as we know it today, this is a lovely little bit of history that has not seen the light of day since to was put away for safe keeping , just think if that table could talk what has it seen went it arrived at Hightclere, I know one thing the world was a very different place to what we have now.. I so look forward to the first match when the table is reassembled & ready to do battle again all in the name of fun..
Another first class history blog Lady Carnarvon I look forward to the next one
Are you offering to play a game of billiards? !! Some of my sisters are quite good which really indicates a happily mis-spent university career. I am afraid I also enjoy the game you play shooting the billiard balls back by hand, I think it is called “crud” which is a dreadful name for a fun game!
Yes I take up your challenge Lady Carnarvon 🙂 This would be a great honor to play the first match on the table against you & dare I say WIN ! hee hee 🙂 Just think if the table could talk I’m sure he/she it would be very excited at the prospect of the first Match being played after being locked away for all those years..
I about fell over when I read your post above about “the other way to play billiards”. I am a retired USAF fighter pilot, and I learned to play Crud many years ago in various Officer Clubs around the world. It can be a very physical game, especially after a few brews. The last place I would have thought to hear about Crud is from Lady Carnarvon! But good for you! I am now wondering if that game was learned from RAF pilots who we serve with in various operations, training exercises, etc. Those RAF pilots really know how to party!
I should also mention that we met you in September of this year. We were touring the castle and you came through the dining room showing several people around. My wife approached you to express how much she enjoyed your blog and book. The two of you chatted for a few minutes. You were most delightful and welcoming!
So let us know if you are up for a game of Crud, on your turf or ours!
Doug Munday, LtCol, USAF, Retired
Gig Harbor, WA, USA
Dear lady Carnarvon, as always another excellent blog. We should do our best to make our answers very interesting, just like your blogs, who’s knows some one in the the distant future, may find them, and read and be interested in how we lived and entertained ourselves. Rock on . Desiree.
Will the compilation of tea recipes be for purchase? I hope so! Please let us know when.
Dear Lady Carnarvon –
Do you keep a diary and log books of the daily life at Highclere as did your predecessors? Do you save invoices and receipts with photos to document the repairs and improvements to Highclere? And finally, how many rooms are there in the castle?
I love reading your blog and look forward to the next one.
Wow – how awesome! Thank God for journals and those who keep them. Hence why I love blogging. However, I have noticed that without storing our writings, photos, and art on flash drives (labeled) for those behind us to find and use, our treasure of thoughts and events may be lost forever as technology continues to evolve and change format.
You do have a fabulous blog thanks.
thank you for sharing your lovely home and history with the world.
I truly hope to come to the UK to go on one of the tours and if lucky, possibly stay at Highclere.
it is truly fascinating to me. I have family roots in the UK and it is always a draw to me.
Best wishes and Happy New Year