Love and all that

February can be quite a damp wintery month in England and we often get a scattering of snow or a sharp frost. However, there are two highlights: the first is Valentine’s day and the second is that February has only 28 days which should help Spring approach a little more quickly. For Valentine’s Day we have started asking guests to join us in the Castle for a tour and afternoon tea, or a reception with music  and drinks in the evening. Given most people work during the week,  we cannot always offer the 14th itself but choose the nearest weekend instead.

These images are credited to Burlison Photography –  (

The Friday before, finds Sally and her gift shop elf – Camilla – winding a garland down the oak staircase, carefully hanging more roses from it, before helping to decorate the table settings. This weekend is one of the very few chances for guest to have tea in the Dining Room and, of course,  champagne. The most special moment this year occurred during the the evening when a serving soldier, looking so smart in uniform, asked me if he could propose (not to me!) I ran off to find the photographer as well as Luis with a tray of champagne. Moments later, standing slightly back behind  the pillars in the Saloon , the garlanded staircase was all theirs. It was a moment of utter surprise, tears and happiness for his girlfriend and left several of us near tears. Our jazz singer, who had the most wonderful voice was providing the entertainment for the evening, and she sang as  the couple confirmed their love. (She said yes!)

Throughout,  the weekend was a special time for affection and for love and for remembering those whose love helps anchor us both in the midst of everyday humdrum life and during times of stress or anxiety. However, love has much broader meanings too. The Bible describes true love as being self-sacrificial rather than self-seeking, of seeking what is best for others rather than for oneself. Earlier in the month I was in Naples, Florida for an event called the  “The Art of Giving” where I was giving a talk.

It was a weekend event to  raise money to help local Florida charities helping disadvantaged children, mental health charities and providing educational support to families who are really struggling. The committee arranging the event, headed up by Nancy and Carol, were amazing and raised a record amount of money. Led by the Naples Episcopalian Church Trinity by the Cove, this event was a practical way to love as the Bible suggests  – to give faith, hope and charity. I was honoured to be asked and delighted it was such a success.

“I was walking along looking for somebody, and then suddenly I wasn’t anymore.”

Winnie the Pooh and AA Milne

Nancy and Carol with Father Gleeson and myself at the Art of Giving Reception

47 Responses to “Love and all that”
  1. Lynn Morris says:

    How wonderful! What a lovely Valentine’s Day event! I, too, was in Naples only a week ago! I wish I had known, perhaps I could’ve attended the church event to say hello. We visited your beautiful home in 2013 and fell in love with the countryside! Thank you for sharing your stories, Lynn

  2. Mary Ellen Breitwiser says:

    Perfectly lovely, as always, to see you and Highclere opened up for a gorgeous celebration of love to honor Valentine’s Day. Well done! You can’t know how much I love walking through those grounds and that wonderful house vicariously. Blessings to you for your big, big heart that reaches such long distances to bless others!

  3. Daryl Hornby says:

    Thank you for your visit to Naples! Know the event was a
    great success and many people from Collier County will benefit from the monies raised. Lots of “fun” was had by all too! Perfect day….

  4. Paula says:

    Love reading about your “hum drum” life❤️
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      Driving from Miami to Naples I passed lands given to Native Americans and they have some lovely blessings for key times of your life. I can never remember anything at the right time but referring to two people beginning their life together:
      “May the sun bring you new energy by day, may the moon softly restore you by night, may the rain wash away your worries, may the breeze blow new strength into your being”

  5. diana says:

    oh i am so disappointed I didnt know you were here in Naples. i would have loved to have attended. What a wonderful charity and so important. thank you.

  6. Jane Franks says:

    So wonderful to see all that you are doing and helping those in need. As you say, following the Bible’s teaching. And thank you so much for sharing your stories here.

  7. Doreen Mc Kenna says:

    It sounds completely romantic! I is always enjoyable to you sharing stories of different events or just daily situations. Looking forward to visiting the Castle and most of all an opportunity to meet you.
    Have a fantastic weekend.

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      This weekend I am supposed to be dutiful and doing church accounts but am prevaricating …

    • Amy Hunt says:

      Hopefully, dear, just procrastinating on those church records!! Prevaricating may cause some problems!!

  8. Nora Huber says:

    I too wish I had known about the event in Naples. I would have flown down to Naples to see friends and attended the gathering. I am finally going to get to come to Highclere!! This July my cousin who lives in Warrington has obtained the tickets. We are looking forward to a glorious day!!

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      Wonderful and I hope you have good weather.

      I hope I will be back in the States for another speaking engagement at some point.

  9. Marilyn Peck says:

    Lady Carnarvon,
    Greetings from Florida! The event in Naples, “The Art of Giving”, touched on three areas of very important need. I am glad that it was successful!!! Self sacrificial love is much more satisfying than “self seeking” love, indeed. By the way, we have been to Naples many times… what a beautiful area of Florida!
    I wanted to mention that among my grandmother’s estate items that I inherited. was a leather (yes!!) Valentine greeting that was sent to her in 1907 by an amorous suitor! It had a one cent stamp on it. Grandma Emilie was 18 years old at the time. It is a treasured item of mine.. a remembrance of a long ago love!
    Marilyn Peck

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      Through the speaking engagements I have got to travel to different area of the USA which I really enjoy and it is a good way to raise money for you, for US charities given how generous so many Americans are to UK charities.

  10. Bill Washburn says:

    Looks like a nice time was had by all, my wife and i live in upstate NY so im definitely familiar with a scattering of snow lol , ive been married for 18 yrs and would love to propose again to my beautiful wife again for our 20th anniversary and if i was anle to do it at your beautiful castle would literally make her feel like a queen !!!! It gives me an idea of what to do for our 20th now !! Thanks again for sharing.

  11. Paula Wicker Hamby says:

    Lady Carnarvon:
    I always look forward to your interesting posts, and this one was especially enjoyable. Sharing with others is such a great gift and such a help for those in need. I, too, am Episcopalian in West Tennessee so this really meant a lot to see your good works! Thank you!
    Paula Hamby

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      It is remarkable how active and compassionate the Naples church is. Rev Gleeson does not take no for an answer, but it is a double act with his wife.. He makes it fun.

  12. Jeffery Sewell says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon,
    A thoroughly wonderful and moving blog. I am sure that I join with all fellow bloggers in wishing the newly engaged couple a lifetime together of happiness, good health and love.
    And what an amazing and far reaching charity you supported in Florida. Wonderful to hear that the event was so successful.
    I also thoroughly enjoyed the quote from “Pooh” by AA Milne. I had forgotten it. In response, may I offer what I consider to be another gem:
    “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
    (I am assured that it comes from the pen of Dr Seuss.”)
    Enjoy the coming of Spring.
    Jeffery Sewell

  13. Lady Carnarvon says:

    Thank you Jeffrey – that is a fun quote – I have to say I do like Winnie the Pooh, it is always wisdom mixed with laughter!

  14. Bernie says:

    Naples, Fl. is only about two hours from me. What a worthy cause. If you come back let us know in advance!

  15. Dianne Shanley says:

    I was lucky enough to be at the Naples event. It was very enjoyable. I snagged one of the Highclere silent auction items as well as having you sign your book. Thanks so much for helping this worthy cause.

  16. CT Lynn in FL says:

    As always, thank you for your wonderful words, works, and visuals in your blog which always say what words cannot. A memorable Valentine’s Day there for so many for certain. I can’t think of a more splendid, beautiful and grand place for a proposal than your home (neither did Matthew when he proposed to Mary in DA!:). I have had the pleasure to see the grand staircase and your home in person in 2014 and will never forget my time spent there. Cannot wait to visit again. Thank you for opening your home to so many wonderful events, sharing parts of your “hum drum” life with the world via your blog and for leaving your home for places abroad to spread your charitable works. I am so sorry to have missed you while you were in Naples as I was there then as well but did not know of the event, I most certainly would have supported it had I been aware. Maybe next time. Here’s to an early spring and all those baby lambs that will be grazing in your pastures!

  17. Catherine Splane says:

    Naples EPISCOPAL Church Trinity By The Cove. Dear Lady Carnarvon. I am enjoying your Valentine’s Day blog. I love all your writing, nice clear prose. I am an Episcopalian. My father was an Episcopal priest. Episcopal is the adjective. Episcopalian is the noun. We use the two separate words to describe type and noun. So, it’s EPISCOPAL Church. But Episcopalian (the person) . Our American Episcopal Church still claims as our Mother Church The Church of England. So, if you are C of E, we are really communicants of the same church. My St. Christopher’s medal says “I am an Episcopalian.” I love my church dearly, as I am sure you love your church. I was born into my father’s first church, into all the hubbub. 62 years now an Episcopalian. Bless you, your family, and your dogs

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      Thank you – what I have seen is the energetic way the Church is part of the local community doing what it preaches.

  18. Catherine Splane says:

    Winnie The Pooh by A.A. Milne, my beloved first memory of books read to me by my mother. Two other books were the cornerstone of my babyhood: Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers, and all of Beatrix Potter’s books ( Jemima Puddleduck, Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher) . I was also read A. A. Milne’s POETRY ( “Now We Are Six”). These 3 British writers formed my childhood and life. All still very vivid in my mind.

  19. David Charles DuBois says:

    My birthday is on Valentines Day. I would have loved up have visited on my special day. Maybe next year!

  20. Josee Hawkins says:

    A lovely ‘blog’. Thank you . A belated Happy Valentines to you , your kindness to the soldier and his fiancee is truly lovely…your response to his request was truly generous. Have a happy March, I hope it brings warmer weather and not too many strong winds to damage old buildings !

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      It has been cloudy and cold and muggy all at once but I had a nice ride his morning . I jumped a small log on a young horse who leapt it as a major obstacle, lost a stirrup with laughter but manged to pull up.

  21. What a wonderful and romantic way to propose: on the steps of Highclere Castle! So nice, thank you for sharing the love and all your generosity to the charities. I have both your books, signed and treasured…now waiting the publication of your next book. ‘Love your writing and story-telling 🙂

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      I have a few pre-publication copies here … it is amazing holding it, the words no longer on emails, the photos more than large icons .. I haven’t quite looked through it all yet, ideas and stories that danced in my head, now there. Perhaps I should not say it but the book does seem beautiful, but then I find books beautiful. Thank you!

  22. Manuela says:

    very nice events in a wonderful place.

  23. Jane Hrabak says:

    Dearest Lady Carnarvon,
    You have such a wonderful way of bringing your life TO life, and into ours, and I thank you most humbly. Spring is indeed around the corner, and I would imagine before long you will be working here and there on the grounds of your Grand estate. I look forward to seeing what decisions you’ve made for your garden this year, both floral and vegetable, and as always, love pictures of the grounds. So Beautiful! By the way, the ‘happy couple’ look radiant! Congratulations to them both!!
    Sincerest Regards, Jane Hrabak

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      My treat to myself this evening is to look for scented plants for anew scented walk. I like treats!!!

  24. Jean says:

    How marvelous for you to come to Florida for such a cause and provide such a magical setting and opportunity at Highclere for a newly engaged couple. Speaking of cold damp Februarys – I have to share this. Yesterday Feb. 18, 2017 was my 62nd birthday and the temp. was 62 degrees! This is in central New York state where in Feb. it is always shiver cold and blizzarding – never fun weather for a birthday. The Bible tells us “we shall see the glory of God In the land of the living”. May God’s glory be about you today for all you give to His world in love and charity. Be blessed !

  25. Lady Carnarvon says:

    Happy Birthday and maybe you should go somewhere warm on holiday for your next birthday!

  26. David says:

    Thank you for reminding us that “giving” is an art. While we may automatically think of of giving in terms of money ( which, of course, is very important), we can also give encouragement, talents, forgiveness and affection to name a few. But , most important, whatever one gives, do it without keeping score. You are an inspiration to us all by your example of giving, not only from our means, but out of our souls.

  27. Lady Carnarvon says:

    You are very kind – but I just think I muddle along and there are some great teams and committees who do a lot!

  28. Lori says:

    Like always I enjoy all of your blogs.Although I don’t live in or around Highclere.I enjoy reading your blogs about the fascinating castle and the events that are held there.Because I live in Peoria, IL USA. Lately we’ve had a mild winter,it’s been in the 70’s over the weekend.Please don’t stop creating your blogs,as I will always enjoy reading them.

  29. Jo says:

    We so enjoyed having you at the Art of Giving at Trinity. Your “gift” to the community by being the guest speaker will help make a difference to this special place and those struggling with life’s challenges. Thank you for being so gracious in signing books and giving us a glimpse into the history of Highclere to all who attended the lovely event here in Naples.

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      Thank you for asking me – it was an extraordinary amount to raise and so well focused in support of those who too often must feel noone cares..

  30. Jennifer says:

    Lady Carnarvon,
    I’m just visiting your blog for the first time and have enjoyed seeing all that you do in way of charitable events.
    I’m very excited to say that I will be coming to visit Highclere Castle this July with my family!! We will be traveling from Pennsylvania, United States and
    we’re so looking forward to seeing your beautiful home, the gardens and countryside. I look forward to exploring your blog more in preparation for our big trip!
    Thank you!

  31. Ann C. Flood says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon,

    The story about the gentleman proposing on the staircase of Highclere is so romantic. It sounds like it would have been a scene from Downton Abbey!!! I could easily see Bertie proposing to Edith. I seem to recall an argument on that staircase between Lady Mary and Henry Talbot. It is nice to see that sometimes real life surpasses fiction for drama and romance!! A lovely Valentine’s story.

    Ann Catherine Flood

  32. Lady Carnarvon says:

    There were quite a few scenes around the staircase -I do remember that it was just behind the pillars at the foot of the stairs that Lady Mary told Matthew Crawley that he was such a disappointment … maybe in series 3 ? We used to go around reminding each other of being such a disappointment, I was usually disappointing late for a meeting… …laughter aside, however, in real life this couple were so happy and I hope their bond helps them on their journey for many years…

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