My travels in America…


My travels in America began in Nashville, giving a talk in their amazing new convention centre to some 2,000 people. With new hotels and the feeling of energy and business, Nashville has other sides apart from the wonderful Honky Tonk street. Southern hospitality proved more than true and a whirlwind trip from old houses, such as Cheekwood to private  homes, much laughter in the evening preceded a too early start to travel towards Williamsburg.


Williamsburg was a revelation. I dined with Thomas Jefferson, rode in a carriage, walked through cold clear streets, through where the dreams and challenges of America began. Bill Kelso at Jamestown rolled back the awnings over archaeological digs  where brave travellers first  cooked and survived – just. I went to House of Burgesses and sat quietly in the room where Carnarvon ancestors, the Lees, came to debate and discuss early legislature. It was an extraordinary coincidence of the where the fictional “Downton Abbey” had led me through the real stories at Highclere to the real stories of America in a town conserved through a special man’s vision. It was humbling to understand the scale of the generosity  and determination of the the Rockefeller family to try to share the past, to preserve it and to underpin the importance of understanding and history. I left feeling inspired, whilst learning that Thomas Jefferson was now entertainingPresident Obama and Mr Hollande at Charlottesville.


Even better I had signed perhaps some 600 books for readers at a talk – I hope they are immersed in her story,  laugh, cry and are as fascinated by “Lady Catherine” as I have been.

Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey

42 Responses to “My travels in America…”
  1. B Nelsen says:

    My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation in Richmond. One minor correction to your charming blog, Charlottesville not Charlottestown. Thank you for a wonderful evening. Your presentation was witty, humorous, moving and informative. Thank you for sharing the history of Highclere and the Earls and Countesses of Carnarvon with us. Your love of history, and your heritage, is evident. As my British friends would say “Well done.” As we say in the South, “Good on ya!”

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      Thank you for that – I was pondering and mis-remembered names, so sorry! I enjoy tracing the French and English exploration of the now Southern States of the US, from Louisiana for the Roi de Soleil, to Carolina for our side, New Orleans for the French, and Williamsburg and Virginia for the British. Curiously enough although Queen Charlotte was an English Queen much of the court correspondence was in French which might explain the word “Ville” What o you think?

  2. Jane Salemson says:

    Glad to read your tour is starting off well and your book signings are flourishing. I don’t know the dates you visited, but I hope you are not involved with this latest round of ice and snow. Certainly you couldn’t come to Chapel Hill this week. Looking forward to hearing more on your tour. Travel safely.

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      I managed to just get back slipping – though not literally – in front of the snow. Have arrived back to consistent rain so I hope March marks a change to Spring!

  3. Kay Campbell Pike says:

    Your trip to America appeared to be very exciting. Sure wish you had Canada on your agenda. Looking forward to getting a copy of your book. Enjoying the new episode’s of Downton Abbey. Happy Valentine’s Day.

  4. Peggy Helbling says:

    I live in Orlando and even we are being hit with another cold morning in the 40’s! It’s late winter cold for us! Hope you packed appropriately.
    We love Williamsburg and have stayed in Orlando Jones home. He was Martha Washington’s grandfather. It’s the closest I have ever felt to the past generations and imagine that’s how you feel living at Highclere Castle. Our goal is to visit England in the next year or so and seeing Highclere Castle is top on our “Must see” list.
    I’m re-reading Almina and looking forward to stepping into Catherine’s own special story. Your way of relating history and human interest is seamless. I can only hope there will be more book signings in your future.
    Happy Valentine’s Day to you on the road.

  5. Lonna says:

    Glad you are immersed in some family history as in Williamsburg. Wasn’t able to come to Nashville- but really wanted to! I am reading Lady Catherine now and enjoying another glimpse into the past. Thank you!

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      Delighted – it covers a lot of ground but I hope you feel as if you are watching over the bannisters as the guests arrive for a dance, or sitting in the Dining Room having lunch with General Patton!

  6. Di-Ann Hand says:

    You certainly need to know the people of Williamsburg were very taken with your visit in equal measure. My daughter was the Iovely young girl by your side in the pink blazer and big black hat. She looked forward to your visit. She was not disappointed. It was her excuse for buying a great new hat. Illness kept me from attending the event. I am very sorry to have missed the fun. You were kind enough to pose for pictures. They were very appreciated.
    Thank you for your kindness,
    Di-Ann Hand

  7. Trish O'Brien says:

    Is there a site where your tour dates and locations are listed? Will you be coming to Florida?

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      I hope so but not immediately. I have an agent who helps me plan my speaking agendas and the US is a big country so we are trying to group them!

  8. Melanie says:

    Have any other US dates been finalized? I am in Pittsburgh and would love to meet you and get my book signed!

  9. Karen Chin says:

    Yes, you are experiencing true Virginia weather…
    As an Army Officer stationed at Fort Eustis, and living right next to Stratford Hall Plantation, many runs thru Williamsburg and study of the surrounding battlefields whetted my ongoing interest for connections to the U,K…..and now the so-popular connection to Downton Abbey. Looking forward to visiting with some Yorkshire friends from UK-US military days. Hopeful that we may get to Downton while there. Yes, safe travel. Thank you for your wonderful blog posts. (Does this mean that your family connects with the Custis-Lee mansion atop Arlington National Cemetery I wonder…?)

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      It does indeed – there is a family tree in the “Lady Catherine” book and you can see the Lees – she was rightly proud of her American family.

  10. David says:

    Welcome to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Glad you enjoyed Williamsburg and heard the story of its reconstruction. My grandfather was a supervisor at the site during some of the rebuilding work in the 1930s during the Great Depression, so I have a personal connection.

    There are so many connections between the US east coast and Britain, that it often surprises our British friends. Just the place names alone–counties in Virginia named Culpepper, Fairfax, Essex, Isle of Wight, King and Queen, New Kent…the list goes on. Just to clarify, Thomas Jefferson’s home is near Charlottesville (after Princess, later Queen, Charlotte). Jefferson’s Monticello and the campus of “his” university in the city should both be on your itinerary for your *next* visit!

  11. Patricia A. Slohoda says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon – I was one of the lucky ones to be able to attend the tea in Williamsburg as well as the next day when you so graciously sat in the Hennage Auditorium and answered questions. You are the most interesting and charming historian I had the opportunity to listen to in quite a while. Thank you for visiting my beloved Virginia and allowing me the opportunity to listen to the fascinating history of the house that you are so dedicated to preserving.

  12. Trish O'Brien says:

    Is your tour schedule available online somewhere?

  13. RNRussell says:

    So very pleased you enjoyed your time in Williamsburg, my home town.

  14. Carol Schramek says:

    Would love to know if your tour includes Philadelphia or somewhere “near enough” where I can come to hear you speak. I have enjoyed reading your books and visiting Highclere!

  15. Peter Benfield says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon:

    Your California and West Coast Friends are wondering when you are going to make a book tour here. Woody Allen once said: “95% of success is just showing up.” As you unfortunately discovered, the West Coast has the good winter weather.

    Your West Coast book tour is certain to be a mammoth success when you show up. Your fans will also show up undeterred by bad weather.

    I also have VIRGINIA ancestors and was born in Cambridge, England from an American father who graduated from Rugby School and obtained his PhD from Cambridge University, a very unusual education for an American. Unlike the Lee’s, my ancestors came from Germany in 1848 as the result of the revolution there and unlike the Lee’s, they had only one slave. The Civil War that began only 12 years later was not their fight but rather was a big detour to their eventual success in America.

    I hope you return to better weather in England when your tour ends in the US.

    Best wishes,


    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      You are right and when I have got myself straight I will definitely look at the west coast! thank you

  16. How do I go about contacting you for a future speaking engagemnt. The Women’s Board of Wolfson’s Childrens Hospital would love to talk to you about appearing at our 44th annual Art & Antique show in Jacksonville, FL

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Robin Albaneze

  17. Glenn Bacon says:

    So glad some of your American fans had the opportunity to meet you. Meeting you and touring Highclere in October was one of my wife and my most cherished experiences. Thank you! Your second book was also fantastic! Best wishes,
    Glenn and Janice Bacon

  18. Betty Patterson Harden says:

    Truly enjoyed your lecture in Nashville. I was one of the many whose books you signed. I was so glad not to be Lady Carnarvon that day! I’m afraid there is no way I could have maintained your charm and grace throughout your schedule (in spite of my mother’s best efforts). I commented that both our father-in-laws enlisted after Pearl Harbor and served in North Africa & Italy. How sad we know so little on a personal level about what has been coined the “The Greatest Generation”. I do know he hated Patton……
    My father, Paul Patterson, was a civilian trainer for the Air Force (he had been in the Army Air Corps & deemed too old to reenlist) during those years and trained many of the boys who shortly after were over flying over Europe. I remember as a little girl trying to listen at the door when his pilot friends came over to talk. It was a closed club to little girls. Well, mostly. I heard one of the trainee’s had asked what sort of man he was and was told “he can be a real SOB but he’ll sure as hell teach you to fly!” I think he knew better than them what was coming. So young.
    Safe travels. Thank you for braving the “Colonies” Write on.
    Betty P. Harden

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      What a test and a challenge to live in those years. Patton was both strongly liked and disliked. Nothing moderate!

  19. Dana Gordon says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon,

    It was my pleasure to be your massage therapist for your appointment at the Spa of Colonial Williamsburg during your stay in America’s most historic town. You were so sweet to talk during the hour, and I hope you had a relaxing, enjoyable time. If you should ever desire my services again, then I would be happy to cross the Atlantic Ocean. I always love visiting England, and I hope to visit Highclere castle someday. Best wishes to you!

    Dana Gordon

  20. Peggy Johnson says:

    I’m enjoying your USA Blog immensely, especially your Virginia comments! I was born in Richmond. am a graduate of the College of of William and Mary in Virginia, was employed at the American Embassy in London, and my husband and I stayed in the village of Highclere for 4 weeks in 2004. We had Highclere Castle on the top of our sightseeing list for all of our many visitors. Were you in residence then? Please come to Greensboro, NC on your next tour and we would love to extend some additional southern hospitality!

  21. Peggy Johnson says:

    Question: I submitted a comment yesterday about The College of William and Mary , Richmond etc, but have not seen it. Was it submitted too late after Lady Fiona’s visit to Virginia? Thank you .

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      I had so much to do each day that I am working backwards. All the time I thought I might have simply evaporated!

  22. Lady Rebecca Armstrong says:

    I was saddened to hear I was walking the streets the same time frame Lady Carnarvon was in Williamsburg. The 10 days I spent in Yorktown, Gloucester and Williamsburg were delightful. Yorktown is home for me, I get to visit often. I reside in Kentucky currently, but miss Virginia terribly.
    I hope to have the opportunity to come see you speak and to a signing one day.

  23. Michael Overcash says:

    I hope that someday you might return to Virginia to visit Westover Plantation and neighboring Berkeley Plantation.Both beautiful places to stroll by the James River

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