Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
One hundred years ago, it was the beginning of the “roaring twenties” with its connotations of glamorous beaded dresses and cocktails as so memorably portrayed by F Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby. For the UK economy, however, it was actually the beginning of a period of depression and great hardship. Unfortunately, the politicians of the day remained wedded to a nostalgic aspiration to return to the pre WW1 value for the pound under the gold standard system. As a result, the value of the pound was increasingly overvalued, a key factor in contributing to deflation and lower economic growth.
In addition, taxation was steadily increasing and employees harder to find: household servants and traditional estate workers increasingly sought other types of work and the more liberal lifestyle which had emerged during the War, driven by rising levels of female labour in the arms factories.
Like many others, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon was facing escalating costs and a faltering income. Realising that he would have to focus on controlling expenditure, he knew that his excavation work in the Valley of the Kings would have to cease. Egypt had been part of his life since 1906 when he would leave Highclere every January, returning only in mid April. Thus, in the summer of 1922, he told his friend and colleague, Howard Carter, that he would commit to just one final season before abandoning Egypt. Determined to make the most of it, Carter set off earlier than previous years, to begin work in early November. The rest is history.
The first indication that their luck had changed was when rock cut steps were discovered. Carter immediately suspended work and waited for Lord Carnarvon to arrive which he did on November 22nd, one hundred years ago. His daughter Evelyn travelled with him, enjoying spending time with her adored father although she had had to part from her beau, Brograve Beauchamp, whom she would marry within the year.
Egypt was a world apart from Highclere in November. The warmth, clear air, the noise in the streets, the haunting songs of the muezzins calling for prayer and the focus on every day life, everything was so very different. It was good for his soul as well as Carnarvon’s physical health.
Like any discovery, the journey was made up of many small steps. At this point, Carnarvon and Carter were excited and on tenterhooks but had no idea if anything would come of it. Other excavation teams had found steps and even passageways only to face disappointment and empty spaces. Some of passageways already found in the Valley of the Kings were most elaborate. Perhaps they were tunneled in straight lines or constructed in various turns down through rock strata, often punctuated with deep wells for water run offs, which created dangerous drops over which later explorers clambered. Many of them would have beautiful painted walls, the very entrances marking the grandeur of their previous inhabitants, but would have been robbed in ages past.
Carter’s steps were particularly undistinguished: just rock and rubble and debris, no paintings but nevertheless unbelievably exciting. Lord Carnarvon stayed at Castle Carter, the house he had built for Carter, and made his way to the excavation each day on his donkey. Finally the steps and passageways were cleared and the little group stood nervously outside the doorway to the tomb – it was time. Howard Carter made a hole in the plastered door letting the gases from inside settle and peered in.
Dreams and hopes of treasure beyond imagination would have been in their minds but the reality must have surpassed even their wildest ambitions. The glint of gold was everywhere, the tomb a magnificent tumble of objects and treasure as far as the eye could see in the flickering candle light. All the pomp and paraphernalia of a pharaoh from the distant past. After the initial astonishment, the silence of Carnarvon, his daughter Evelyn, Carter, Arthur Callender as well as the Egyptian Reises must have been as profound as the silence of the tomb itself as they contemplated the work ahead of them. Wonderful things indeed.
Lovely well written article. I didnt even realize that I had been holding my breath with the tension of the discovery until I had reached the end and I heaved a great sigh of satisfaction.
Myself as well.
Make that three!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I cannot imagine the thoughts and feelings of the people at the end of the passageway waiting to hear what was behind the doorway. I was working at the Basque whaling station in Red Bay, Labrador when the Basque whalers graves were discovered. It was an amazing feeling. I am sure the anticipation Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter felt was ‘over the top’. The world is very lucky Lord Carnarvon decided to have one more season in The Valley because the discovery of the Tomb has enriched our lives. Again, thank you for your blog. Take care.
Newfoundland and Labrador
I am enjoying your new book the Earl and The Pharaoh. Of course, in every chapter, I think there are several things I want to know more about! Truly, the 5th Earl is a very interesting man in so many ways. It must’ve been some thing to have known him. I love the photographs that are in the book as well, many I have not seen in other places.
This is a wonderful post, and I highly recommend a visit to Egypt, and if one cannot journey, friends of Highclere has a series of phenomenal videos that does make one feel as if one was present in Egypt. Thank you Lady Carnarvon for doing the series, is it is simply delightful. I highly recommend the book as well!
It is wonderful to read about this historic discovery, through the lens of Highclere and the 5th Earl of Carnarvon!
Thank you I am so pleased you enjoyed the book
Lovely the pictures plus ca change plus Cest”la meme chose did you and lord Carnarvon have a nice weekend and lovely to visit highcelere castle and lam fan of Downton abbey
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I can’t even imagine what they must have been feeling as they peered inside the tomb. What a tremendous discovery for them and for all of us.
Thank you for sharing,
I totally agree!
You leave us tantalized for more of your Egyptian stories! We were so lucky to see the Highclere exhibit years ago. Thank you for bringing it back to us this year! May your holidays be as merry and fun as your stories are for us!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
you have brought history to life with your writing. 100 years seems a long time, but now that I am in my fifties, its actually not that long ago. You have captured the emotion and created an amazing picture with sight and sound with your description of the street noises and street life of Egypt. I especially like the photo with the little dog. Thank you for transporting us to an incredible moment in history.
‘Susie’ is Lord Carnarvon’s dog
Thank you for elaborating on this amazing story. We enjoyed the exhibit recently at Highclere and indeed our entire special afternoon. Your popping in to our tour group
(2 weeks ago tomorrow) was delightful. The whole experience of Highclere might be labelled “Not Just for Downton Fans” (though of course it evokes that wonderful series). It helps us to visualize so much better your weekly reportings on the many aspects of Highclere from the superb vistas and grounds to your dedicated staff. We commend especially your guides, the gift shop proprietor, and your grounds/security
guys who kept us ‘entertained’ while we awaited our slightly tardy taxi. That afternoon
proved to be the highlight of our (40th) anniversary trip (delayed 2 years by Covid).
Many THANKS and BEST wishes to you and your staff,
Randy & Joanie Lamb
So please you enjoyed your visit to Highclere
I adored reading about the events in “Lady Almina”. It made me dig deeper to learn so much more about the excavation & discovery!! I love when your posts reflect parts of your book. Makes me remember my joy in reading it.
Have a beautiful day!!
Greetings Lady Carnarvon,
As this is Thanksgiving week here in the United States, I am giving thanks that you write your Blog for us to read every Monday with historic and current stories of life at Highclere.
So thankful for being a Blog member too. Thank you for the historic write up again today.
Remain well and good luck prepping Highclere Castle for you Christmas events and holiday.
Not quite there yet!!!!Thank you
Wonderful things indeed. A tremendous time in history. Thank you.
Yes, I too read your book. It is one of my favorites. I hope to visit Highclere with my granddaughter in 2 years.
Are you working on another book?
Not at the moment – I am now going out to give talks on this book The Earl and Pharaoh where ever I cam asked. It is very nice to be not just on zoom, see people, engage and it raises money for charities… I am off to talk within a law firm this week – it is client event, or sometimes a church needs to raise money and it is an excuse to gather people ..
Thank you for sharing. It is a remarkable story and I was able to visit King Tut’s Tomb and a few others at the Valley of the Kings in October. Also saw the magnificent finds in the National Museum in Cairo. Standing at the entrance to King Tut’s Tomb today, it is hard and yet not hard to imagine the sense of awe and wonder experienced by Carter and Lord Canarvon, even though all I had to do was walk down the stairs to enter. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) some of the other tombs I visited, as was most of Egypt, were packed with crowds of tourists like me, from all over the world which means that a lot of things are going back to “normal” but also made it a little more difficult to enjoy the magnificent paintings in some of the other tombs. Happy 100th Anniversary to you and your storied relative.
Thank you for your kind words
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thanku for another wonderful blog – having visited King Tutankhamen’s Tomb I can well imagine the Wonderful Things they saw through the very first hole, so exciting my goosebumps get goosebumps! I’ve seen these Wonderful Things in the Cairo Museum – breathtaking indeed….
I love your Egyptian Exhibition at Highclere too, it really brings us closer to Lord Carnarvon & Carter, & celebrates their wonderful find…..
Thank you again ma’am, I wish you & everyone at Highclere a safe & successful run up to Christmas,
Thank you Caroline you are very kind
Your gift of prose and narrative is stellar. One would think there are no proper words to describe the absolute magnificence of this type of discovery, but, as always, you have the gift of words. Thank you for sharing this remarkable time with us.
Oui, c’est toujours la même chose !! merci Lady Carnarvon pour vos belles histoires ! Thanks, I always enjoy reading your stories ! Pierrette, France, Alsace.
You are SUCH a good writer. How fortunate are your family’s descendants to have so much knowledge about all aspects of Highclere and the magnificent dig in Egypt — all told by a gifted story teller.
This Thanksgiving I shall propose a toast to the 5th Earl on the 100th anniversary (plus two days) of his and Mr. Carter’s astounding finds buried deep in Egypt’s earth
You are wonderful and I will be in Alabama next March!
You are right :”Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose ” . This is the key phrase of the famous Italian novel “Il Gattopardo” (by G. Tomasi di Lampedusa). In fact we are now in a situation similar to the historical one of a century ago: Spanish flu, WW1, economic crisis. Today: Covid-19 pandemic, a war , economic crisis. A century ago there was the brave 5th Lord Carnarvon, today there is the precious and brave Lady Carnarvon. So the show must go on!!!
Yes the show goes on
On the radio I have heard people saying why is there so much about Egypt on the television obviosly not realising that it is 100 years since the tomb was discovered
I have been lucky enough to go to the tomb and also see the artifacts in both London and Cairo and also at Highclere Castle and it made me cry
I can never get enough of learning about it and we are so lucky that your ancestors never gave up and gave the world this amazing find
MY DEAR LADY CARNARVON,
GOOD AFTERNOON FROM RIO CLARO, BRAZIL,
MILADY, I WAS ALWAYS SADDENED BY THE COUNT’S UNTIMELY DEATH, HIS PHYSICAL SUFFERING WITH SEPTICEMIA, HIS WIFE SO DEVOTED, HOW SHE MUST HAVE MOUMED HIS DEATH.
Visiting Eygpt is my husband’s dream. I will share this blog with him; and I believe his response will be the following: ” Jossie, we visited your dream , Highclere Castle. We absolutely loved it. But now, it’s only fair , that it’s time to visit my dream of Egypt. ” And, of course, we will, but after we visit Highclere one more time since we are going to visit our son who lives in London this coming March. We hope to see you again and to explore that wonderful home that you have cherished and taken care of. God bless you and your family during the Christmas season.
I would like to return again to Egypt ..
I found it interesting that this would have been the last expedition for the 5th Earl if nothing was found. Your word pictures in today’s blog gave your readers a glimpse into the adventure. Do you know how the artifacts were distributed after their discovery?
They are all in Egypt – and that was what he hoped
…am I the only one who was intrigued with Evelyn’s “beau”s name: Brograve Beauchamp
Now that is a name! Ironically, the nickname of which is one that is used daily in today’s American society: ‘Bro’…..as in ‘brother’. I’m sure there is a story behind his name!
Hello Lady Carnarvon
Thankyou for your blog! I have just this past day begun watching the documentary film Tutankhamen the Last Exhibition filmed in the Egyptian Museum Cairo with reconstructed footage actual footage and original photographs
It is richly rewarding and fascinating made even more so by the fact that Howard Carter was my late boyfriend’s Great Uncle
I have many books on Tutankhamen but your blog is most illuminating
Let’s continue to relate back to what happened last century as today marks the very day 100 years ago when The 5th Earl of Carnarvon set foot in Egypt for the final yield after visiting Egypt each year for 16 years. Amazing tales u have to tell
Central Western NSW Australia
I was there just a few days ago. It really is a very unremarkable entrance and passageway, unadorned apart from the burial chamber itself, but the magnificence of the cache of treasures is astonishing. So much was able to be learned and understood because of the completeness of this trove. What an incredible legacy Lord Carnavon’s generous patronage and support have given to the world. It was such a pity that he didn’t live much longer to really enjoy the full extent of this discovery.
Thank you for bringing it to life for us.
Thank you Melissa – it is a tragic story … back to Shakespeare and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep.
What a wonderful blog I read today! I am so interested in Egypt and the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. Your article was amazing. Reading that you have a book out -The Earl and the Pharaoh I immediately preordered it for a Christmas present to me! Thank you for all of your blogs! You brighten Mondays immensely! Deborah Kearney
Completely captivating and fascinating! How thrilling it must have been to be a part of this discovery. Thank you so much for sharing the story. I truly look forward to reading your book!
Looking so forward to reading your book Lady Carnarvon. I will always remember my good fortune to see “Treasures of Tutankhamun” at The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC in 1976. My dear friend was a Secret Service Agent at the time and we were allowed to put our coats in the Directors office and go to the head of a very long line. The amount of gold was breath taking to say the least. Thank you for all you do.
Wonderful story. It made me also very curious about the life of Tutankhamon, the person behind the gold and treasures. Can you recommend a good book about Tutankhamon? Thank you so much!
Apart from mine???? Nicolas Reeves the Complete Tutankhamun
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for your Monday blog and for sharing this experience with us. I am looking forward to obtaining your [audio] book “The Earl and the Pharaoh next week.
Sorry for the late reply. I read your story, intended to immediately reply, but became preoccupied with all the festivities and preparations for our Thanksgiving holiday (Thursday, November 24, 2022) that I simply lost track of time.
Until next time, all the best to you.