Downton Abbey incorporated many memorable lines, some of which have already passed into the vernacular as everyday quotations. Watching as the various series processed, some of the Highclere team would practise the lines that caught their attention and compare notes. I remember that a popular early choice was an accusation that Mary threw at Matthew “You are such a disappointment”. For Downton, it was an emotional turning point in the story and, naturally, like most husbands, Matthew did manage to rectify his position.
It is, however, a remarkably adaptable accusation, pertinent to a multitude of situations and phrased in such a way that it can signify a range of strength of feeling depending on the circumstances. Today, in the UK and possibly in many other countries as well, it probably could be thrown in its entire gamut by most citizens to their respective politicians. One minute the world seemed to be chugging along in reasonable form with hope for the future, then a global pandemic strikes as well as a tragic war and, in the aftermath we seem to find ourselves in an immensely challenging and frightening position, one in which solid leadership is most needed and, rather disappointingly, in reality, is somewhat lacking.
In this situation in the business world, discussions would lead to agendas and strategies to begin to try to move the company through the storm, seeking calmer seas with sensible goals. In the UK, in politics, to my mind and I suspect many others, a practical strategic approach which does not wander with every Twitter comment seems invisible. Kindness and enterprise would be helpful. Invest now for the future; life sciences for example, invest through the energy transition, where there are solar panels, add windmills and vice versa; insulate; give the NHS more doctors and nurses and say thank you with more money but cut out the endless and unnecessary layers of managers who exhaust the nursing team in any case. Where businesses invest ensure the capital allowances follow; don’t think up more ways to tax us all beyond a temporary need – ie in order to support those who are hugely struggling and lastly, but definitely not least, make sure we can trade with our neighbours so that UK PLC can grow.
In the UK, politicians work from the Houses of Parliament, designed by the same architect as Highclere Castle, Sir Charles Barry. One of our most famous leaders, Winston Churchill, famously said that “we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us”. When the House of Commons was bombed in WW2, Churchill fought to retain the traditional, adversarial rectangular pattern of seating for the MP’s rather than changing to a semi- circular or horse shoe shaped design favoured by some other more modern legislative assemblies. He felt that MPs should face each other and acknowledge their differences of opinion and that no member should have a seat reserved for them because it was a privilege to be there at all: it was about service. By being there and publicly owning an opinion or vote, it would promote a more open and lively debate and therefore, ultimately, a better result.
In essence, Churchill was a traditionalist. He felt very strongly that heritage and custom are a distillation of the wisdom of the past, in that they are the ideas that have and had lasted and which therefore have value. In addition the value of learning from the past, however, is the fact that we cannot stay in the past – history is not a substitute for imagination and no situation is ever quite the same.
In the case of politics 80 years ago, taking place through dark and frightening days, the architecture and long history of London probably did help sustain the Government through long and adverse struggles.
Once more we have a war that is threatening to get larger and once more are facing a convergence of economic challenges which also reach into our hearts and minds. Architecture does help stabilize our souls, it offers us structure, and whilst it may fall into ruin, it can be rebuilt.
Rather like in Downton though, I travel optimistically and hope that the current disappointment turns a corner. Perhaps it is best to end with another Downton quote, this time from Cora:
“ We are being tested – and you know what they say darling, being tested only makes you stronger.”
Dear Lady Carnarvon, What a excellent piece! Our lives have changed because of the pandemic. It feels like life is much more complicated in so many ways. You have touched on so many subjects but the one that sticks out to me is Health Care. The same situation is happening in Newfoundland and Labrador. We have a situation of being top heavy with managers also. It means the hard working medical staff are pushed to the limit. Weak or bad politicians, food storages and war are part of our current lives. We can only wait and see what happens and pray we will see better days. Ahead of us we have the Christmas season which I hope brings a short period of peace and happiness to our lives. I am looking forward to the pictures of the decorations at Highclere because I know they will bring a smile to my face. Beauty always does. Take care.
Newfoundland and Labrador
BRAVA! Speaking to the times instead of pretending they do not exist.
The world, country, and citizens within have our troubles. The line by Ana after Lady Edith was jilted at the altar, stands the test of time. “all god’s creatures have their troubles”.
The permanence of treasures such as Highclere gives us the optimism to know others survived turbulent times and we can too. The world always goes on. So must we all.
I hope to come to the Friends Garden Party in June. I use bright spots in my schedule to look forward and be hopeful. This is mine! Be well,
Insightful thoughts, Lady Carnarvon, delivered with a bit of a poke and a gentle call to arms. Sadly, I doubt any of your points will be acted upon.
Exactly, speaking about government and actually doing something to make changes, are two different things.
Lady Carnarvon lovely pictures of shape and lam fan of Downton abbey calendars and lovely to visit highcelere castle did you and lord Carnarvon have a nice weekend and happy Christmas when it come to you and lord Carnarvon
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for such reassuringly good sense expressed so eloquently.
I wish you would stand for high office and steer the country forward!
“History is not a substitute for imagination….” is a good line to renember.
Beautifully written and inspiring! A good wake up this morning.
This sane and thoughtful post needs a wide audience.
I’ll do my bit by extending it to my circle.
You are very kind
Well said. Thank you
Beautiful photos again Lady Carnarvon and such true and sad reality’s going on these days given politics, health systems, climate change and financial wealthy & dominant self egos . Prayers going out times going forward will improve on all levels!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for your thoughtful words this morning. I admire your forthrightness and wholeheartedly agree with what you’ve written! Would that the people in charge did the same. Here in the U.S. too many people and politicians have stopped thinking altogether. Like another commentator above, I shall forward this column to my “thinking” friends!
Hello Lady Carnarvon.
My favorite lines
WEEKENDS! the Dowager
OH MY GOD Elizabeth McGovern, cast interview.
All of which will come true over the next few weeks when Highclere prepares for Christmas.
Is it 600 baubles on the tree?
My high compliments to you for such a splendid article and great Downton Abbey characters pictures. What a shame we don’t have more Winston Churchills and FDRs for leadership today. Very optimistic in tone. Looking forward to the 3rd. Downton Abbey movie. Have good holidays.
Dear Lady C,
Interestingly, your comparisons of the world 80 years ago and now, show how we, as a nation, have largely overcome the huge hurdles that have faced us, reminding us all, that despite the passage of time, history is still repeating itself.
I wonder how the world will view us in 80 years time?
Thank you for your thought provoking article.
So we’ll put my lady. We seem to have many of the same problems across the globe which lacks putting others first and the best interest of all. Thank you for speaking out, your caring and thoughtfulness does make a difference.
As you said, being tested only makes you stronger.
Wishing you all the best and hope to see you soon,
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for yet another insightful piece reflecting on history and our challenges facing all around the world today. The need for competent leadership is essential for all of us to weather what is before us now as it was 80 years ago.
Again thank you for your insightful piece.
The best to you and your whole family throughout this holiday season!
Well said- As an American I can feel your frustration and hope we can find a way to peace and respect. We can all spread kindness and joy to each other and I truly believe it will permeate the culture and our way of living! Keep sharing your beautiful stories, home and adventures. I always look forward to reading them! Happy Holidays!
One does hope so!
I look forward to Monday mornings to read your post so that I can ‘get my head on straight.’ I’m not sure where that phrase originated, but thank you for funny, historical, thoughtful and otherwise words that put me on a good path for the week ahead.
Magnificent piece of writing and spot on!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Well said and thank you ! Cora is correct, we are indeed being tested. I hope we all emerge stronger. I can’t help but think of my parents and grandparents, who lived through two world wars and a depression. They always seemed to me to be very strong and resilient adults. We can look to their example.
Thank you for a wonderful post. The pictures are great!
The Downton Abbey series is a great metaphor for what we need today in our world. “Continuity and sustainability over time. Continuity of Family was the mainstay of the Downton Abbey Crowley family that got them through their financial troubles and the sad passing of family members. A renewal of faith in the future as it should be today.
With Holiday Season upon us, continuity, faith, and love is the spirit we all need.
The Downton abbey series is very good and lovely the Crowley family
It is true how much we have been tested for the last decade. We can all learn from the series Downtown abbey. So, many learnings from our time in this century. Some of us have had the privilege to have lived two centuries. We
wonder what other journey life will take us. We pray and wish for the best.
A very thoughtful and wise post.
We are largely missing concepts like “duty” and “honour” that brought the world through the dark days of World War 2.
Today if you asked people to only put a few inches of water in their bath or stick to strict rationing I don’t think they could do it. We have become too self absorbed and disconnected from those concepts.
Let’s hope for leaders of Churchill’s stature to arise. The president of the Ukraine seems to be one such man. Hopefully there are other women and men who will also arise in this tone of need.
| entirely agree!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Many in agreement here. Over this last decade especially, a practical strategic approach “which does not wander with every Twitter comment” seems less and less possible. Though more immediately interconnected, it seems social media platforms, as well as traditional media are more shock and sensationalized sound bite. Anonymous unnamed faces, using the bully pulpit of the keyboard to spout unsupported claims, speak without the burden of listening, harass, rile, incite. Anonymity deteriorates civility and even reason. To offend becomes entertainment.
I tend to agree with Winston Churchill regarding how physical space shapes discourse. The ability to acknowledge differences of opinion publicly, and to support and debate positions and opinions seemingly would “promote a more open and lively debate and better result.” I’m reminded of your interesting description of the 4th Earl of Carnarvon inviting the leading Canadian politicians of the day to Highclere, in 1858 and again in 1866, “to walk and to talk, to listen and to understand.” It was indeed, “an extraordinary time with men of intellect, purpose and compromise.” This coming together, in a physical space, resulted in the foundation of modern day Canada. Surely, Sir Charles Barry’s beautiful design and the superb craftsmanship, labor, and artistry that went into the physical space of Highclere, as well as the Houses of Parliament, inspired hope.
It may be time to follow in the footsteps of the 4th Earl of Carnarvon and organize a party, provided the guest bedrooms at Highclere remain sans television and WiFi. The world would certainly benefit from hope.
This Monday is just a little bit bette now. Thank you.
Good idea – and he asked everyone to go for a walk!!
We are facing challenging times as our ancestors did before us.
The quotation that I rely on is this:
Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Taking another analogy from Downton, when Matthew perished (due to being written out to accommodate his wish to move on to other projects), I could not fathom how the show could go on. But “the show must go on” and it did, with some remarkable reimagining of the show’s trajectory and how to move it along with different plot points. Let’s hope that in the coming year there will be significant progress for the better along a multitude of initiatives currently underway on a global scale.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Reading your notes today encapsulated the way I have felt all year. Seeing the picture of Mary and Matthew at the train station with Matthew in his uniform from WWI was breathtaking. You really understand the sacrifice of so very many, for our opportunity, to have the discussions we are having today regarding your thoughts. We all need a slow down, the one train of thought that takes us to another place, gives us hope and peace. May the Christmas Truce of 24 Dec 1914 give us all hope and optimism for the future. Please know how appreciated your thoughts are.
The biggest disappointment in life is being disappointed by someone you never thought would disappoint you so much. However this is at the same time a great teaching because you will learn to never disappoint anyone and it will help you shape your character. Anyway, if politicians governed with the same enthusiasm and passion with which followers watch Downton Abbey, the world would definitely be better !
You have struck a nerve. Being a Cuban American, my parents lost their country , and my country of birth, many years ago to the Fidel Castro Communist take over. Bravely,and legally, my parents moved to Miami ,Florida bringing my brother and I to make our home here so that we would not be forced to live in a communist regime with no human rights and lack of religion. My father was at boarding school in Massachusetts so he spoke English fluently . My mother spoke it with a beautiful accent . She was always a little weary of that accent but I loved it.
And ,although, they left all of their loved ones behind, they did bring with them a deep love of their country and culture. A firm conviction that this would be our salvation. And it was. This wonderful and generous country took us in; and we have always given back to it and protected it in any way possible. Our ancestors were, and still are, our teachers of life and love. Our job was to study, work hard to excel, fight for what you believe, be compassionate and kind to all . And , above all, hold God and family as our reference points every day. They were an extraordinary generation. May we continue to remember their lessons passed on to us and incoporate them into the lives of our children and grandchildren.
Thank you for reminding us of the power of our heritage and our descendents; to whom I will be forever grateful.
BRAVO, BRAVO, BRAVO, FROM BRAZIL.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I’ve just booked for 17th December evening event, the last two times we came, we stayed in the Carnarvon Arms, but perhaps you could suggest anywhere else nearby that you think would be a better choice?
It has had good reviews from friends who have been there recently!
Lovely bits of wisdom, Lady Carnarvon – thanks for sharing. And Cora’s words are very true, aren’t they? Being tested is the way we grow!
I found this piece very inspirational. It outlined very clearly my current thoughts on the world today. So well written. Thank you very much Lady Carnarvon
You think you are overloaded with managers in NHS? Our private insurance companies in the USA are making billions – money needed for health care for ALL. Our plethora of managers make millions of dollars as the years go by. Shameful!
It is not great..
Hear, hear, Lady Carnarvon! If you ever consider throwing your hat into the bear pit, you have my vote! Just what we need, someone with common sense and a duty to the country rather than one’s self.
Hello! I am planning to visit Highclere. Is there a “best” time? My daughter and I would love to tour and maybe even dress up “Downton” style. I didn’t know if you could recommend a good time or special event.
Thank you so much,
Magic of the Movies in September people dress up ‘Downton Style’
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
As a nurse, in the United States, I feel for the people and their caregivers who are given short shrift by government agencies who are more interested in advancing their political goals then a helping the people they were elected to serve.
You make a most moving and thoughtful recitation on the world as it is today. Though I’m not sure things were ever any better. Remember, kingdoms were only created by those who had the bigger army and/or who could persuade the people to follow them, even to their deaths.
As my ancestry is English, Scottish, Swedish and Italian, I’ve heard many tales of what life was like back then. I only pray that we continue to learn from our past mistakes and move forward in a positive direction.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Hello from Canada!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the world facing in recent time. I love that shot of Matthew. I cried every time I watch that episode of his passing. Just a reminder of life is short, and it could happen in real life.
I will be celebrating my 50th birthday next year and we are visiting Highclere Castle in May. Tickets are booked and afternoon tea. I’m looking forward to it each day.
Thank you once again.
PS – I’m listening to your podcast. I’ve learned so much about the history of Highclere and your team.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from America!
Your views are spot-on, Lady Carnarvon! Your steadfastness in the face of adversity, for your family, Highclere and your country, is inspirational. Despite the UK’s problems, I’ve long admired the WWII slogan, “Keep calm and carry on” which carried you through that war and has ongoing significance. Being at “Downton Abbey” for your Magic of the Movies event in September, along with Mr. Churchill and his entourage, brought me much joy and reinforced my faith that Highclere/ Downton will survive under your and the Earl’s care. May you have a very happy Christmas and a peaceful, prosperous New Year.
All the best,
Happy Christmas and New Year!
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for your Monday blog and the accompanying pictures. As always, you are “spot on” with your comments.
Unfortunately, I do believe there will never be another “Churchill” to guide us through.
As the Detroit Free Press Sunday comic “Crank Shaft” stated “Welcome to the new world disorder”.
Until next time, keep calm and hope for better times.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for this blog such a wonderful piece of writing. It would be great if those that govern took note of some of the points that you make, that cut to the chase and full of common sense and a duty to the NHS and our country rather than one’s self.
Wishing you a wonderful 2023 may it continue to bring many great memories.