I have always presumed that the Red Stairs are named simply for the colour of the carpet on them. However, in a previous “Highclere” – the old Georgian building – they were likely to have been the main family staircase and, as you go up, the first-floor landing leads to the gallery and bedrooms in one direction and a further floor, short gallery and bedrooms in another.
The next floor up is quiet, half lit and instantly feels shady and cool. It houses archives in various rooms and, like any historian, I find the papers, letters and other source materials which live there utterly relaxing and absorbing. This is my world and for each project, which hopefully turns into a book, I sit up here reading, reflecting and choosing how I might knit the stories and characters together.
It is a journey of other lives and distant events as my fingers scrawl notes on paper or hastily type up impressions and facts, usually with arrows linking thoughts whilst my writing can rival any hieroglyph in my hurry. Each potential paragraph and chapter inevitably includes a layer of my impressions and beliefs although I try to be objective, not to make judgements and to let the times and people speak.
Perhaps distance and the fact I am reviewing historical documents helps give clarity. It certainly succeeds in taking me away from what often seems to be a rather confusing and constantly shifting current world. In my research, I know that I always need to test the sources, to analyse, reflect and read in order to re-construct the scenes and present my arguments and judgements. In contrast, it seems that we all have trouble with where to start these days.
Every day, we are bombarded with a multiplicity of messages from a world eddying with an almost infinite variety of “sources”. For example, in order to be a politician, you need to be elected and thus persuade people to like you. Thirty years ago, this would be achieved by endless rounds of speeches on hustings and reasoned interviews in the press explaining your views and policies. Today, it seems to be more about persuading the populace to press the “like” button on a variety of social media. The politician’s views are couched in photos and sound bites, political niceties compressed into a single sentence with no space to write or talk.
In order to acquire favouritism and get that social media tick, politicians offer immediate gratification, just like giving you a delicious piece of chocolate today, rather than honestly stating that in order to have some chocolate tomorrow, it might be better to eat less today. As tenants of this world, all of us have a responsibility to think of the future and to try to understand the strategies and resolutions which might be needed. Yet most election systems seem to be set up in such a way that the politicians have no choice but to be all about who offers the nicest “chocolate”. Everything seems to have in-built short termism.
Apart from being tenants of the world which is a key agenda, societies also seek to nurture and care for their populace. Like any business, those who are elected need a realistic and practical approach to supporting those who have few resources already. You need to target what you are doing because resources in every sense are limited, whether it is money to pay out or energy, products and people coming into the system. However, this is also not a palatable short-term message in terms of today’s demand for instant gratification and thus is avoided.
Over the last millennia humans have enthusiastically cut down trees, created too much of everything and then thrown it away. They have argued and fought, yet with extraordinary imagination flown and sailed, written books and music, sung and danced, created works of art to admire and worlds in films in which to find time out. But it is also about time. In the traditional words – there is a time to sow and a time to reap. Perhaps now, above all, should be a time to think.
Lady Carnarvon lovely pictures of sources and you and lord Carnarvon have a lovely weekend and l lovely to visit highcelere castle and l am fan of Downton abbey
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
How I WISH you were a Politician!! Someone who CARES – genuinely CARES – for the people, the countryside, the resources, man’s greed, the raping & pillaging of our beautiful planet – & you’ve got the Wisdom to encourage us to DO something about righting all the wrongs, & the guts to SAY so!!!
Bless you m’Lady, & deep heartfelt thanks for all you do, much love,
Thank you Caroline
“In the traditional words – there is a time to sow and a time to reap. Perhaps now, above all, should be a time to think.”
What a call to action your words are. Not only for world leaders and village, hamlet, and town leaders, but for everyone of us. Shared on my local historic-info Facebook page.
Thank you for these wise words.
Have a productive and enjoyable week, Lady Carnarvon.
You are very kind
“Perhaps now, above all, should be a time to think.”
Well said, Lady Carnarvon.
God bless you and your family.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Each Monday morning, I begin my week reading your thoughtful, insightful, educating and often humorous words. Today I found your thoughts particularly engaging as mine have been in exactly the same state of musing. It’s comforting to know someone else is pondering how to make sense of our challenging world. I’m a historian, too, and often retreat to “simpler” times, in search of lessons and wisdom. Inevitably we learn the human condition is a story of struggles and triumphs, each unique to it’s own epoch. I always appreciate your optimistic, realistic take.
Best to you,
It is a challenging world we live in at present
Well said, Lady Carnarvon. I am of the opinion that we have been trained to not think for ourselves, but to let others think for us — to our detriment.
Kudos to you for your ongoing research and thoughts about the past, and also the future. We should all strive to follow that example.
Thank you for this thoughtful journey through history – especially the pictures of the old correspondence. Our current society often wants immediate gratification, usually without the realization of its consequences. You have a gift of bringing us back to our own special nature – that of thinking before acting. Thank you for using your writing talent.
Thank you. I love looking at old photos and reading old letters. Yes we have to stop and breath and think and take time to enjoy things instead of anyways trying destroy things.
So well said!! “A time to think” seems wise- especially before speaking. Thank you for putting into words what many are thinking as we try to make sense of
today’s political and social climate.
History is my passion and how amazing that must be to just sit quietly and look through all those amazing documents. What a joy
I spend hours in the archives of Highclere!
In order to understand our future and where we are going, we must know and understand our past.
dear lady Carnarvon,
So true! We have to treasure what we have instead of going further without thinking!
That’s for everybody, rich or not be happy with the beautiful things we have, your history but also the nature of the world.
Next week we will visit Highclere, I am so looking forward to that, we stay for three days in your London Gate cottage. Do you have any suggestions for our stay? Besides visiting Highclere, the gardens and enjoy of course.
I hope, to buy your books there.
Kind regards and perhaps till next week.
Mariette Yntema- van Wely
Enjoy your stay at London Lodge and your visit to the Castle.
I would suggest visiting Oxford and Winchester on your visit to the area.
Appreciate the “thoughts” as I go out to slay a dragon today. Will be thinking of Highclere and how I hope to revisit there someday…
Keep going at that dragon!!
Well said Lady Carnarvon!! I love your posts!
Hello Lady Carnarvon.
Like most historians, are you hoping to find a document stating “BURN THIS” ?
It may well be the magical secret ingredient with a gin connection of times gone by.
I have just had a gin cocktail … most mellow making!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I am an amateur historian. I love reading old newspapers and letters. I have all my family’s photographs and genealogy. I agree that we don’t take time to think these days, especially politically. I have always fact checked and sought out references with whatever I do. I am curious bt nature and just want to learn about the people here before me.
How lucky you are to have all those records, and that you enjoy using them. I am envious of your acess to those historical papers.
I once was told that we do not inherent this earth, we borrow it from our Grandchildren.
I have been a careful consumer, avid recycler and have tried to be a good steward of my piece of earth.
Thank you again for your thoughtful writings that make my Monday mornings brighter.
You are kind – well done for being a careful consumer and recycling anything possible.
What a lovely way to phrase it: “I have been a careful consumer, avid recycler and have tried to be a good steward of my piece of earth.”!
Kudos to you!!
Lovely words about an important topic. Thank you for showing the estate records/archives. Such an immediacy to seeing a letter or even a ledger from the past. Like peeking over the shoulders of the writer.
It was so nice to meet you last week as my wife Hartley, daughter Grace and I were ending our wonderful tour of historic Highclere Castle and the amazingly beautiful gardens and grounds.
We then visited Canterbury for the Lambeth Conference, where a new initiative, the Anglican Communion Forest to help the environment for people around the globe. https://www.communionforest.org/
Thought you might be interested and we look forward to seeing when your travels bring you to Washington, DC or elsewhere in the USA.
Many thanks to you and your husband and the team at Highclere for preserving the history or Highclere and your commitment to helping others.
K, H & G
Lovely to meet you and your family last week.
A needed message, well said. Thank you for your caring for the world, and sharing the special records and beauty of Highclere.
Nice, Lady Carnarvon.
“… should be a time to think.”
I think this is simply my favorite blog post. While I enjoy every one, and what you generously share about the life and times of Highclere, It’s people and it’s milestones, I’m grateful to be taken up into the archives and get lost with you and let the gravitas of History have a stop on pause. And hopefully breathe.
You are so kind
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you, again, for always shining a very bright light on the things that matter the most. Your wisdom and gift for eloquent prose focus on the most important issues of today…..caring for our beautiful planet, caring for each other, and looking at the substance rather than the “fluff” of what our politicians aspire to. Your statement of “creating too much of everything and then throwing it away” resonated with me, and I couldn’t agree more. We are wasting valuable resources, and time to think is so very needed. I love the photographs of the records and diaries from the previous generations, and insight is often hiding in plain sight. I can only imagine losing oneself in reading those words from the past, wondering what it felt like to walk in their shoes, gaining insight from the ages.
I look forward to reading your blog each and every Monday. I’m not sure how you have time to do all that you do, but your words mean so very much.
With gratitude and best wishes,
Charlotte Merriam Cole
Thank you –
Lady Carnarvon, so very well written and words to live by. Much appreciated, Cheryl.
Thank you for this post, it is meaningful. When we think back over our lives, we do see the waste that has occurred throughout. We didn’t think about it in our childhood, everything just “was”. I am most grateful that over time much more thought is indeed putting into everything we do, everything we use and our processes.
We can only hope not just thinking but acting in response to the mistakes made and finally changing it all is how the world will survive.
A time to think
Thank you for this, I needed to read this
If only !
Why are we so ignorant of the fact we are hosts and tenants of this world.
We all take things for granted!
But the biggest thing ever that we take for Granted is this planet we live on Mankind And Nature are in a very difficult Balancing Act at this time
Instead we have Governments all over the World fighting and Wanting to be Top Dog in the World for Power and Greed
Power and Greed will destroy Mankind
If we do not Unified this World
Sorry but that’s the way I feel
There are people who care like your good self
But they are a drop in the Ocean against the whole Picture of what can happen
Love all your Posts
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
It is refreshing to hear your thoughts. I to, think the same about our world today. The past is a great reminder of what we can and should consider in our time now. I so respect it. The beautiful documents are treasures to me. They truly give me sense of solid ground, a foundation that should not be forgotten or lost in time.
Thank you for seeing the value in the old documents and sharing them with us all. There is great wisdom and contribution to be gleaned from them that will help others. Additionally, it fulfills those that crave the quintessence of time that is so needed.
What a gift to be able to sift through such history. What a gift that you share that with others.
With respect and appreciation,
Very kind thank you!
I would definitely click on the “Like” button for you! On a side note the Ramses exhibit is coming to San Francisco and we are so excited to see it. I know your museum in the Castle holds his relative, and I missed it when I visited you last time. Can’t wait to come visit you again!!! love, Chrissy
There is a time for everything and for every season of life. This difficult and precarious historical situation we are living now must be the time to think about how to make our future better, more honest and happier for everyone. This is the time not to waste any more time ! “The most powerful warriors are patience and time” ( L. Tolstoj, War and Peace) Have a good time!
When I saw the journal dated 6 December 1874, I wondered if you also keep a journal.
Someday, a future “Lady” may read your blog impressions of this period in history and continue sowing, reaping, and thinking.
I wish I did!
Sadly, too many people do not share your astute perspective that we are tenants of the world. Especially the politicians, who seem to care more about exploitation than caretaking.; popularity rather than renown, and the importance of knowing the integrity of one’s sources. Your words are a powerful reminder of our roles and obligations as stewards of the Earth.
I love your worldly view on topics your write about. Too many politicians run for office for the glory it gives them. Sincerity in their promises and goals is sometimes hard to discern. The letters you pictured were reminders of days gone by of simpler times by todays standards. They must take you to another world, away from daily grimness. Thank you for taking us away each Monday, too!
Thank you for your delightful, thought-provoking blogs!
Your analogy to “chocolate” is spot on, and it seems world elections are becoming more like junior high (Years 7 – 9) popularity contests the longer they all go on (alternatives are less acceptable, certainly). We aren’t getting quality candidates, but only ones who can spend the most to promise the least.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I truly hope you will have another book coming soon. Your last two were excellent. Thank you for sharing the beautiful photos. I could spend all day in that archives room!
Wishing You Peace,
I do have another book….
Highclere Castle continues to be a remarkable well spring of images frozen in time, as well as the unfolding present. It is your quality of thinking that holds us in fascination, breathing new life into the past events interweaving the present in the continuing blogs, as they are received and appreciated. We are looking froward to visiting you at Highclere Castle after having met you in person at Newport story telling event.
Thank you so much – I very much enjoyed my all too brief visit to Newport!
A very satisfying and well written post I like the insights that you have.
MY DEAR LADY CARNARVON,
GOOD EVENING FROM BRAZIL,
MILADY SAID : ” I SPEND HOURS IN ARCHIVES OF HIGHCLERE “, WOW, WONDERFUL, ABSOLUTELY LOVELY, THE HISTORY IS THE PAST IN THE PRESENT, EVERY HOURS ,EVERY DAYS, EVERY WEEKS SPEND IN ONE LIBRARY ,IT IS AN ADDITION OF KNOWLEDGE IN YOURS LIVES.
RIO CLARO – SP
P.S. IN OUR LIVES.
Bravo!!!!! I wish all politicians were like you! What a wonderful world it would be.
A very truthful contemplation, specially now. Well said.
Thank you for this wonderful post. It is indeed well said. I am new to your blog and have much reading to do! I am hoping to learn more about the past history of Highclere. I would love to know more about Lady Elizabeth Capel Dormer, Countess of Carnarvon and her flower paintings. Thank you for working so hard to preserve such a priceless treasure as Highclere Castle.
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for this Monday’s blog. Somehow, I seemed to have msissed reading the same.
I have two questions:
(1) Do you wear a face shield and/or mask when perusing through the stored documents? Seems the same would-be somewhat dust covered and or musty.
(2) Have you considered slowly converting everything in storage to an electronic and/or digital format? For archival purposes, it seems this would be a more environmentally friendly way of preserving the past.
Until tomorrow, I wish you well.
There is not too much dust and actually archivists are not sure how long disc will last… but I have scanned some – bit endless