The recent stories in the news of lost lives and refugees fleeing from war and famine, hoping to find a better life, have been much in my thoughts over the last week as they have been in everyone’s. Sadly it is is not a new scenario as history is full of those who have looked to travel to new homes and new worlds, some successfully and some not so much. However, this past week has also marked the celebration of such a story but which has become part of an inherited culture: a story of hardship, heroism and grateful thanks.
In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England. Sixty-sixty days later, towards the end of November, the courageous sailors had crossed the huge cold ocean and landed in the New World, later naming their new village Plymouth.
A year later, barely surviving cold and starvation, the settlors and native Americans (who had helped them plant and grow food) shared a feast which is now remembered as America’s first Thanksgiving. Apparently, the festival and feasts lasted for three days. Independence from the old world was further cemented when George Washington proposed celebrating Thanksgiving and it was President Roosevelt who confirmed it as a national holiday to be held annually on the second-to-last Thursday of November.
At Highclere, we have an extraordinary diary belonging to the mother of the 2nd Countess of Carnarvon, Kitty Acland, who in 1777, during the American War of Independence sailed across the Atlantic by the side of her husband. He was later wounded in the Battle of Hubbardton on July 7th 1777. Further wounded at Bemis Heights in October 1777, he “fell into the Enemies’ hands.” His wife made her way to be by his side and was met with kindness from the American soldiers. She successfully nursed him and he survived, just and, eventually sailed home with him. A time of goodwill and then thanksgiving but once more interwoven with crossing the high seas.
In the “old world”, we give our thanks somewhat earlier at the Harvest festival celebrations in October where we focus on our connection to the land and to the gifts it gives us, allowing our survival. Predictably, Highclere’s seasonal cycle then moves towards Remembrance Day in early November and then on towards Advent and Christmas.
In terms of winter celebrations, both Thanksgiving and Christmas have turkey and cranberry on the menu with friends and family coming together to enjoy each others company, catch up on news and, too often rather over-indulge. All of these intrinsic rhythms of life have accumulated since time immemorial and are rarely, if ever, wholly interrupted. Except, of course, for last year whilst this year again sadly seems to be developing its own challenges.
It is magic actually to welcome guests here, stepping gladly out of the wintery weather into the heart of the Castle, and to be able to connect with our visitors and friends. We have curated our tours with caution, creating a strategy and practical steps that we hope will allow us to continue as Covid begins to frame our activities once more.
We also thought we would hold a virtual cocktail party on Friday December 3rd at 8pm Highclere time so the weekend will start a little earlier than usual in North America and be a slightly unconventional after supper event for our European neighbours. It is a good way of staying connected which is so welcome in difficult times.
Barney the Shetland pony (our version of a reindeer) will theoretically begin the adventure and walk in with Santa Claus … What could possibly go wrong?
And, once again, you have reached all our hearts. Your words and insights have touched all of us who are privileged to read them. And, as the Countess of Carnarvon, you bring to us the magic of Highclere, and the enormous comfort of its stability and continuity in a world which sadly lacks both. Thank you so much for beginning and continuing your blog.
Thank you for another lovely story. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you and yours…
These covid times have certainly given us a whole new angle on giving and sharing thanks, for those of us fortunate in family, friends and health. We in turn try to pass it on and you do it so WELL. We love the invitation to Highclere’s halls again and we will certainly be raising a glass!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
The humbling stories of hope, heroism and strength are so very important to remember in keeping perspective on present times. As our current challenges continue to unfold, we rely on patience, kindness and science to keep moving forward, and treasure the gatherings that we might have.
“Seasons at Highclere” is a treasure and Highclere Gin is our family favorite! I look forward to the cocktail party on Friday…. It’s always gin-o’clock somewhere! I hope you, and those you cherish, remain healthy and safe.
Charlotte Merriam Cole
Our holiday is fraught with tears. Knowing we should, and we are… great full for having TROY at all. Our hearts ache for losing my son in law at age 37… to heart failure. Knowing he was smiling and happy when my daughter and granddaughter left the house for a girls day. Getting home to find, Troy had died. When he was 22, Aplastic Anemia, chemo and bone marrow transplant. When he was 32, a rare disease PNH. Again, chemo, and bone marrow transplant. At 37, he left us. He was a good man. My girls are just lost., we are so damaged. Now, new Covid varieties cropping up. It’s just so hard.
I am so sorry for your sad loss
We are also reminded of history. It has been four centuries since the Europeans arrived on our nearby shore. The people they met have called this home for 12,000 years. As many celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims, others understand how the Indigenous way of life was forever altered to the demise of many. Today we share the history of the first Thanksgiving, welcoming the Indigenous People’s perspectives who were here when the Mayflower arrived and who remain today as our Wampanoag and Native American neighbors.
As always your blog brightens my Monday. If everything goes as planned (does that happen in today’s world?) I will enjoy a tour and tea at Highclere the afternoon of Sunday, December 5. Praying I cross the Atlantic safely.
I look forward to meeting you on 5th Dec!
Thanksgiving is a family event for most Americans however it has been sanitized sometimes incorrectly to actual facts. The native Americans were
treated badly by the European settlers as well used as pawns during the Revolution by the British. It is a dark stain on our country that remains today.
Many reservations still are in poverty with drug and alcohol abuse a serious problem. Hopefully some day America can correct this stain on our history.
Once again, an interesting story and blog with lovely words and pictures.
Thanking you Lady Carnarvon.
In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln encouraged citizens to celebrate the last Thursday of November as a day of thanks. Although President George Washington issued a proclamation in 1789, President Thomas Jefferson refused to recognize the day of thanks. Then in 1941, at the urging of President Franklin Roosevelt Congress made it a National Holiday. So evidently Thanksgiving had a difficult time becoming a true Holiday. Thank you for writing about our American history.
The Highclere connection to the Revolution is very interesting. You don’t think of wives accompanying their husbands into war.
I can’t imagine how magical Christmas must be at Highclere. Looking forward to updates of your Christmas celebration.
Lady caravan lovely pictures of thañk giving did you lord caravan have a lovely weekend thank you for the email l like get them lovely to visit highcelere castle
This past October while on a Viking Cruise my husband and I had the very distinct and honored privilege to tour your lovely estate and meet you in person.
Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy New year!
Hello Lady Carnarvon.
Wonderful that you manage to identify some historical reference to the family and introduce it into your weekly news. Well done.
Does the chap that carves the turkey get a dram?
A family gathering as Sid James said, ” A link up, a booze up and a punch up.”
Not like that at Highclere !
Am I mistaken about the photo of the seat, as I thought this was located next to the Capability Brown statue?
Carry on with the festive preparations.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I stand in awe of those brave souls who sail across icy waters into the unknown and in treacherous conditions, dicing with death in order to survive. Lady Acland sounds like a formidable lady. I recently went to my nephew’s wedding which was at St Audries in Somerset, an Acland family house once upon a time, so I have recently read up on them. Quite the pioneering family in many interests. The refugees crossing from Calais are viewed more as a nuisance and as victims rather than pioneers, however I would like to hope that to their families, and in their eyes they are pioneers, and that the journey in the end proves to be worth it. Reminds me of how truly fortunate I am to have my family and my friends with warmth and comfort around me.
Enjoy your cocktail party! Nothing will go wrong, any challenges thrown up will add to the event and make it all the more memorable,
Have a lovely week,
I never know what your Monday blog post will bring! So much to choose from today, but I’ll just pick one photo.
If you and Lord Carnarvon send picture Christmas cards, I suggest the one of your fur babies posing lazily in front of Highclere in the snow. Were it a poster in the gift shop, i believe it would do exceedingly well.
I always enjoy your gift of words as much as your photos, but this one touched my heart.
And on we rush, ready or not, toward the Second Sunday in Advent. ✝️
Merry Christmas to you and those you love from south Alabama.
So glad for your plans going forward especially this Friday and weekend. Hope all goes well and remains Covid free (given the new varient out in the World). Thank you for the interesting historical photos and facts of Lady and Lord Acland. Sounds like a topic for another book by you! My tradition for Thanksgiving is to read the novel The Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick as the depth and details written paint such a picture of actual life living way back then. So impressive as to what those Pilgrims and sailors were willing to leave behind, deal with and face especially with so much unknown that it gives me courage and hope to keep going forward in our world of challenging times. Your blog is always so encouraging and uplifting and photos always beautiful. Extremely thankful that you created your blog and are the Countess of Carnarvon now and I can imaging Lord Carnarvon is also extremely thankful you are as well as you have accomplished so much to keep Highclere Castle moving forward in such beautiful ways! Enjoy the beauty of white snowfall and remain warm and well.
Thank you – you are very kind
Dear lady carnarvon lovely picture of thanksgiving and lovely Christmas because it is my birthday on Boxing Day and my sister birthday is January and she is a lovely sister l have
I loved that vignette of Lord Carnarvon’s distant ancestor! What a kinder way to look at long-ago acts of compassion. I’m glad they made it back across the ocean to home.
Barney will make a lovely reindeer… once the antlers are attached!!
Happy holidays to you, family and friends around the world!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Your blog makes Mondays so much better.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I am from Boston, Massachusetts and have been on the board of Plimoth/Patuxet (formerly Plimoth Plantation) in Plymouth Massachusetts for about thirty years. We are a living history indoor/outdoor museum with replica Pilgrim village intact. In the several recent past years, we have given equal billing to the Wampanoag, without whom the Pilgrim would have had even more deaths and illness their first year than they did. The Wampanoag taught them how to plant corn and other vegetables and to fish and hunt. If it had not been for these natives, the survival rate would have been much worse. At the museum we have actual “re-enactors,” both Wampanoag and settlers, who help to tell the story. We have visitors from all over the world and many local school children.
Ruth Gardner Lamere
Thank you so much for these Monday postings. They are ever so interesting and something to look forward to in these oh-so uncertain times.
My husband and I had the enjoyment of visiting the Plimouth/Patuxet plantation a few years ago. We were so impressed with the village recreation and the re-enactors truly brought the history to light. (I had quite a sharp conversation with “John Billington”!). The Mayflower II was in dock also and we toured the tiny, cramped hold – amazing! I am descended from quite a few of the Pilgrims and some of the Strangers, too, so being there was especially fulfilling. Thank you for your good work.
Lady carnarvon lovely pictures of thanksgiving did get any snow thank you for email and happy Christmas to you and lord carnarvon when it come
Once again, a wonderful way to start my Monday!!! Thank you!!!
Is the photo of the Highclere Canines a current one; have you indeed already had snow?! These are “collectible” scenes! I look forward to Spring & Summer counterparts.
Yes we had our first sprinkling of snow at the weekend!
Thanks for giving us the information about President Roosevelt observing Thanksgiving on the second- to last Thursday of November, but the amount of public outrage prompted Congress to pass a law on December 26, 1941, ensuring that all Americans would celebrate a unified Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November every year.
What a contrast! Your sprinkling of snow and our Southern California 80 degree day (27 C). Do you ever visit California to share your Highclere experiences?
I hope I will at some point!
Another beautiful and very interesting blog. Thank you so much for brightening our Mondays.
Thank you for your interesting story. Like yourself I read about the sadness of the refugees, the perilous journeys they make to try to get a better life. I often think how perilous journeys were in the 17th century and yet here many many years later it is refugees making these journeys. Many come from far flung countries.
Really enjoyed your blog today Lady Carnarvon. My ancestry the Winslow’s came over on the Mayflower. We have visited Plymouth, Massachusetts several times over the years and it still amazes me that Plymouth rock is so small! It’s hard to comprehend the hardships they endured on the ship and after landing.
Hope your cocktail party is a great success, stay well as we all face another strain of Covid.
Bonjour, merci pour votre blog qui égaie mon lundi soir. Nous aimerions tellement venir voir votre beau château. Un jour peut être… nous traverserons la Manche. Bonne continuation.
I’m in the U.S. in the Eastern time zone and would love to join your virtual event on Dec. 3. I’ve already figured out the time difference (you are 5 hours ahead of me) so could you tell me how I can see this event? It may only be 3 p.m. here but it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?
It will be live on our Highclere Castle Instagram and facebook and Highclere Castle Gin accounts as well and we will save and post it!!!Have some questions ready!
Thank you for the Thanksgiving message crossing the pond. Really liked hearing about the brave Lady Acland and that the American soldiers were kind to her. We hear much about the ugly Americans, who once were considered our heroes…so this was balm for open wounds. There is actually a case during our awful Civil War between the North and the South when a death occurred on a boat on the Mississippi River. A northern officer died from natural causes near St. Francisville, LA. He was given the special funeral by fellow masons from the South and was buried with honors in the church cemetery at the Episcopal Church of St. Francisville. His grave can be seen still today. Even in the worst of times sometimes there is a light shining in the darkness. May the light continue to shine in those shadows. A toast across the pond Dec. 3 at the virtual cocktail party: Let our lights shine brightly.
Yes with Barney leading Santa…what could possibly go wrong! (Please describe if it does)
There are good people – they do not always make the most noise!
I have just recently started to listen to your podcasts and now reading your blogs. Your soothing voice, interesting and humorous stories are relaxing. I only wish I had joined in last winter when Ontario Canada were in lockdowns, but I’m here now. A trip to Highclere Castle is on my bucket list.
Thank you so much!
Su elegante y descriptiva narrativa, es preámbulo perfecto para seguir adorando la rica historia de su hermoso castillo. Felicitaciones
A fun and thoughtful post. Thank you!
I wonder if it might be possible to request that pix used in this blog be able to be enlarged. I’m a detail person and these small pix sometimes fuzz out the little things around the main setting that I so enjoy. I do not mean this as a complaint and I don’t wish to create more work for anyone. If it’s not easy to do it won’t affect my weekly visits.
I’ve been reading and enjoying your weekly blogs for over a year now, I believe, and of course have snooped around the entire website. I haven’t been to England for many years but I’m hoping to one day return (I’m American) and visit your amazing, lovely home.
As likely everyone else here, I find the Highclere connection to the past a wonderful glimpse into history with often enlightening connections to the present and am grateful for your efforts each week to share them with us all.
It is a matter of what can resolve on a phone !!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I think it is so cool that you honored our Thanksgiving Day. So thoughtful of you as always.
I love all the work you went to in finding and posting the images.
Thanks so much!
That is kind of you to notice!!! I do spend a while finding photos
The opening image is one of the most beautiful yet! I seem to recall your saying that you take the photos with the camera on your phone? The print looks as if it were taken with infra-red film and printed with sepia tones. I’m saving it to my desktop to make my heart sing throughout my day.
You are right – that is from a camera and part of a series taken for the book Christmas at Highclere
Just a quick question (okay, two questions): are you roasting chestnuts in the fireplace? And if so, however do you get them out of the shells to eat them?
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for your Monday blog, and for acknowledging the American Thanksgiving.
I enjoyed reading the brief and interesting history on the Second Earl of Carnarvon, Henry Herbert; and the heroics of his wife, Countess Elizabeth “Kitty” Carnarvon.
My calendar has been marked for the upcoming virtual cocktail party scheduled for this week Friday.
Until then, please stay healthy and be safe.
Enjoy the cocktail party
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
With regard to this week Friday’s upcoming virtual cocktail party, please consider sharing any baking recipes or cooking tips using the Castle’s gin.
Thank you for your consideration.
MY DEAR LADY CARNARVON,
GOOD MORNING FROM BRAZIL,
“SOMEWHERE THERE ‘S ANOTHER LAND…DIFFERENT FROM THIS WORLD BELOW..FAR MORE MERCIFULLY PLANNED…THAN THE CRUEL PLACE WE KNOW…
INNOCENSE AND PEACE ARE THERE…ALL IS GOOD THAT IS DESIRED…FACE THERE ARE ALWAYS FAIR…LOVE GROWS NEVER OLD NOR TIRED…WE SHALL NEVER FINDING THAT LOVE LAND…OF MIGHT–HAVE–BEEN…I CAN NEVER BE YOUR KING…NOR YOU CAN BE MY QUEEN…DAYS MAS PASS AND YEARS MAY PASS…AND SEAS,MAY LIE BETWEEN. ..WE SHALL NEVER FIND …THAT LOVELY LAND…OF MIGHT –HAVE–BEEN.
MUSIC COMPOSED BY IVOR NOVELLO AND EDGARD MOORE .
SINGING IN THE FAMOUS FILM ” GOSFORD PARK” WRITTEN BY JULIAN FELLOWES.
RIO CLARO – SP
Please let us know how we can tune in or watch the Virtual Cocktail Party on December 3rd!
Would love to be part of it!
You can watch it via Highclere Castle Instagram, Facebook and Highclere Castle Gin. Starts at 20.00 GMT
I love the picture of your dogs in the snow! I remember how much fun our dogs would have playing in snow. We live in Hawaii now, and the only snow is on Mauna Kea, so our dogs haven’t had the pleasure.
As always, thank you for sharing history and your lovely home. The pony “reindeer” is priceless.
How blessed we are as we look forward to your words each Monday. THANK YOU……and again ….THANK YOU.
Stay well and stay safe.
Happy Christmas to you all…..
Enjoy your blogs so much. My mom passed away on November 29, 2021. Reunited with my dad and with her parents in heaven. The holidays are so hard for those of us who have lost loved ones or for those of us trying to celebrate without big families. Your writing is a such a delight – always. You whisk us up into whatever story or topic you are writing about. Thank you the moments of light in the darkness of grief. Love from Newport Beach, California.
I am sorry to hear about your loss