The week before Christmas
For some reason, like many others, I think I have time on my side and will be ready and relaxed in time for Christmas. Once again the reality is somewhat different. There is a mass of presents nearly wrapped which, like the 12 days of Christmas, go round in circles on the floor in the Annexe: 12 car parkers, 11 for the Castle office, 10 in the estate office, 9 nieces and nephews, 8 gardeners and mowers, 7 keepers, 6 joiners, 5 sisters, 4 plumbers, 3 decorators, 2 electricians, and then at the end a husband and son. Then I start again in another circle with 12 of my husband’s nephews and nieces, 11 godchildren, 10 men outside on diggers, 9 girlfriends I always send something to, 8 farmhands, 7 back of house, 6 gift shop girls, 5 housekeepers, 5 plasterers, damp proofers and tackers, 4 chefs, 3 security, 2 grooms and Nanny, who is clearly the partridge in a pear tree.
Nanny has been trying to instil manners and good grace in me since she first met me at 5 years old. I have now turned her into a sheepdog in a little book series I write for fun with Viking River Cruises. It is all about the dogs at Dogton Abbey and Nanny naturally is interested in good manners. I hope she likes it but I have got her something else as a present as well to sweeten the pill.
After the wrapping comes, of course, the giving, all of which has to be fitted in as well. Watching peoples’ faces as they unwrap something that you have chosen just for them is one of the nicest parts of Christmas but I hope it doesn’t sound too dreadful if I say that, as I deliver around the various homes and building sites, it would be excellent news if I found several recipients at one site.
My husband is hoping some of the building projects will finish soon so is demanding deadlines. I suspect we will look like a curious double act, one of us giving gifts, the other asking for schedules looking into next year at a time when everyone is counting down the days until the holidays. One nearly finished is a sweet cottage which I hope to rent out soon. It was actually Anna and Bates’ Cottage in Downton Abbey but in real life needed a new kitchen, bathroom, fireplace, heating, electrics and so on. It will, I hope, be a peaceful bolthole in a beautiful park for some friends or those who will become new friends.
Wishing you, Lady Carnarvon, and all of Highclere Castle family everything merry and bright through Christmas and the coming year. Lovely to read your blog. Kathryn Henneman
Oh Wow what a year it has been for me I can’t beleave its Christmas already, so much has happened, I have just spent the last few hours reading back thought your wonderful blogs Lady Carnarvon & having a wee giggle to my self at some the things that has happened in the last 12 Months 🙂 🙂 I have been a very lucky person in the last few months to see parts of the Castle & other places like the inside of Anna and Bates’ Cottage in Downton Abbey, this is going to make a wonderful home for some lucky person.. Merry Christmas to you both Lord & Lady Carnarvon & all your wonderful Castle Staff who i’m now are one off 🙂 🙂
This year has gone so fast…
Wow! That sounds like enough work to keep one busy for an entire month with nothing else to do!!!! I hope you can find a chance to put your feet up somewhere! Over here in Indiana we are working on our Christmas preparations. We even have a stuffed badger who is visiting us for the holidays. He arrived with a passport and a pack of postcards as well as his invitation to tea when he came to Highclere for tea this past summer! He is one lucky badger!!! He’s joining in our fun until January when he has to return home out in Colorado.
‘Tis the Season, and you seem to have the “double” 12-Days of Christmas organized and ready! Wow!
What a wonderful spirit of giving that must be going through the halls of Highclere! And look at that cottage…
may you be able to complete many such projects to offer for residence to some lucky people to live-the-life
of Downton Abbey 🙂
(And I’d love to know how to purchase that story book of “Nanny”! Fantastic!)
ΚΑΛΑ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥΓΕΝΝΑ και ΚΑΛΗ ΧΡΟΝΙΑ 2016!
Merry Christmas to you both Lord & Lady Carnarvon & all your wonderful Castle Staff
Happy Christmas Catherine – the book are all in our gift shop – please send an email they should be online and will be soooooon!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I loved reading about your multitudinous Christmas preparations (it makes me feel better that I don’t have so many! 🙂 ), and I so appreciate that you open the Castle door and invite readers into your real life. It’s so interesting and meaningful–especially because I often observe how much you are thinking of others–of what would bring them pleasure and delight. I see in you someone with much compassion (especially in that last blog as you organized the musical fundraiser for the refugees). It seems like you live out the principles manifest in a Dickensian Christmas–meaning not that you have lived the way that Ebenezeer did until his visitation by the midnight visitors, but rather the way he did after his “conversion.” His miserly heart transformed into one of magnanimity. Isn’t that the spirit of Christmas, after all?– of giving instead of receiving? Isn’t that what the Christchild teaches us? I think you have a very generous heart. Sometime, too, I hope you will consider writing about the various church-and-music celebrations of Christmas in England. I look to your musical traditions to inform my own. There are no better choristers, bar none, than those young boys, whose angelic melismas spiral to the heavenlies in those vaulted English cathedrals. I particularly love the carol arrangements of Sir David Willcocks at this time of year. His descants are breathtakingly ethereal.
May God bless you, Lady Carnarvon–and all your family and friends–this Christmastide!
And we shall also be blessed here in St. Louis with the final season of Downton yet to come (in the States). I hate that it is ending, but we have purchased all of the episodes for enjoyable viewing in the years to come. Oh, I know what I am putting on my Santa’s wish list–that Bates cottage! Wouldn’t it be a dream to live there?!
We have been to some wonderful carol concerts. I have been checking out the work in the cottage today and it will be charming. Looking at the photos I posted it may seem a way off but all the boring parts have been done!
Lists and more lists! I bet that you have a lot! So much to organize!! I am a list maker from way back. Your smile and good will both came through your words today. !! I am sure that all will enjoy your generosity! I have to go now… Off to start another list! Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!
A very happy Christmas to you!
Here I am in Downtown Shabbey, my two bedroom condo in southern Florida. It’s really not shabby at all. It has a balcony overlooking an award-winning courtyard complete with a lush tropical garden, spa and swimming pool. While relaxing here I read Lady Carnarvon’s best-selling book, Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey. The book brings the past to life where one learns that the real inhabitants of Highclere were much more interesting than the the ones on television. The take home message I got from the book is that there is much more to the real family than wealth. Besides being fascinating, they were good people. Kind, thoughtful and generous. I highly recommend this book. The present Kafy Carnarvon is a talented writer.
Lise Beane, Cape Cod and Florida
PS I am happy to write that I will be visiting Highclere in late August 2016.
Merry Christmas, Lady Carnarvon
I thought that I was a busy person until I read what yot have been up to. I agree that seeing the enjoyment of the person opening the gift is one of the best things about the holidays. I would like to be able to purchase the book about your “nanny” and Dogton Abbey so please let us all know if and when that is possible. Also, please include pictures of the finished Bates and Anna cottage as we would love to see it (as if you haven’t enough to do!) I hope you and your family have a blessed Christmas and that the new year is a happy and healthy one.
Nanny’s book is Good Manners – please as with others email us and we can post it out …Sally is here Monday in the gift shop
I so enjoy your blog! Merry Christmas to all!
A happy Christmas to you and all your family, workers and animals. Thankyou for your wonderful blogs. I love to read them. Linda Clymo, Luxor.
Happy Christmas in Luxor – an amazing town..
Happy Holidays to you and your family, Lady Carnarvon!! While I do not envy the magnitude of gift getting/wrapping/giving you need to coordinate, I agree that it is wonderful to watch the presents being opened by those you cherish – whether family, friends, or workers.
May your days be merry and bright as we approach Christmas, and somewhere in there a few moments for relaxing and reflection too! My personal favorite is when the house is quiet later at night and I take a few minutes to enjoy our Christmas tree as it waits for the big day, lights sparking, with the wonderful scent of pine drifting in the air.
I completely agree – a few minutes in the stillness in the Castle are very restorative – and with nobody around!!! Very rare.
Your posts are always the ones in my email that make me the happiest! I always finish reading them with a big grin on my face. Your writing is always, always, always amazing! 🙂
– Dori –
You are too kind – but happy Christmas
We wish a Merry Christmas to you and Lord Carnarvon from our home in Windermere, Florida. We are expecting low 80’s on Christmas Day! Not exacting Holiday weather, but there’s still no shortage of Christmas Spirit here. Our fresh Fraser Fir is decorated and its’ fragrance fills the air. Lights, ornaments and presents are everywhere. We’ve sent off gifts to those less fortunate along with boxes to family and friends. Now to finish up with baking and waiting for Santa to arrive next week. May you enjoy this Christmas and have a Blessed Year ahead.
Peggy & Rick Helbling
Happy Christmas to you – my visit to Florida in March was too fleeting!
Wishing for all a Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years. I look forward to all the news ahead in 2016. Fondly,Jacquie
Happy Christmas to you and your family
Congratulations on all your efforts
May you all have a hapy Xmas and new year
After many years I have located where bands cottage (given to the lords of the manor in. 1735 to be used to house church people) which is where my grandfather and his 13 siblings lived and where his mother died in childbirth aged 52. His father George paid rent to the estate for use of the cottage
How interesting where is Bands Cottage?
How do we go about purchasing your children’s books? I have lots of little ones in my
life and love to give books as gifts. Thanks so much and Merry Christmas!
Tina from Fredericksburg, TX
Dear Lady C,
Thank you for such an interesting blog on Christmas at Highclere! What a clever way to share the 12 days of Christmas in your activities–it is all too true! What a wonderful time of year! Thanks also for the amazing picture of the finished Christmas tree in the hall! It looks lovely! Am patiently waiting for the last season of Downton–how I will miss it! Looking forward to access of the book Dogton Abbey. Just a brilliant idea! I’m sure Nanny will appreciate herself being memorialized in print! Happy Christmas to one and all!
Nanny arrives on the 22nd – I have been cleaning the car today before she refuses to get in it !!! The hose was broken (I did not realise until too late) so I got incredibly wet too, so I really hope she appreciates the car. It is all a bit chaotic but I have nearly got there.
Best wishes for a blessed Christmas, Lady Carnarvon, A lovely gift you have added to my life is my enjoyment of your special blog. Thank you so very much.
Good news came to me and my friend, Brenda in the fact that we were able to change our traveling schedule and will be able to join a “behind the scenes” tour of the castle with you via Viking tours in August. We are thrilled! I do hope that we will be able to meet you and some of your darling dogs. My very best to you and your family as you celebrate this glorious time of year. Elizabeth Baltz
Thank you for reading the blog – the dogs are nearly always around especially for Viking guests!!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Lovely to read all the news about Highclere House.It must be hard work to keep going,but rewarding I’m sure.
I’m living back in Ireland now where we have some very impressive homes,but while living in London for some years I really enjoyed visiting
various estates.Sadly I never made it to Highclere but hope to remedy that in the near future.
I’m sure you miss all the activity after ‘Downton Abbey’ with a tinge of sadness.After the final episode on Christmas Day I’m sure it will leave a gap in many people’s lives.
Wishing you every success in your efforts for Highclere.Hopefully see you in 2016.–Peter Kelly,Wexford,Ireland
How lovely it is to hear about holiday preparations at Highclere Castle. Here in sunny Pasadena, we are all patiently awaiting The 127th Rose Parade. In honor of Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle will be florally depicted on a float presented by PBS. The parade will be broadcast around the world so we can all see the float and celebrate together, in spirit.
This “special” time of year is here again and we remember the people who brightened up our lives over the passing year, and Lady Carnarvon, you did through your blog / emails. Your Christmas list seems endless, and so it is with all your Family, Friends and the amazing staff who keep Highclere in tip top condition. May each and everyone have a wonderful festive season, and I hope that you all have a great 2016 filled with Peace, Joy and Happiness. God Bless and keep you all. At least you will enjoy your Christmas fare in comfort where we here, “down under”, we have to endure the tiring heat of the long summer.
Best wishes, Robyn
Merry Christmas to you and those at Highclere. May you be richly blessed in 2016.
It must be a real pleasure to be a part of such a large extended “family”, I think it’s lovely. The cottage looks beautiful, I would be delighted to live there! I hope I can get your children’s books for our library. Would really like to add them to our collection. I wish you and your family and your extended family a very Happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year!!
Thanks for a year of great blogs and sharing your life with us!
Sally in the gift shop has the books and I hope they are fun. I am going to write the next Finse over Christmas. I think this time her brother Barney will be part of the story. He is very charming and despite being a Labrador gets lost almost every time he turns around. His owners however have made many new friends as he arrives at the wrong house yet again… Alfie is one of my dogs who is usually the naughty one. Dilly who lives in London is perfect … Scooby is very sweet and very greedy, Molly is always upside down, and so on – so many characters!!
I enjoy reading you blog. Such a busy time for everyone. Best wishes for the Christmas season, and into the New Year.
Lady Carnarvon, I truly love reading your blog! Your sharing with us the goings-on at Highclere, giving us insight into your fantastic busy life is much enjoyed and appreciated. Best Wishes for a wonderful and relaxed Christmas and may the New Year bring many blessings to you and your family. Carol -Sherwood, Oregon, USA.
Just love your blog and the way you bring your gorgeous home to life for your readers. Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year ! A trip to England is at the top of my bucket list.
Busy and blessed!!
May it continue in good health!
Cheers and happy holidays from Carol and Tom!
Happy Christmas in Houston !
in this busy crazy season, id like to make a comment
i was afforded the luxury of coming to see highcler with my parents and dear friend in september this this. we had been told the house was closed and that we would have a chance to have a glimpse of the house and land. we arrived to be met by karime, who is a dear friend of john arlidge. ( fantastically talented writer) . we were welcomed in such a warm and friendly manor, and as we walked up the hill to get a closer look at the house, lady carnarvan met us. she was indescribably kind, generous and interesting. she took the time to show us her gardens, telling us the details and stories of the various goings on at the house. the dogs followed us as we visited, and karime also told us stories of her days together with the family, she lives in one of the “servants quarters”
after seeing the incredible gardens, lady carnarvan asked if we wanted to see the inside of the house. to say this felt as though we had been given a gift from up high, i am not exaggerating. i will never be able to thank first john , for having set it up, karime, for having taken time out of her very busy life, and then the angelic lady carnarvan. i know downton abbey has made this the most famous house in the world, and she is pulled on every minute of her day. the generous attn and her special time are a gift for me and my parents i will never be able to explain. from my point of view and experience, it is this kind of spirit that has brought success to the house, and their family. i am truly grateful and will never forget that day. a huge thanks from texas. a very merry christmas to all!!f ann marie scichli
Happy Christmas to you both thanks for blog it brings back happy memories of my cousin ivy and Johnny is the cottage you doing up Johnny cottage xx
I remember Ivy and Johnny – it is not their cottage, they were near the cricket ground.
Before Johnny that Johnny lived at cottage with his dad uncle jess xx
Dear lady Carnarvon , as always, you make it look so easy. Smile. But after the present’s are wrapped and distributed, and all the errands run, may you and your family sit back, enjoy the warm fire, and fruit’s of your labor s . May you and your family, have a very happy an healthy Christmas and New Year. Desiree.
Happy Christmas, although it is so warm I am not sure we will need the fire… I would love a proper frost
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thanks for the letter you mailed me if you didn’t read my last message/comment on another blog post. Merry Christmas and Happy 2016, too!
Thank you – and happy Christmas to you and your family!
My goodness you are one busy Lady. I’m grateful for my small family. I do love the fact that Anna & Bates’ cottage will be fixed and ready for friends and guests. Do you think you’ll rent it out to travelers? (I would love that!)
It’s been so long since I’ve been to England and would love to go again.
It was so nice to hear how generous you are to all who work for you and your friends too.
I pray you all have a wonderful, blessed and happy Christmas and a lovely New Year.
Carol-Ann & Jemima (cat)
It is so sweet and it has a little courtyard at the back which is just asking for tables and chairs and a coffee machine. There is another round house – a grotto I am going to do up for short stays. It has some of the most amazing views back towards the Castle! That is one of my springtime projects…
Just a question for you – where can I buy the Dogton Abbey books you’ve written? I’ve tried Amazon plus other sites and they are sold out.
I would appreciate your help – thank you in advance.
We can post them post them to you from here, delighted to – we are trying to update our on-line gift shop….
We thoroughly enjoyed our early November visit to Highclere. We came in a morning fog which created a beautiful ambience. And the guides were terrific. Merry Xmas and Happy New Year
Happy Christmas thankyou for blog as it brings back wonderful memories of my cousin ivy and Johnny I use to enjoy helping him with the cows is that Johnny cottage been done up xx
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Yes, time is never enough to finish what we plan to do- although I must say you managed admirably.
I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank and congratulate you on yet another activity which you carried out, together with your team, with such success: the “Song for Peace” event held on the 7th December.
I shall remember this day with gratitude and a feeling of peace and well being. The organisation was prepared so lovingly and there was such a harmonious blend of “feeling at home” at Highclere and its beautiful interior: music and carols while I walked, or rather floated, along the lovely rooms- so dear to me now!
The half hour of prayer and Christmas carols was very moving. His Grace, Lord Carey’s reflections on the carols and peace were inspiring and I shall link Silent Night and the other Christmas carols we sang with this beautiful event. Your words and the Earl’s as well as those of Oxfam’s representatives were inspiring and encouraging; the students’choirs were fantastic!
Your assistant and staff were so helpful throughout. I came to visit as a Downton fan and left as an admirer and well wisher of the “real Downton” – Highclere Castle and its real people – the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon and their staff.
Lady Carnarvon, I appreciate your multiple talents and the manner of putting them to good use for the well-being of others. I hope that they will continue to flourish. May you continue to be blessed with strength and energy to plan and organise such events as the one of the 7th December and others like it .
I wish you, your son and the Earl as well as your extended family a Blessed Christmas and a Peaceful New Year 2016.
God bless you all,
(Fr.) Konrad SJ
Thank for You blog. Its very nice for me, I love London and you teach me the english lífe and the customer, because its very different , than the Spanish customer. I like to go to the castle very soon, probably my next trip to England. I know a few castle, but no your castellano. Congratulation for you fe forte for the castellano, its good for the future generations. Sorry , my english , isnt very well. I wish a Merry chritmas, from the south of Spain.
I’ve been going deeper into withdrawal for several months – will miss DA. Have been catching all the Salute to…; back viewings, and anything “Downton”.
Have enjoyed your blogs and emails – will miss them also.
Shirley from Midwest City OK USA
I bid you and your family a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year, Lady Carnarvon. I do hope to visit Highclere one day, it would be such an amazing treat! Wish you all the best!
In answer to your query I believe that there is a cottage on the entrance rd to pennwood farm ,now vine farm, which is divided as three residences. However I am not sure if the cottage is intact now after all it was 1878 when my grandfather was born there
Two of his siblings died of diphtheria and two others died when their nightclothes caught alight when they got too near the fire
I have a map showing the location but I cannot copy this to your comments page
I would need an email address to send it
Best wishes for Christmas
I would love to see where it was – the best email is the [email protected] and then I will get it. Thank you and happy New year
Lady Carnarvon Thank you so very much for Downton Abbey the shows final season is starting at this moment as i drink my downton tea!! I am crying already and it has not started yet. I just wanted to say Thank you so very much to you and to Lord Carnarvon for allowing such a great story to be filmed and for the public to be able to see such a beautiful Gem. (Highclere) I so hope, with all my heart and soul, that some day I shall be able to visit before I die. I love the story of your lovely, gorgeous, home!! The story behind it and all the wonderful things that earlier families have done Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!!!! May God bless you and yours and the beautiful home for eternity Truly yours, Andrew Nemeth
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I am glad to read your blog and really astonished to see how much people apreaciate your work and the way you enjoy Christmas time. I am not English but I love how English people mantain their traditions along the path of time, and how much you specially care of traditional buildings. Highclere is a good example. Congratulations and happy 2016.
Teresita from Santa Fe City.argentina
“Christmas Gala at Highclere Castle 2015”
5 of 5 starsReviewed January 3, 2016
I was beyond thrilled to be part of Premium Tours’ Christmas Gala at Highclere Castle. It was simply phenomenal from the moment we boarded the tour bus at Victoria Station until the magical evening ended well after midnight. We were welcomed at Highclere Castle on a crisp moonlit winter night with glasses of delightful champagne. From there we toured the gorgeous interior of select rooms on the castle’s first and second floors, which even included docents who provided details about each room we visited. The three-course dinner was superb, and the choice of dinner wines simply spectacular. We even received unique party favors as souvenirs! Towards the end of the evening, local carolers lined up along the tiers of the castle’s grand staircase and sang Christmas carols that ranged from joyful and feisty songs such as Jingle Bells to a gorgeous rendition of Silent Night that moved me to tears. There is so much more I could write, such as how much fun it was to meet so many others who had traveled from other countries for this magical event, to the grandeur of the huge Christmas Tree in the Castle’s Grand Saloon, to the delicious unique meal – but nothing I could write could ever encapsulize the pure joy and excitement that this magical, memorable evening meant to all of us. Thank you so much, Premium Tours, for the marvelous memories!
Visited December 2015
Thanks for sharing your thoughts about parfumuri. Regards
I absolutely am in love with highclere castle. I was wondering what the real servants quarters look like today. I’m sure rooms have been repurposed to move with the times. But would love to see.
I enjoy seeing all the woodwork and detail in the castle in pictures.
Your house is just gorgeous!
Thank you – we are going to share more through http://www.friendsofhighclere.com