All the staff knew a Hollywood celebrity was arriving to stay, which was much more exciting than the usual racing or shooting guests. Smith the Butler was not at all well so Robert Taylor, the first footman, found himself waiting for the car to draw up and then opening the car door. Lord Carnarvon greeted Miss Losch and they walked into the Saloon.
Robert’s role was to walked grandly up the oak staircase, head high in an immaculate dark tailcoat and to lead the way into Mercia bedroom, the slim elegant guest following. The luggage was heavy and he would have to return for a second journey which in this case was rather a positive prospect.
Robert put the cases down and turned round. Miss Losch was a famous actress who had been much admired in London as well in Hollywood. Reaching Mercia bedroom, she walked in and broke into a smile as she looked out of the window at the wonderful views. “How beautiful” she exclaimed and threw herself back onto the four-poster bed. Her dress rode up and just for a minute Robert could not help but stare. He did not think he had ever seen a more wonderful pair of legs. She sat up, with wavy deep brown hair, slanted green eyes and the most amazing cheekbones. Robert rather hoped she might fall in love with their employer.
Robert had arrived as footman at Highclere in 1937 and now, two years later, he would remember this particular day very clearly. Seventy-five years later, I found his typed-up memoirs of his life in our archives.
Tilly was actually Austrian, not American, and a Jew and like many others very fearful of the way the world was going. As a result, she was delighted to make England her home once more. Her career had started as a dancer in Vienna, before she became an actress and later, a choreographer. Coming to London, Tilly began with roles in Noel Coward plays as well as those of Max Reinhardt. In 1932 she was cast in a production of “The Miracle” providing her with the only spoken dialogue which she recited most dramatically. One of the other actresses in the play was Lady Diana Cooper and, in order to ensure she remained centre stage, at one point Tilly sewed up the sleeves of Diana’s costume so that her rival’s dramatic moment was less dramatic. In 1936, Tilly left for Hollywood and where she gained some supporting roles but never actually made lead actress.
She returned to England and knew Lord Carnarvon from earlier parties. They renewed their friendship through mutual friends. They married at the registry office in Caxton Street, Westminster London on September 1st 1939 which was after some persuasion by Lord Carnarvon. It was a near run thing as Tilly said she was not sure and then asked her future husband for financial security. The protracted financial negotiations went on late into the nights before the wedding which took place only after the legal papers were signed. Lord Carnarvon began to feel a little nervous about it all but Tilly said she just wanted to feel safe. She was so beautiful and Carnarvon’s s friends thought he was a very lucky man.
Then war broke out and shortly afterwards Tilly left for New York where she said she felt safer. Her husband missed her and thought, understandably, that she should be playing her part at Highclere. Robert and the Highclere staff missed the glamour and the razzmatazz but she visited occasionally, always arriving every inch the glamorous star.
Despite the brevity of the marriage, the divorce continued for some years. The reports of the private detectives hired by Lord Carnarvon make for the funniest of reading. They were delighted to follow Lady Carnarvon and loved watching her. Through “Friends of Highclere” I am going to hold a monthly book club and I think it might be fun to look at the photographs and archives of this story and share them with you.
Later in her life, Tilly turned to painting and by some lucky chance Geordie and I bought a collection of her paintings as a memory and legacy of her to hold here at the Castle. Her story only touched Highclere briefly but it certainly did bring moments of Hollywood glamour and during the war years and just after, such distractions were vital.
Lovely pictures of Tilly and did you lord Carnarvon have a nice bank holiday Monday and l enjoyed Downton abbey second film thank you for the email and lovely to visit highcelere castle
What a beautiful story. Thank you for giving more insite about Highclere’s history.
Lady Carnarvon what fun it must be to explore through the collection of stories stored in the archives. What a charming story for the week, wrapped up with the mention of the painting you and your husband bought to bring it to a close. We appreciate your storytelling style and always learn something interesting by reading your thoughts. Thank you.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Wow! What an enthralling slice of History, thank you so very much for sharing it with us!
My daughter & I are going to see the new Downton Abbey movie this Wednesday, can’t wait to be reunited with my lovely “Family” again!
My best wishes for a safe & successful Spring for you & everyone @ Highclere
Lovely pictures of Tilly and lovely to visit highcelere castle and lord Carnarvon have a nice bank holiday Monday and enjoy the downton abbey film 2 and thank you for email andthe pictures very kind of you
What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing. And thank you for sharing so many details of your life with us. You are most gracious.
Geschichten und Anekdoten die das Leben schreibt. Herrlich zu lesen.
A fascinating story. Thank you!
Great story, can picture the glamour in my head..
What fun to read this! Thanks for sharing this little chapter in the Carnarvon saga!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I loved reading your account of this talented lady. It must indeed have been a thrill for the staff at Highclere to have her living there.
How marvellous for her to be blessed with such natural beauty. Today so many stars resort to plastic surgery to achieve Tilly’s kind of glamour and star quality.
She was very beautiful and I think a bit of a diva!!!
Greetings Lady Carnarvon
What amazing archives you keep finding though out your years there at Highclere.
Quite another historic story. How fun it will be for your “Friends of Highclere” monthly book group. If I lived locally, I’d certainly want to be a part of it!
Thank you for sharing this story and photos.
Grateful you all are still “staying afloat”! 🙂
Remain well and enjoy the lovely spring month of May there (I’m enjoying reading about what life is like there during Springtime in your lovely book Seasons At Highclere :).
You are kind – there is so much in it – thank you so much
As I am an Austrian woman too, it’s really interesting to read about Tilly the Austrian Actress at Highclere. Thanks for this nice and informing article and have a wonderful day! Greetings from blooming Vienna and I really hope to see the castle one day and maybe meet also you Lady Carnarvon:-) (I saw Downtown Abbey from the very beginning till New Aera),
Thank you – I love Vienna – a beautiful city
Hollywood and Highclere – the two are not always meant to be jolly good partners. But a lady’s charms often win over a smitten gentleman! I hope Lord Carnarvon and Tilly had at least some good times together before she left him foo NYC and the US. He deserved better! Thanks for another good Monday morning read!
There are many funny stories – she chucked a few hairbrushes at him …
Dear Lady Carnarvon: I found newspaper clippings that my mother had kept of this famous lady and her marriage to (and divorce from) the earl plus a book she also signed. I will email a photo to the castle for you to see.
Wow! What a fascinating story. There are so many celebrated people connected to the story of Highclere. Thank you for sharing this.
What a great story. I would love to be digging into those archives. So interesting. Tilly was very beautiful. It must have been very difficult for her to fit into the British arostocracy at that time.
She had no sense of duty though.
A woman in her position could have achieved so much during the war years.
I hope you are all well and definitely plan to vist this year.
Off to see the new Downton film soon.
I now only think of the house as Highclere now, I think it’s from being part of this group.
Tilly did things in her own way – she tried to raise support in the USA – she was a survivor
This is such an interesting piece of Highclere history. I’m so happy that you shared it with us. Perhaps an idea for another Highclere movie?
Gail from Canada
it is part of the book Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey – honestly I still cry with laughter just thinking about the detective reports…
Lovely the pictures of Tilly did you lord Carnarvon have a lovely bank holiday Monday and lovely to visit highcelere castle and l enjoy the Downton abbey film 2
So a famous actress arrived at Highclere Castle, so similar to the 1929 actress arriving at Downton Abbey in “The New Era”? What a fascinating history you share with us from the archives, and now we get to see something similar on the big cinema screen with Downton Abbey 2, the film. The cinema theaters have opened in Greece, and the premiere showing of ” Downton Abbey 2: The New Era”, is Thursday, May 5, in Athens. Surely I will try to see it, and enjoy seeing the making-of-a-film with the making-of-a-film at Highclere! Thank you for this tale told through the memoirs of a first footman!
I hope you enjoy the film – it was magic being in a cinema and reminded me of the importance of the shared experience
I’d like to hear more from Robert the footman’s memoirs! I think I could happily while away the hours in the Highclere Castle archives.
They are part of the book Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey
Thanks for sharing this very human story showing the highs and lows of the world of Highclere.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
What an interesting story and one I had not heard before. I’d love to see more photos of this glamorous Lady. Thank you for the backstory.
Wonderful! And I wonder if Julian Fellowes had been inspired by such this tale, which gets so interesting following some research in the life of this multitalented persona. Glamour! Such a disappearing and eroding notion. And where “glam”, so commonly used in today’s world, is in itself rather an unglamorous abbreviation. …. Or perhaps, I am getting older and longing for something that no longer is. … and then, that is where Mr. Fellowes comes into play, Highclere being a part of it.
Love the brief story of Tilly. A fiery temper in a Jewish woman?? Surely you jest. Ha! Ordered Lady Catherine only just now. Reading more on her and others there will be enjoyable.
It will make you laugh! And cry
Wonderful story- thanks for sharing this . Saw the new Downton Abbey film yesterday and loved it – possibly more than the first! It is fabulous.
Hooray! It’s Lady Carnavon’s Email Day – and I’m here for it!
Seriously, you are such an engaging writer and know how to hook the reader and (figuratively)DARE them to stop reading before the end. Have you written any novels. When would you have time?
I am most intrigued by this marriage. Was Lord Carnarvon much older than his bride when they married? I was distraught to hear she fled to America as soon as the ink was dry on her financial settlement.
Today’s newsletter must have taken many hours. You obviously did a lot of research. THANK YOU from Alabama.
I know the story as it was part of research for the “Lady Catherine” book
My daughter gifted me a copy of Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey. A fascinating read. I’d forgotten abt this part, will read it again! I am a real history buff, as is my husband. I love all that you share abt your life at Highclere. Just had my 80th birthday and still dream of visiting one day! God bless and keep you.
Joy in Maryland, USA
Fascinating story. Thank you for sharing it.
Such wonderful history at Highclere!
What a wonderful read today, when finally sitting down after a day of fence painting
How glamorous it all was back then compared to the hard work of keeping Highclere going today.
I am looking forward to seeing the new Downton this week. Normally, I would have dashed to the first screening, but decided to curb my enthusiasm and go mid-week instead, a method in my madness, where the majority will be to work and I can go one afternoon, recline my seat, put up my feet and enjoy a “personal” screening (or pretty much) . Thank you for your marvellous reads; I look forward to them all especially now I have listened to all of your brilliant podcasts. Hope you both enjoyed your BH weekend. X
I would like to see it again!
That was a beautiful story. Thanks so much for sharing it.
I am Robert Taylor’s nephew and have many happy memories from over 60 years ago of Christmas’s spent in the butler’s house, seeing my father playing cricket for Highclere on the estate’s cricket ground, attending my aunt Joan’s surprise 90th birthday in the Saloon and library at the kind invitation of you and the Earl. My brother was also married in the Castle at the bottom of the main staircase. A memorable setting! We were christened in Highclere Church and my parents married there. I remember Uncle Robert telling us of the famous guests at the Castle including Tilly Losch. Very happy times for me and my brother, the only remaining survivors from our wonderful Highclere memories.
Howe truly special to hear from you! I am trying to put together a cricket team for a June weekend – not east to restart funnily enough! I just think it is important to keep it going
Dear Lady Carnarvon!
So interesting to read about this fantastic story that happened a Long time ago. Highclere has an exciting history!
Thank you for sharing!
Swedish greetings from Lena
Congratulations for this unexpected story. Each of your articles always contains a pleasant surprise! You could really write a screenplay for a movie and your family act as the protagonists. That would be really fantastic ! Thank you and good evening
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for sharing that fascinating episode in Highclere’s history. I smiled throughout my reading of your account but on reflection felt quite sad, particularly for Lord Carnarvon.
Haggling on the eve/morn of one’s wedding over a pre-nuptial arrangement didn’t augur well for the subsequent nuptials.
Hope you are all well at Highclere.
PS Do you have a record of the time when the wedding was conducted at the Westminster Registry? Was it before or after
an news was received in London of Germany’s invasion of Poland that same day, 1st September 1939?
Does there exist any record of whether they had a honeymoon and where they might have been, when just two days later, Chamberlain, declared that Great Britain was at war with Germany?
First thing in the morning and then they came down to Highclere
He rang his mother … a bit late !!!
I’m reading The Palace Papers by Tina Brown. The story she tells about the mutual love of horses, breeding and racing between Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and “Porchey,” seventh Earl of Carnarvon, is so touching and warm. Seldom do we know about such good and sound relationships. The picture in the book is the Queen excited and very much like us when we’re excited.
Lady Carnarvon, super story today. Love all the history! Cheryl.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.
Have a wonderful week everyone
Such an interesting and wonderful story about this beautiful actress. History at Highclere is outstanding.
Sometimes real life is more fascinating than fiction! I certainly look forward to hearing more about Tilly and her brief life at Highclere; what a neat find! Counting the days when I can revisit Highclere/Downton through the new movie – it opens here in the States on May 20.
Thank you – it is good movie – very Downton!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
What a beautiful story, I like English history and although I live in the Netherlands I only read English books mostly historical. Your book Christmas at Highclere is fantastic. I hope to buy another one when we visit Highclere in August and stay for two nights in the London Gate. Until then I’m happy to read your blog and all the interesting news of Highclere Castle. The second movie of Downton Abbey was great to see. I saw it in Amsterdam.
Kind regards and thanks for your beautiful stories.
Mariette Yntema-van Wely
you are so kind!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Love reading the fantastic stories & expanding my history knowledge. What a magnificent farm you must have, the land, animals, architecture, history, & so much more. It can only be a dream to live there.
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for your Monday blog. What an interesting story about this actress, and how it parallels to her painting collection you and Lord Carnarvon have in the Castle’s archives.
Until next week, I hope you had some time to enjoy a May Day event or receive a May Basket.