In 1922 the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun. It could be considered the first global world media event. It was, and is, a marvellous story about treasure, tragedy and of course, a curse. Despite the significance of the discovery, the first biography of Howard Carter was not written until 1972 and I have yet to write one about Lord Carnarvon!
So I sat down to watch last night’s TV programme about the discovery of Tutankhamun with some anticipation. The problem for Highclere is that the 5th Earl was a real, not a fictional character. He was rather an intellectual, amusing man who had nearly died in a car accident in Schwalbach, Germany. He drove Panhard Levasseurs, an early French car. The accident had so compromised his lungs and health that his doctors advised him to avoid damp English winters and thus he chose to travel to Egypt each winter from 1905/6 onwards. His daughter Evelyn was just 4 years old when he started visiting Egypt and therefore did not travel with him but stayed at home at Highclere. In fact, she did not visit Egypt at all until the winter of 1919/1920, after the First World War.
Lord Carnarvon was introduced to Howard Carter in 1909, through an eminent French Professor, Gaston Maspero, who was Director of Antiquities in Egypt. During the previous two years Lord Carnarvon had completed and photographed his first two years in the Valley of the Nobles which lay on the west bank at Luxor. He was organised and captivated. He and his wife, Almina, would stay at the Winter Palace Hotel, looking across the Nile, crossing each day by boat before riding a donkey to the dig. Egypt is an extraordinary country and one dominated by the River Nile. It is present in most of Lord Carnarvon’s remarkable collection of photographs of Egypt from this time and has dominated Egypt’s history since time immemorial.l.
In 1910 Lord Carnarvon built Howard Carter a house near the Valley of the Kings with bricks sent from England. Extraordinarily we still have a few here. Carter designed the house and it was nicknamed “Castle Carter” a tongue-in-cheek reference to Highclere Castle where Howard Carter would spend summer weekends in order to plan the following season’s projects..
Lord Carnarvon often stayed at “Castle Carter” rather than the hotel as it was nearer the excavation sites and Lord Carnarvon had built a darkroom behind the house to process his photographs. Between them, they acted as foremen, supervising teams of local workers, perhaps 50 to 100 in each team, over two or three months.
Carter and Carnarvon’s relationship with Egypt was, throughout their time there, marked by respect and passion, by diligence and fascination. It shines forth in their letters and in their enormous enthusiasm. I began to research the story for our own exhibition here, to share the characters and detail of an extraordinary story. The exhibition is now in its eighth year. Howard Carter was devastated when Lord Carnarvon died in April 1923 and wrote: “My beloved friend…his judgement of ancient art has rarely been equalled. His efforts … to extend our knowledge of Egyptology will forever be honoured in history and by me his memory will always be cherished”.
Fascinating story, and wonderful photographs. I like to believe that there are many treasures just waiting to be discovered!
Howard Carter is buried just by my mother in Putney Vale London, I always pass by & pay my respects as I adore Egyptology in every shape & form
Thank you so much for sharing your home and family with us through this blog. I am always so happy to see a new message in my email that you are writing to us!
I love the pictures in this post! I think it’s very sad that the 5th Earl was never able to come face-to-face with Tutankhamun after all of those years searching for something significant. It is fun to read about the Egyptian expeditions in your book about Almina so I’d be very interested to read a more in-depth novel about the 5th Earl.
Thank you for sharing these posts and for opening up your home! I visited in late March and will never forget how lovely it was (even on a cold, grey day).
“The glint of gold” was something that captured the imagination then as now – even on a March day so I am glad!
Good Day!! Having visited Highclere Castle in the 90s and worked for American Express in Egypt in the tourist industry in the 80s and 90s, can attest to the fact that Lord Carnarvon “found” his vocation with his great friend Howard. Saw all the details documented by both men in Luxor, also staying at the Winter Palace, and the recovery in the museum in Cairo. They were really guided by the Gods of Egypt to discover and recover as much as they did during the time that they worked together. Then visiting your wonderful home gave another perspective to the Lord. How lovely to live in such history while experiencing the present day.
I have stayed a few times at the Winter Palace Hotel and love it – a sense of the past and a slower tempo of life…
That was fascinating – I love history – You do his life justice by just this little piece. I like your style of writing, its so easy to follow. Keep em coming! your little fan in California – Chrissy
Thank you once again for another glimpse into the history and memories of your home and family. Castle Carters history sounds fascinating! How wonderful to have photos and memorabilia to help bring the story alive!!
Time well spent,
For 60 years my passion has been for Egyptology, specifically Akhenaten and Tutankhamun. George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter are part and parcel of this passion. As is Highclere Castle and The Egyptian Exhibition housed there. I hope the current television show continues to show both men as they really were, and your next project is writing a book about the 5th Earl. I know I will be one of the first to buy and read it.
Thank you – I will turn back to the 5th Earl, however I am still contemplating how to approach it. I have learnt a lot from doing this current book and will look to see how people enjoy it and I want to listen and observe which should be a guide for me!
Thank you for writing about this, Lady Carnarvon. The pictures were wonderful, as well. I very much enjoyed reading the biography you wrote on Lady Almina! My son also has an interest in archaeology and I plan to share this post with him. –Joy, South Carolina
The photographs are phenomenal – just too much to choose from!
Love the blogs. Can’t wait for your next book to be published!
P.s. Can food items purchased from the gift shop be shipped to
the US? I was told that the food items could not be shipped
to the United States?
We cannot ship food items – but I guess I could do oven gloves and kitchenware perhaps. However I hope you might try to cook some of the recipes!
I love the old photos capturing the history. Amazing, and hard to believe this time was not really so, so long ago. Thank you for sharing! – Amanda
I was just a bit confused by the passage relating to him being intellectual & amusing, nearly dying in a car accident, the type of car he drove, & his health being compromised.
I am a new fan & enjoying your insights from a world so few will ever know.
As a young man, he had a great love of books. His father was President of the Antiquities Society in Britain and we have a photo of the 5th Earl as a boy sitting beside the excavation of a bronze age tumulus here at Highclere.
Equally Lord Carnarvon was fascinated by early technology, for example Geoffrey de Havilland made his first flight here at Highclere. Early cars were quite tricky to steer and stop which led to many crashes and when Lord Carnarvon had tried to avoid an ox cart in the middle of a road near Schwalbach he overturned his car. He had bad head injuries, fractured his jaw and damaged his lungs. Hence his doctors’ suggestion to avoid damp English winters.
Traveling those long distances routinely was an adventure in and of itself. The tenacity of Lord Carnarvon and Lady Almina is inspiring. I’m glad you are taking the time and making the effort to reveal their character beyond the headlines.
I agree with you – something more than an airport and plane flight…
I hope I’m not being disrespectful but I always picture Lord and Lady Carnarvon as the undefeatable Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson in the wonderful mystery series by Elizabeth Peters. The series of perhaps 14 books takes place mostly in Egypt during the same time all those fantastic discoveries were taking place in the early 1900’s. Do you know the books?
They are fun! Agatha Christie also wrote some excellent stories set in Egypt.
On the friendship of Carter and Carnavon: To find a kindred spirit who shares your enthusiasm and passion for a subject is almost as difficult as discovering King Tut’s tomb. What a rare and rewarding treasure a friendship like that is!
Was this friendship synergistic? where neither party could have discovered King Tut’s tomb without the help of the other.
Dear Lady Carnavon,
I think this next book will be your best. I just finished reading Andrea Wulf’s biography of Alexander Von Humbolt entitled The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World. It was the best biography I ever read. At times while reading it, I became Alexander Von Humboldt and what an adventure I had! It was extraordinary. I think your book will be the same in that you can put the reader right in the Earl’s shoes. I can’t wait.
Thank you for your hard work,
It sounds like I should read that book!
Carnarvon and Carter’s friendship was rewarding whilst few of Lord Carnarvon’s peers shared his passion.
Of all the places in the world I would like to visit Egypt first. I wish it was safer. Did he bring anything home for you to keep ? Have you gone to Egypt to see where his excavation was?
I have been there and we have an exhibition here. Extraordinary country
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
thank you so much for sharing your family story. When I read about Lady Almina in your book I realised that the digging Lord belonged to your castle!
My aunt told me the fascinating story about Tuthankamon when I was a child, after her trip to The Valley of the Kings in the early fifties. I look forward to your book!
Autumngreetings from a dedicated follower in Sweden!
Almina was out in Egypt every year except for 1922.
Awesome story – thank you. Isn’t it marvelous how a life saved from tragedy and detoured by infirmity led to the greatest discovery of the modern world. Keep moving forward – you never know what is around the bend.
We just have to each keep going
Once again you have amazed me with your writings.I too would love to read more about the 5th Earl.He seems to be a very fasenating man.I wounder if the reason for his sudden illness wasn’t caused by the curse? Please continue with your wonderful blogs, as I love to read them, as they teach me more about Highclere.
I remain respectful if not wary of curses!
I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit at Highclere when I was there last December. Thanks for sharing these pictures. I look forward to your biography of the 5th Earl!
Thank you Lady Carnarvan, I believe this is my favorite post of all yours that I’ve read. Up until the reading, I was unaware of the Egyptian connection, most likely can be blamed on my place of residence being currently in the United States. I love, love, love history, having majored in it at UCLA so I thank you heartily for a well-written, interesting article peppered with fascinating and informative pictures. Pulls the whole story together. I DO hope you write the autobiography. It will be well received.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog and viewing those photographs. I was particularly taken by the photo of the Suez Canal and the photo at the commencement of your blog. That latter photo is magnificent. A beautiful photo capturing an iconic image of Egypt. The layout of the Pyramids reminds me of Giza but was it taken further up the Nile?
Fellow bloggers might also be interested in reading/perusing (from ‘The Rare Books in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’ a book
by the Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter: “Five years’ explorations at Thebes : a record of work done 1907-1911”. The book is described as including “chapters by F. Ll. Griffith, George Legrain, George Möller, Percy E. Newberry and Wilhelm Spiegelberg ; with seventy-nine plates and frontispiece”.
The book can be accessed online through the following link:
Hope you and all fellow bloggers are well.
The photo was at Giza – they are amazing as it is a record of how the Nile used to flood.
It is a great book we have Lord Carnarvon’s copy here. He published it to share, employing the best experts of his time with his photographs. An undertaking.
I left Philadelphia a young man and after attending the American academy of dramatic arts in Pasadena at the time.. I owned a 1950 Chrysler Winsor convertible that I restored an was having a transmission problem.
There was a man Rick who had around 20 classic cars so I drove there on a Saturday late morning to ask what he thought the problem was.. When I pulled up to an ally behind his
house to talk to him about the problem a woman in her late 70’s was standing next to her car she was well dressed with a big hat on and a flowered dress. she was having her two tone blue and white dodge/buick hardtop being worked on by rick. I asked her for rick and she said he was about to return she then asked me why I was there
and I told her. she then asked what I did for a living and I said painting until I break into Hollywood. she then said.”i have some work for you if you want to follow me to my house I will show you”. I told her ok for this should not take long with rick. so 20 minutes later I was following this woman all the way to Hollywood me in my bright yellow convertible her in two tone buick and then we drove on sunset blvd and turned up the steep hill street she lived on. she then turned into a side driveway
of a magnificent 2 story mansion built it looked like in 30’s.
This woman turned out to be Evelyn Herbert Carnarvon. She immediately told me it was tea time and made me sit down at a table next to her kitchen. I asked her what was tea time, me from Philladelphia I never heard that. She disappeared back into kitchen and came out with 4 cookies and 2 Lipton tea bags in 2 cups of tea.
We sat for 15-20 minutes sipping our tea and I asked her who she was and she told me that her dad found the first Egyptian tombs.
Funny but I guess I can say I had tea with the real Downtown Abbey.
I cannot find any records that Evelyn lived there… She married an MP but I will ask our archivist. Thank you
Ned, are you sure this was not some kind of a dream?
Such fascinating family history, Lady Carnarvon! It’s very interesting to hear your view of this story of discovery based on the letters and photos you have on hand. Some versions, like you pointed out, are quite over the top! Are you sure there aren’t some pictures of Indiana Jones lurking around somewhere in one of your albums?? 😉
Cheers from Charleston, South Carolina. I hope the rest of your week to come is pleasant.
I have great hat photos of men in Egypt so may be a little Indiana Jones!!!
I have been to Luxor, the Valley of the Kings and King Tuts tomb which were on the top of my bucket list. I have also been to Highclere Castle which was number two on the list. Wonderful memories abound. I think I need a new list now. Maybe I’ll start with Highclere again. Love your blog. Karen
Dear Lady Carnarvon, I probably will never be able to visit your lovely home or Valley of the Pyramids, but I have spent a lot of time reading my big coffee table book Egyptian Treasures from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo by White Star Publishers. I love reading about your daily life and future projects you are considering.
Happy fall, Stella
Dear Lady Carnarvon, what a great read again. I like your stories very much and made a link to your blog at my website that is called “the Hare and the Hound” so the Dutch reader can have a look at your lovely tellings. https://www.thehareandthehound.com/downton-abbey/
The Hare and The Hound is a website about art, culture, travelling, England, good food and the nicest places in Holland
My wife and I hope to visit Highclere Castle some time in the future.
Jacques van den Bergh
Ooh how interesting ! Alexander from fulham
I think you might have seen the Exhibition – I hope you liked it?
Thankyou for sharing i look forward to your emails bring back happy memories for me of uncle jess cousin Johnny and cousin ivy
Thank you so much Lady Carnarvon for all the details concerning the discovery on the tomb of Tuthankamon. Looking forward to visit HIghclere Castle next time I am in Great Britain.
Wonderful and I hope you will enjoy the Egypt part as well as the Castle
Thank you again for your wonderful research and information. I have been privileged to have seen the mezmorizing Tuthankamon artifacts multiple times since they first came on tour in the US in the late “70s and in your wonderful exhibit in the Lower Level of your beautiful home in April 2015. Such a tragedy that Lord Carnarvon, the 5th Earl, did not live to see the fruition of his efforts with Mr. Carter. As I looked forward to and enjoyed your previous books, I await with anticipation your future book on the 5th Earl! Kind regards.
I agree – it was a tragedy and he knew he was dieing – “I am preparing”
Dear Lady Carnarvon
Watching the 2nd episode of the current TV programme last night (I missed the first) made me think of you all and I was delighted to find this on your blog. How wonderful to be doing this work with the family archives and to be sharing it for all those interested to see.
I remember with great fondness meeting the now Dowager Countess, Lady Jean Carnarvon, and the 7th Earl some many years ago now.
How lovely that you are making “the real Downton Abbey” a personal connection for so many people in this way.
With best wishes and great success in all that you are doing
Good morning Lady Canarvon!
Thank you so much for this interesting article! I am just watching the dramatised TV series and I am am struggling to find out if some of the facts are real. I am stunned by the episode in which the Egyptian Antiquity service inform them that the law has changed and Lord Canarvon and Carter can not keep ANY of the contents of the tomb!
I am really hoping that you will have some knowledge of whether this was true? I know the items are now in the museum in Cairo so I think it must be but Carter continued to work on the tomb for 10 years so I wonder how he was funded. Also the TV series suggest that Lord Canarvon staked his entire fortune on the dig but HighClere is still here and beautiful so did his family, in actual fact, receive their share in the end? Was there this controversy?
Thank you so much! I am hoping you can shed some light!
How very interesting and delightful.
Kudos to you, Lady Canarvon.
Good Morning Lady Carnarvon.
Another interesting & historical lesson! The pictures were fabulous! I love looking at old photos. They add life to a story. I’ve always loved adventure movies, especially in exotic places such as Egypt. What an adventure that must have been!
Perhaps in future you could do a post of just old photos with a story of each. You are so lucky to be surrounded by such rich history! I eagerly await your future blog posts.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,- I’m a Bristolian and fascinated to know where Almina 5th Countess of Carnarvon was buried or if a funeral service was held for her in Bristol (if yes the name of the church). Thank you in anticipation, Jill Moore
Dear Lady, Carnarvon, Thank u so much for all the wonderful info. concerning Highclere, the history is really wonderful and interesting.
I really enjoy all the info. concerning all the Egyptian artifacts also and not to mention on Downton Abbey and the filming at Highclere.
I am new to your blog and so far everything is wonderful.
Recently was in Howard Carter’s Castle at the beginning of the Valley of the Kings. I love to visit when I have friends and guests staying with me at Villa Lostris here in Luxor. As a treat we sometimes have afternoon tea in the Winter Palace. Feel a part of history everyday living here.
I love the Winter Palace hotel
G’day, Nice blog. I am keen to read a lot more of your articles. Fish on.
I came across this very interesting post while researching Howard Carter’s house for my proposed book ‘My Dear Elsie’ based on a collection of letters and postcards I inherited from my late grandmother. As Lady Carnarvon already knows, they were written to my grandmother by her close friend Ethel North who was lady’s maid and companion to Lady Winifred Burghclere, the elder sister of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon. I am currently working on the correspondence that Ethel wrote when she and Lady Burghclere visited Egypt in 1928 and were shown round the Tutankhamun excavations and relics by Howard Carter himself. I’ve just typed up this postcard from Ethel:
“This morning we visited the Temple of Karnak and so another dream came true! The columns are exquisite. Yesterday we crossed the Nile into the desert. Had lunch with Mr Carter at his little house and then spent the rest of the time in the Valley of the Kings and most of that in the tomb of Tutankhamun and the laboratory where the things are being fixed up. Hope to have time for a detailed letter soon.”
If anyone would like to find out more about the project, the website is https://ladyburghclereandethel.com
I think my well research book will show Lord Carnarvon as he was. An olde English genteeleman. He was a great man.
Lord Carnarvon actually shipped the bricks from here. for the house for Howard Carter … hence the nickname – Castle Carter
can you please advise which hotel in Cairo Lord Carnarvon was in when he died. Sorry for asking such personal questions, just want to ensure my book is factual.. Dr Alan Bell http://www.pharaohsbrother.com
Continental Hotel – it was rather lovely with a garden
Thank you for taking the time to share this fascinating history. I work near Newhall and Bretby where I understand Lord Carnarvon owned Bretby Colliery and Bretby Hall. The bricks used to build the foundations of Castle Carter are said to have come from a brickworks in this area, with one book stating they possibly came from either the Stanton Lane brickworks owned by Lake and Sons or the Bretby Brick and Stoneware Company Ltd owned by the Barnes family. Do the family have any records that can clarify where the bricks were made? I run a recording studio on the site of the old Bretby Brick and Stoneware Co. Most of the site has sadly fallen into disrepair. I’ve just started researching the history of the local area as I think it should be celebrated more and hope that highlighting it may kindle an interest in preserving what’s left of the site.
Dear Lady Carnarvon
I am so pleased to read your blog as I was in touch with you about a year ago. I received a Christmas Card from you with regard to my cousin who was in Egypt at the same time as Lord Carnarvon. I visited Highclere Castle two years ago and was fascinated by the wonderful Exhibition of antiquities. I am also interested in your new project in the Barn.
My cousin’s name is Charles Kyrle Wilkinson and I did send some more information about him to you. I hope you received it.
I am still trying to find out more about his work (he has written several books) in the expedition in Egypt. He was there in 1920 when he was reproducing the wonderful drawings in the tombs. He went on to be Curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
I am also keen to find out any more regarding the other people engaged in the exploration. Perhaps some more information has been discovered. I would be thrilled to hear any news.
Regards Diana Gardner
Good evening Lady Carnarvon,
Your blog is always so fascinating to read ,and with such detail ,so much so I keep going back over previous articles.
I to have stayed in the Winter Palace several times,and it conjures up so many memories of a bygone era,indeed the Winter Palace is very much in a time warp with its genteel atmosphere.
I am totally baffled as to why Howard Carter was never ennobled,he was never feted in England and yet America went wild for him.
Very sad indeed.
During the past couple of weeks, our local PBS station aired “The Mummy of Tutankamun”. It was extremely interesting and believe it was as true to history as possible. A very well-done mini series. Hopefully you will be able to see it!
Happy Easter, Happy Spring!
New Hampshire, USA
The name of the French motor car company was “Panhard et Levassor”–the names of the two founders (est. 1887) with the early models, starting in 1890, using the Daimler engine.
I have been researching Panhard Levasseur – amazing machines!
In 2021, US author Candace Fleming wrote a book about the discovery of the tomb for young people, The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun’s Tomb. I’m a middle school librarian in Buffalo, New York, and we’ve been reading it with our 6th graders. We just finised our current unit today, which is ironic considering that today is the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the tomb.
Thank you for posting Howard Carter’s comments on the passing of Lord Carnarvon. The book I mentioned above includes a quote from Lord Carnarvon’s letter to Howard Carter after their argument, written shortly before his death. But it doesn’t have any quotes from Carter’s reaction to Carnarvon’s passing, except to say that he was devastated by the death of his friend. Clearly, the men had a great friendship between them.
The story of the discovery of the tomb is truly amazing!
Happy King Tut Day!