What a weekend!
Any weekend arrangements in England begin with a discussion about the vagaries of the British weather and at Highclere it is no different. This past weekend it was a particularly important consideration as we had planned a classic English Garden Party with picnics, cocktails, period costumes and music. We asked everyone to come dressed in Edwardian costume as if we were going back in time to the first season of “Downton Abbey”.
Sadly, perhaps predictably, on the first day of this two-day event, the weather was truly British. It rained all day, occasionally with almost monsoon-like intensity and at other times like a misty drizzle, all with the same result that it was very, very wet. Undeterred, all our wonderful guests, our entertainers and our staff set to and created a truly magical and memorable atmosphere. Straw hats may have been a little wilted in the damp but everyone made the best of it.
The Morris Dancers moved indoors to the saloon and were a novelty to many who had specially flown in from afar and “Prize Giving” was conducted with me standing on a chair in the shelter of tea tent, rather than outside by our special podium. The judges all went in search of our winners, from hats to costumes. Luis, our own Butler, gravely inspected the guests for the best dressed “Carson” and, of course, it was my husband’s task to choose a Lord Grantham.
The second day was fortunately drier. The sun came out and the carousel came into its own. Sarah from our gift shop took charge of the croquet lawn showing a number of wives how to disqualify their husbands with various cunning shots. The policeman on stilts arrested the real policeman and there were some outstanding hats creating a picture perfect scene.
In amidst of the fun we took a short moment to remember in silence those who died on 9/11 (it was the fifteenth anniversary) and to play the Star Spangled Banner in their memory. I read a short poem by Joyce Grenfell which one of my sisters read at my father’s funeral:
If I should go before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone,
Nor when I’m gone speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must, Parting is hell,
But Life goes on, so sing as well.
Downton has shown us all how to go on and the phrases and scenes are remembered in everyday conversation. What, indeed, is a weekend?
It is now nearly time for the Emmys and Highclere wishes Downton Abbey the Best of British!
We came on Saturday to this wonderful event….. The heavens opened and it was typical British weather….but, it was absolutely fantastic… What a wonderful , awesome day..the wet weather didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits …and the atmosphere was unbeleivable…. . Can’t wait for the flapper event next year…so much looking forward to it… Xxx
Looks like a wonderful event, weather notwithstanding. However, could you arrange lovely Autumn weather when we visit on 18 October? 😉
As usual Lady Carnarvon your narrative style is most captivating and enchanting. Must have been a fabulous weekend and I wish the cast and crew of Downton Abbey all the best.
What a wonderful event! Wish we had been there! We were there the week before on Tuesday. When much to our pleasure, as we were about to leave, a beautifully restored Rolls pulled up to the castle and you, your son and Lord Carnarvon arrived! We had so much fun at Highclere and a wonderful high tea in the coach house! Thank you for sharing your magnificent home with the world! A Highclere and Downton Abby Fan from the Maine, USA!
I was touched to read that you remembered the 9/11 tragedy including the Star Spangled Banner. Thank you from the USA!
In all that rain, what a wonderful tribute to the British habit of soldiering on. Well done. Coincidentally, many Americans spent the weekend binge watching the entire Downton Abbey series. It was great to see Highclere once again. Loved the poem. I copied it and put it in my file for my kids to read for my own funeral.
I hope your funeral is not for many years!!!
Every time I read your blog I come away with a gift…beautiful photographs, smiles, history, perspective, and sometimes tears. Rain could not dampen the fun you all had, and thank you for the beautiful tribute to 9/11. We all have our memories, frozen in time, of where we were and what we were doing when that horrific event unfolded. Thank you, too, for sharing the magnificent poem by Joyce Grenfell. I am not familiar with her writings, but I will research now! And indeed,” Life goes on, so sing as well.” Thank you from the bottom of my heart….those words resonate in mine.
Thank you – my sister Sarah found the poem. I often turn to poetry and am interspersing my current writings with poetry and quotes. I hope people will enjoy it.
What a wonderful weekend it looked, despite the rain, I would have loved to have been there, but couldn’t attend due to having to attend a wedding, hopefully next year. What a lovely moving poem, to remember all those who lost their lives on 9/11.
Come next year!! Same weekend but now the 1920’s
The costumes and party pictures are most thrilling to me as a dear lover of Downton Abbey. Being in the USA prohibits me from participating in those marvelous parties and sitting and contemplating on your lovely grounds. Hope one day to return.
I love the continued work and fun you have at the castle remembering and keeping the history and past alive. In fact I’m purchasing a home and B&B mansion built in 1900 which is early for America. We will be doing some of the same here. Thank you for remembering our fallen in the states. God Bless to you all.
I can attest to the wonderful and exciting weekend at Highclere Castle. I was very fortunate to attend and loved every minute of it. You and your husband were such endearing hosts. We loved seeing you throughout the lovely Sunday event (no rain day). From the moment we stepped onto the grounds of Highclere, I was so thankful that I had made the decision to attend the Garden Party. It was well planned and gave each guest a glimpse into the wonderful property you are caring for and sharing. Of course, my iPhone was busy most of the day catching the magic to remember after returning home. My cousin, Vicki from London, attended with me and also had a lovely time. We took great pleasure in having the opportunity to speak with the guides inside the castle who gave us lovely information from their perspectives. Rupert in the morning room was endearing, as were each of the ladies we met. To my surprise, many other Americans came to the event…I heard 76% on Sunday? The carousel at the event was built in my mother’s home town of Kingslyynn and lovingly restored a 100 years later. What fun to have the beautiful grounds to walk around and experience a “wee bit” of what life is like for your family.
Thank you, Lord and Lady Carnarvon, for your gracious hospitality, and for the opportunity to meet you. I was most interested that your Mother-in-law is originally from Sheridan, Wy, which is the former home of my husband. I did extend an invitation to Lord Carnarvon to visit us in Denver on your next trip! I hope to attend next year and bring friends with me.
I hope you do come back next year – Rupert is great fun and looked immaculate. Curiously I think the Sunday had far more British – Americans were aware of the date (9/11) and we had not forewarned our intention to stop and remember …
All were and are welcome however.
My wife and I together with 2 guests from Lancashire thoroughly enjoyed the day (Sunday 11th)
It was a ĺovely experience in a relaxed happy atmosphere
and we enjoyed dressing up for the occasion
Dear Lady Carnarvon: Thank you, again, so much for inviting us into the adventures and life at Highclere Castle. I like to imagine myself in the scenes, dressed in Edwardian finery, and being part of them. I just lost my Mom this week so the poem was especially poignant. Gratefully, Kathy Stewart.
I am so sorry for you – a backstop and a constant in you life.
Oh, to have been there even if it meant leaving Puert Rico’ sun for the Hampshire drizzzle. Kudos to you for carrying on so splendidly.
Thank you so very very much for an amazing experience, the Edwardian period has always been my partners and I most favourite time, and the whole day felt as if the clocks had been turned back. The organisation and atmosphere made it truly special.
Hopefully next year it’ll all happen again, if so, we’ll be there
I will see you in less than a year then !!
Your touching poem that you printed was a very kind gesture. We in the USA are still deeply saddened by that day. The effects of that act are still being felt by first responders and other who have developed cancer and respiratory diseases as a result of that day.
So thank you for your kind gesture .
Despite the weather it appears that all went well! Happy for your success and as an American it is very touching to know that 9/11 was honored and acknowledged. Thank you.
It was a wonderful weekend and our band played the Star Spangled Banner well I hope!
– I know you may think me a bit crazy – but being in a drought here in California, I miss the rain….Love you sharing your events, love the way you always remember the past and the people who lost their lives before their time. Keep up the good works!
We had quite a few tents which was good and standing on chairs out of the rain to give prizes was hilarious and fun… I am so happy our guests came
Sounds like a good time was had by all!
Once, when the movie Titanic was out, we attended a “Titanic Dinner” and the patrons were asked to dress in 1912 attire. We did it up well…as my husband even rented a proper set of ‘tails’ since his own tux was way too modern! We dined on the replicated ‘last dinner’ right down to the wine pairings and had a wonbderful time.
My dream would be to attend the event you just had some day. (if I ever get over my fear of flying…otherwise we’d have to sail over!)
Thank you for your wonderful peeks into life at Highclere.
Watch Downton Abbey on the plane and you will forget you are on it!
Yes it rained on Saturday but it did not dampen the enthusiasm and spirit of the guests! There were plenty of places to take cover including inside the castle. How could you not feel like one of the Granthams? I saw nothing but smiles on everyone! It was great to experience Sunday as well in the sunshine. I think everyone was taken with the kind and generous hospitality of Lord and Lady Carnarvon and the entire Highclere family. I highly recommend the Vintage Garden Party to everyone. It was an experience of a lifetime. Thank you for opening up your beautiful home and allowing guests to feel they belonged there. Well done!!
Thank you so much…
Lovely post. Thank you for your remembrance of Sept. 11. We had a special celebration at church for all the ‘helpers’ in the community – fire, police, EMS, and chaplains – and it was great. We were battling rain ourselves here in Charleston, SC, but it held off enough for the kids to enjoy all the fun equipment the first responders brought with them – fire engines, police cars, and even a search and rescue bloodhound! 🙂
I, too, will be saving the poem by Joyce Grenfell as it resonates with me. Thank you for sharing it.
I very much enjoyed checking out all the costumes in the pictures! I love the ‘Downton Line-up’ pic in front of Highclere aka ‘The Abbey’.
Cheers, and I hope it has been a little less rainy for you this past week so far.
So wish I could have been there! Rain or shine it looks like a wonderful time was had by all! What a great idea, perhaps an annual event?!
I hope you will be here next year – you would enjoy it., yes except next year The third series of Downton Abbey, flappers and the 1920’s. I think we can all learn the Charleston. I am going to get a marquee with a dance floor so lets dance! I might bring back the carousel as I really enjoyed that.
This was a lot of great fun to be part of, I had so much fun over this weekend & I was working there hee hee 🙂 to my shock I won 3rd place prize in the best dressed down stairs as a Chauffeur my prize was presented by Lady Carnarvon.. Saturday was a weee bit damp but working on the Gate with my colleagues Pat, Vikki & Robert we make the visitors very welcome with our witty chat 🙂 And the highlight of the weekend for me was ALL Staff on the Carousel with Lord & Lady Carnarvon 🙂 as well as the Famous V Photos of us all dressed up 🙂
So Looking forward to Next Year Lord & Lady Carnarvon
Paul 🙂 🙂
Are you going to be a chauffeur again Paul? Young Robert was very dashing as Thomas and Scottish Robert can perhaps treat everyone to some bagpipes next year.
What a fabulous time my friend Marina and I had. From the moment we left Ipswich in Suffolk we were so excited. Highclere Castle did not disapoint. The organisers must have worked so hard. Loved it and cant wait until we go again next year.
Oh, this looks so fun! In spite of the weather!
You always make the most of it!
Thank you for remembering our beloved United States and our tragedy.
Worldwide , we should Never Forget.
I love the poem.
Thank you for sharing.
Carol & Dr. Tom Sawyer
Carol and Tom thank you. September 2018 I am going to return to that theme – never forgetting and always remembering.
Sounds like fun! Thank you for remembering 9/11.
I am truly amazed by your blog and enjoy the wonderful events taking place in Highclere Castle. Love the poem and have re-copied it for my service. Spent the whole weekend watching Downton Abbey! 9/11 was certainly a tragedy, one we will never forget and to remember all people and faiths are precious and be kind to one another!
Courtesy matters doesn’t it? In fact some of our team were dressed up in different roles, but above all, they were there helping people have a good time. I have planted quite a few roses called “Compassion” they are lovely but the word or name matters to me.
email is correct! thank you
Like always I am pleased to read all of your blogs. Being an American I appreciate your effort to remember those who lost their lives on that terrorfing day of 9/11 and how it has changed Americans forever.
Thank you for remembering to think of the USA on the 11th even though it was your party day. We appreciate the thoughts of our friends from around the world.
I’m glad to hear that you were able to be outdoors at least one day. I brought my mom this past July for her 75th birthday and we had a gorgeous day! I was so glad because I was able to enjoy your beautiful gardens. Stunning!
I was surprised and delighted that Lord and Lardy were at Highclere to greet us and share their home with us for the day. The picnic was lovely, the Morse Dancers stunning, and the juggler entertaining. All the photographs that you’ve displayed around the castle truly make if feel like your home. The rain/drizzle did not dampen my spirits. I’ll treasure my picture with each of you. Thanks for being lovely, down-to-earth people. Don’t know if I’ll get to England to do this again. If I do, I want to come again to walk some of the paths around the grounds.
Thanks for the poem and thoughts for 9/11 families.
You and your staff did a super job on this event. Hope you do it again so others can experience the joy of being at Highclere Castle.
Middleton, WI, USA
It is our home – our idea and our pleasure to share it. All our Highclere team had fun too that is life…
Oh, what fun!! I think I might be just a little bit jealous! Please keep the posts coming, they’re so enjoyed and bless you for observing September 11! A very, very sad day for America, my home.
It was a sad day and I was trying to choose a poem that acknowledged the pain and yet we have to go on..
Weather is always a factor, isn’t it? Here during the summer months wind would most likely be a concern. Rain possibly, Even hail or threats of a tornado. We carry on, none-the-less. The costumes are all so beautiful and authentic. The gathering looks to have been a grand event. We will be cheering for Downton Abbey for its Emmys. My favorite would have been the carousel.
Looks like everyone had a wonderful time despite the weather. The costumes looked beautiful and who else but the Carnarvon’s would have had so many different activities like a policeman on stilts. Thank you for the silent moments and playing the Star Spangled Banner in memory of all the lost souls from that dreadful day. That is just another example of why you both are so loved by many people.
The policeman on stilts was marvellous and I have rebooked him -he was hilarious
Once again my spirit was lifted, my imagination inspired, and a smile on my face! Thank you for sharing and to all who “carried on”!! I love the rain and move about in it as others do on sunny days. I will also be pulling for Downton Abbey for the Emmy win. Again, many thanks.
I hope they do bring home a few prizes. Downton has given many people much pleasure.
Thank you, thank you, for a once in a lifetime event. We came from Boston for your lovely party, and are still reveling in the experience. It was truly a feast for the eyes being there with everyone in period dress. Touring your lovely home and seeing the Egyptian exhibit was amazing in itself, but adding the picnic lunch and festivities made it a perfect day! I enjoyed meeting both you and your charming husband, and have many wonderful photos to remember the day. Many thanks for the remembrance of 9/11 in the midst of all the gaiety. A beautifully planned event resulting in many new friends from around the globe.
Thank you for coming and for your compliments.
Oh how wonderful it must have been! Thank you for keeping us “there” with you all at Highclere Castle, through this delightful blog. I made a wish on a falling star after I received the very nice invitation to join you all for the Vintage Garden Party. I even did a bit of internet research for a “Mrs. Patmore” outfit ( and I see that there were several very fine servants and cooks attending! ) But the Greek Fates had other plans, so I was unable to come. Hopefully there will be another such event in the future. I must say, looking at the photos, your husband is a perfect “Lord Grantham”! And you are amazing on the carousel, too, what elegance ! In the true spirit of Downton Abbey and Highclere Castle, it was so special of you to remember 9/11 and those who left us so tragically. I was visiting in Chicago on that fateful day…may we Never Forget! Thank you for printing the poem…it is very special indeed.
Thank you for your thoughts of us on 9/11. We lost 2 dear friends on Flight 93 – a most unfortunate mishap as they were originally scheduled for a later flight but changed to Flight 93 for an earlier departure to a family reunion on the West Coast. What irony – if they had only stayed put and waited. Very sad. Blessings for the rain. We are suffering drought here where normally it is lush and green and we enjoy abundant produce and orchard fruits. Without rain there is no life – also very sad.
I am so sorry for you and your friends. I debated reading a verse from W H Auden about the loss of those you love –
the central verse speaks of them as being (adapted lines !)
your north, your south, you east, your west, Your working week, your Sunday rest, Your noon, your midnight, your talk, your song, If you thought that love would last forever, You were wrong.
I try to learn the odd poem by heart -that one, by Auden. touches me every time I try to say it however! I felt Joyce Grenfell had a way of life to carry on with…
Oh what fun! I wish we could have joined in.. Back in the states though.. However, kudos to all who braved the weather and where’s the video of the dancers (:
Hello Lady Carnarvan,
How I envy you all that nice rain! We haven’t had any measurable rainfall in weeks and I love the rain. Everything here is drying up and hand watering isn’t enough. I never let the rain stop me from doing anything, I guess it’s my British heritage. It looks like everyone had a great day, and what beautiful costumes, it makes me wish we could dress like that everyday!!
Greetings Lady Carnarvan,
This event looks like it was a delight! I’m sure you enjoyed all the costumes and revelry. The costumes were spectacular, to be sure. When I visited Highclere Castle this July, it was raining also. However, the breathtaking castle and grounds were so beautiful I didn’t even notice the rain. I’m sure you feel much the same and it seems like there were more smiles than raindrops. I hope ypu have a lovely weekend. What is that?. I’m sure you are asking. (laughing)
Ann Catherine Flood
That is the question I am asking in my next book. I am trying to tell you stories from the past and make you laugh today!
we were fortunate enough to attend the Highclere Garden Party on the sunny Sunday and felt extremely lucky after the dreadful weather the day before. We had a wonderful day, one we will remember for a long time to come. It was so much fun to dress in period costume especially whilst exploring the beautiful house itself. i must admit to a few moments where my mind wandered, my posture improved and i rather fancied myself as the lovely Lady Mary!!! Needless to say i am a huge Downton Abbey fan!!
All the effort that Lord and Lady Carnarvon put into such an incredible day and their great passion in keeping Highclere thriving is clear to see.
Our thanks for a splendid day and also for giving us all a moment to remember the dear people lost in the tragedy of 9/11, one of whom was from our home town.
So hoping you will make this an annual event, maybe the next era in Downton? We have several more series to cover!!
Luckily for us all, we can just move gently forward in time..
We were fortunate enough to attend the first day of the Vintage Garden Party – the tickets came courtesy of Pork Farm as a competition prize. Despite the grey skies and incessant rain, we had the most brilliant time and want to say thank you to all concerned. The Highclere staff certainly joined in the fun and I was thrilled to be chosen as a finalist in the costume competition with my “below stairs” maid’s get-up. Watching Lady Carnarvan perch on a chair in the tea tent to announce prize winners was a priceless moment! Another highlight, of course, was heading inside the castle and having a close-up view of the magnificent interior. We would love to return very soon – especially as we had to rush around some of the rooms as we had seriously miscalculated on time! There had been so many fun distractions beforehand and the Egyptian exhibition was absolutely breath-taking. Thank you so much, Lord and Lady Carnarvan, for such a memorable day!
It was a wobbly chair !!!
Thank you for such a special and magical time! It was more than I had imagined and so loved seeing your home. i was fortunate to attend on the beautiful and sunny Sunday. What fun to meet so many new friends from all over the world and loved the fabulous costumes. Also, thank you for remembering 9/11.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
What a weekend, indeed! It looks like all who were present had a great time and relished the occassion. Your photos show some wonderful costumes and what a beautiful carousel. Isn’t it wonderful to see how the child in all of us can so easily be rekindled. The smiles on the faces of your guests riding the carousel attest to that.
The wonderful English language (especially when combined with English wit) provides some very amusing “one liners”, headlines and the like such as “Bill Posters is innocent” and, as is appropriate for the present theme:
“The carousel workers took industrial action and started a rotating strike”.
On that note, I shall sign off and wish you and all other fellow bloggers (whose entries I also enjoy reading) a wonderful and enjoyable weekend.
It was fun – join us another year!
Dearest Lady Carnarvon,
You have no idea the Joy your wonderful writings and pictures bring into my life! I am so deeply grateful to you for sharing your time and insight with us. I too will reasure the poem.
You are an amazing woman! Although I may never realize my dream to come to Highclere and meet you, as I am in a wheelchair and homebound in Minnesota, USA; your postings make me feel so welcome to virtually become a part of Highclere life. Thank you for the dedication and kindness of sharing your lives with the world. It is such a bright spot amid all the horrific news with which we can be bombarded.
Thanks also for making the the gift shop available internationally. It is fun to be able to purchase momentos from the estate. Family and friends have been delighted when receiving little surprises actually from Highclere! 😀
Kindest regards to You and Lord Carnarvon,
Thank you Sandy. I hope this blog is like opening page of a book. Books are so amazing as they transport you to other lives and worlds. I am always thinking of how travel was harder with horses and ships, so writing and reading were important. I hope they have a resonance today and I am so happy you enjoy this !
Fantastic! A rainy and joyful weekend at Highclere Castle! As some wrote, I would have liked to be there. Too old probably to make the trip and everything. But then I can still enjoy it from here, on my Apple computer. Loved the posted pictures and remembered the Morris Dancers I have seen in Kent this year. Funny. I saw them in some series with Inspector Barnaby, they are mentioned in Downton Abbey and I heard the sound of their music in Outlander. Omnipresent!
Thank you Lady Carnarvon for the home “reportage”. With my kindest regards.
Quite a few of our staff had never seen Morris Dancers – I remember them from childhood hence their appearance. I also tried to demonstrate what they did around our meeting room explaining I had imaginary bells on my legs…I remember the expressions of my audience ….in fact they were great!
For more than a week after we went home to the flat Fields of Flanders,
a part of our spirit remained in the charming waving gardens and dazzling rooms at Highclere Castle.
Highclere stole our heart… Or was it king Tut who kept some of our essence?
Thank you again for the beautiful memories. We hope to visit you again!
Kindest regards to You and Lord Carnarvon
Since we have hosted 5 parties at our home over the Downton years, our family and friends were thrilled to hear we were coming to your wonderful event. We kept them up to date with the costume creating and Highclere email diaglogue before our departure and then many pictures of the BIG DAY which are still surfacing. My husband and I attended the Saturday and were so glad we had borrowed the pipe band rain capes which kept us comfy and dry (not the hats though) throughout the day and we must have taken them on and off twenty times as the ebb and flow of precipitation warranted. We met many lovely people and your home is grand but so welcoming and warm. Everything was a delight, from the colourful box lunches, to the entertainment and staff, the decorated venues and of course always my favourite – the Carousel! The next day we took our picnic to the top of Beacon Hill and imagined all the fun your guests were having below. Now that we are back in Canada we wanted to say “Thank you so much!”
We set up salon for the weekend offering vintage inspired make overs, every woman that sat in the styling seat had a different and colourful story to tell about their journey and love for Highclere.
Styling Lady Carnarvon each day was a delight and we can’t wait to come back.
This sounds like an event that many of us here in Tulsa, Oklahoma would like to attend…how do we get on the invitation list? Several of us travel together, cruising throughout Europe and the easier to reach Alaska. This year we traveled with Viking through France, Germany and ending in Prague.
Each day was different but I hope both full of humour and warmth. Isn’t Beacon Hill amazing? I also love going up there is wild and wintry weather. We are going to hold a similar event next year same time. This time it will be the flappers era, and a bit of Charleston!
You could always try a fjord cruise with Viking next year and coincide with us here ? I have Karine Hagen’ s (the family behind Viking Cruises) dog at my feet whilst I type. She is staying with me as we have our “puppy party” coming up. A moment of relaxation with all the puppies born here returning for the afternoon – plus their friends!!!
Let us know if you wish to come and we can let you know when we release the tickets..
Oh WHAT fun!!!!! Love all the pictures and the costumes!!!
My friend and I traveled from central Florida to attend the Garden Party at the lovely Highclere Castle. We were there on Saturday and had a fabulous time in spite of the weather!