Arriving along the front drive flanked by outriders, the car turns to pull up outside the library doors on a warm late summer’s day. Tall men dressed in overcoats move to open the car door and Luis (our own Mr Carson although Portuguese) is on hand to conduct a familiar figure, dressed in dark colours with his cane, across to where the Earl and Countess are gathered under the spreading cedar tree.
A delicious tea is set out on crisp white linen and those taking part in the scene surreptitiously look down at their scripts to check their lines. Each of them thinks it is strange just how much the few words they are responsible for keep tangling themselves up but reassure themselves that they can wing it if necessary.
My job this week is to finish writing up the little scene I have set out above which is for the amusement of the guests and participants at the “Magic of the Movies” weekend event which takes place this September. Weekends have always been important to Highclere Castle despite the Dowager in Downton Abbey declaiming rather famously that she didn’t understand the concept when she asked Matthew “What is a weekend”. In the last century or so, big country houses have always revolved around wonderful weekend house parties and Highclere used to throw some of the best, entertaining an extraordinary and eclectic range of guests.
Movies are a little like magic in that they immerse us in another world. The whole experience, the vast screen and surrounding sound, as well as the popcorn, takes us away from our own challenges for a brief moment. Bringing these concepts together, we have a weekend with entertainment of our own making along with an excellent jazz band, dancing, costume exhibitions as well, of course, tours of the castle.
Last year we held the event just as we were all emerging from covid. The script was called “An Unexpected Guest” and my abiding memory is of laughter and fun and a lady who walked by me saying “thank you this is wonderful; I am so happy”. It was a sunlit scene but not too hot so once again we are hoping for the weather to be kind to us.
It would be excellent to have guests choosing to dress as Daisy or Mrs Patmore this year as they are such key Downton Abbey characters and my little scene needs afternoon tea so I can bring in the talents of those theoretically preparing it. Plus, since food is involved, inevitably Alfie and Scooby the Labradors may also both have to be in the scene as well.
Neither Downton Abbey nor my script have yet reached the era of WW2 so Churchill was not yet the commanding beacon of history he became. However, given he kindly offered to attend, there was no way I could resist. In any case, he can save the day.
Unlike other species with whom we share our world, we can look back, reassess, imagine and remember. We tell ourselves to live in the moment and enjoy the actual day but that is sometimes easier said than done.
We study the past in order to make better choices both for ourselves and for those who come after us but that sometimes gets waylaid. Churchill had a most imperfect career but ninety years ago he was beating a drum for tougher choices, for not waiting and seeing, not for nicer options but for the right options. He did not always say what people wanted to hear and some of his decisions did not then nor do not now sit well with our 21st century views but in the 1930’s he spoke from his heart and experience.
I think every happy moment increasingly counts for more these days but what is for sure is that in September at Highclere, Winston Churchill will once more save the day and make sure the family are not taken in by “The Undesirable Guest”.
Lady Carnarvon lovely pictures of winston Churchill did you and lord Carnarvon have lovely weekend and lovely to visit highcelere castle and fan of Downton abbey
Thank you – the weekends are busy with visitors!
Church was a great leader in a time when great leaders were needed. I’ve seen too many views of the man that did not take into account the time he lived rather, based on the current lense through which we are living. To do so is wrong and inevitably close minded.
I’m sure the party will be splendid and bring much needed joy and frivolity.
He had a good turn of phrase at all events! We are all very imperfect but my goodness I am not sure we would have kept going without his spirit – and words
My dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you very much, I thoroughly enjoyed that!
Would love to attend in September, it sounds like an amazing fun experience, I wish you all love & luck always,
It is fun…
Lady Carnarvon lovely pictures of winston Churchill and you and lord Carnarvon have a lovely weekend and lovely to visit highcelere castle and a fan of Downton abbey
I love this blog..greetins from Argentina!
Another excellent piece of writing. I have all of Churchill’s writings in my office. I found them in a small used book store in Charleston, SC.
Once again, my travels with my wife and two dear friends to England are just slightly poorly timed. We are there the last week of September and early October. No tickets available. Always next time!
What a wonderful time, I would have given anything to be there.
Interesting Lady Carnarvon,
Good luck planning forward and yes, prayers going out that your weather in September for your weekend event is way cooler than now, dry and not rainy and beginning showing lovely pre Autumn scenes throughout your gardens.
I hope everyone has a lovely weekend.As always Lady Carnarvon wonderful words..
Your Grace, did Churchill ever visit Highclere?
He did in fact visit, but after WWII
My mind leaves this time and place as I read your blogs! You bring imagination to life – and it is such a pleasure to be able to imagine myself on the lawn, or in the saloon, or standing on the drive welcoming guests. All of this because of our trip to England and Highclere. I would love to be there again in September. Thanks again for your stories!
Great article & I love reading them all. The picture of you with the cast of Gatsby Guys & Girls is wonderful!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Well said. History lessons keep us moving forward not to make the same mistakes again. If we don’t keep and teach our history we will repeat the bad mistakes. Wish I lived across the pond to attend.
Hope your weekend is a wonderful success.
Cape May, NJ
Luckily it is a little way away yet as I am not ready!!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon, I have so enjoyed the Downton Abbey series & both movies. We watched the series 3 times already. I’ve also read your book with great enjoyment. I’ve been to England once with my mother in 1994 & it’s my plan to return again next year. A must for me is to visit Highclere Castle. Thank you for continuing to post which allows us to continue the love for your home & country.
My father is 97 years old and still remembers Mr Churchill wanting to go with the troops to Normandy. To this day Mr Churchill is one on father’s heroes!
I think he is all of our heroes!
Greetings from St. Louis, Missouri! First of all, I want to come for that weekend in September (I DO know what a weekend is!) but am already over-booked for most of the month! I should put this on my schedule for next year, as I’d love to return to Highclere. Interesting that you want to include Winston Churchill in your script. The US Winston Churchill Museum is in Fulton, Missouri where he gave the Iron Curtain Speech March 5, 1946. I recently toured the museum and learned I DON’T KNOW ENOUGH…and need to go back! Please join me! I’d welcome you to MY CASTLE! Cheers!
What a particularly evocative Monday missive!
Our visit to your beautiful home and Gardens recently (July 12th) now allow us to fully picture the scenes you describe!
What a long-awaited dream it was to be at Highclere and visit with your wonderful staff in each room. We would like you to know how impressive each of them were, knowledgeable about the history of the castle and the Carnarvon family, and visibly protective of you, your husband and sons, and of your home.
This was our first visit to England, and as we toured your amazing country, we gained an even greater appreciation for your ongoing efforts to maintain Highclere Castle and its rich history.
Much gratitude to you!
Debra and Katie
You’re very kind
I just discovered your blog through a friend. I’m really enjoying it.
Might I suggest an era appropriate guest? The Sealyham Terrier was all the rage in Wales, England and the US before WWII. Captain John Edwardes developed the spunky game terrier for his estate. The terriers helped to control vermin and won hearts quickly.
Photos of Mr Churchill, the Royal family and everyone in old Hollywood had a Sealyham. The Pathe films of Dave and Dusty were quite popular. I always thought it was a real shame that Downton only had the large Labrador, with no small terrier to go to ground. Thank you for listening to my TedTalk today. I do love them.
Your weekends sound like such fun. I would want to be Mrs. Patmore in hopes I could learn her amazing cooking skills!
Winston Churchill was what England needed at the time, standing alone against the Axis powers.
How wonderful to be able to attend this event!
Will it be live streamed by any chance?
I will try to do my best for some of it!
What lovely description & photographs which propel me into the story, very much able to imagine myself there having the time of my life!
Thank you for sharing your stories!
Thank you for another great post! I look forward to your weekly blog posts informing us of what is happening at Highclere Castle.
This looks delightful! How I would love this. And all that jazz too!
Your comment “ We study the past in order to make better choices both for ourselves and for those who come after us” is one that I feel very strongly about. I have often heard comments complaining about history and why students have to study it. I jump in and support history and cheer them on to learn and never repeat the mistakes of the past.
I cheer you on as you share the exciting and special times of days of yore.
What a wonderful idea! And Mr. Churchill has been my hero for many, many years. “Never give up. Never give up. Never, never, ever give up.” And he never did. I hope it turns out to be as much fun as it sounds.
I tend to worry less as I get ever older – this is supposed to be fun and what will be will be
Certainly Mr Churchill ( born at Blenheim Palace not far from Highclere…)will once more save the day ! “All the greatest things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom; justice; honour; duty; mercy; hope.” “If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may be even a worse fate, you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.”
Thank you so much and never give up! Have a nice evening
Thank you we must never give up and my next podcast on this Thursday is looking at what we can each do…
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Will you be doing something special for Friends of Highclere? (I peaked at the site but did not see anything!). In these times, a bit of fun is good medicine for the soul, I am in hopes of attending!
We may offer special early access but as a Friend you can always obtain a ticket ! The first special Highclere Friends events are at Christmas but I think as we journey together we will find more experiences which are particular to Friends
Thank you for brightening my Mondays! I always enjoy your blog posts, and always learn something new. I am a big fan of Churchill, as you know, his Mother was a “Yank”, and visited Fulton College in Missouri, when I was there for my second best friend’s wedding to be the proverbial bridesmaid-36 finally a Bride, where he gave his Iron Curtain speech. If you ever get to Missouri, you should visit this place. They brought a church that had been destroyed during the Blitz, and rebuilt it there.
Again, thanks for making Mondays more bearable.
That sounds amazing
I was privileged in Spokane to see many of the outfits from the first movie at a local exhibit. They included pictures of the scenes which brought happy memories from my tour to The Castle.
I have such an immense passion for movies. I always have. I’m the dorky person that gives you the unsolicited trivia on all the movies and actors. I also love just looking at all the props in the background of movies and tv shows. I wish I had majored in film props or production when I was young. At 52 I think I may be able to start now. That even looks like it was SO fun!! Id love to come and watch it be filmed and watch how it is put together! I just started planned a trip to the UK last night. My cousins live there and I haven’t been there since 1998. Thank you for these great blogs! They are so much fun to read!
MY DEAR LADY CARNARVON,
GOOD AFTERNOON FROM BRAZIL, MILADY,
I LOVE REMENBERING THE 20 ‘S, THE PAST CENTURY, AFTER WW1, THE PARTIES, THE CLOTHES, THE CHARLESTON MUSIC, MY MONOGRAPH IN UNIVERSITY IN LITERARY THEORY, WAS THE BOOK “THE GREAT GATSBY ” BY SCOTT FITZGERALD AND I GOT A MAXIMUM RATING,, GOOD TIMES AT UNIVERSITY, I WAS VERY HAPPY.
BEAUTIFUL SUMMER FOR YOU MILADY
LA VIE EST BELLE.
RIO CLARO – SP
Mr Churchill loved movies. I’ve read that his favorite film and one of mine was That Hamilton Woman, and he was great friends with Alex Korda the first film director to be honoured with a knighthood.
Today was my happy day as my husband and I had the pleasure of touring your beautiful castle. We so enjoyed seeing in person the rooms and grounds that were part of the Downton Abbey series.
We also appreciated the King Tut exhibit and learned so much about your family and their relationship with Mr. Carter. How thrilling it must have been for them to make such a discovery.
Thank you for opening up your home and estate. A very happy and special day indeed!!!!
Wish we could come back in September.
Wonderful – sorry to miss you I was writing this blog this morning and writing up the Highclere Festival after that! Bit of a computer day until I did a bit of gardening.. the dogs were happy with that
Lady Carnarvon, wonderful story today. Back in history, it would have been an honour to meet this incredible man. Happy summer days to you. Cheryl.
Dearest Countess Carnarvon,
As always, it is a joy to read of the exciting happenings at Highclere. I still fondly remember boarding the train to Newbury from London, and the conductor upgrading our party to first class because he liked my fur hat. I knew it was going to be a day in my life I would never forget. Gazing out the large viewing window at the frost covered fields took me back in time, and I imagined grand weekends of the past at Highclere Castle.
Nothing quite prepares one for the first glimpse of the fields of chartreuse that frame Highclere. The frost covered lawn, the bluest of winter skies, and the faint clouds that lay in the valleys of the landscape welcomed us up the walkway to the magnificent sight of Highclere castle.
We had come to Sing for Peace, and had rehearsed the songs on the ride up. How exciting to see you, Lord Carnarvon, and the former Archbishop if Canterbury greeting those arriving in the beautiful morning light. Having been at Canterbury the day before, I had been given Christmas greetings to extend to the former Archbishop, and to you and Lord Carnarvon by Dean Willis. To learn that the former Archbishop and I had mutual friends in Nashville was certainly the icing on the scone the frost seemed to represent. To be introduced to the 8th Earl and Countess Carnarvon by the former Archbishop of Canterbury was an honor, and a beloved Christmas gift that was far beyond my expectations. The unity of spirit was echoed in melody that glorious morning, and shown on the faces of the children’s choir as they led us in song. Their angelic voices lifted us all into a divine realm of joy that was and is unspeakable.
As the day unfolded, the beauty of Highclere was a delight to behold. As we wandered the grounds, scenes of past events on this December Day floated through our imaginations, but nothing rivaled our present delight to just simply be and enjoy each other, enjoying our serendipitous situation. As we toured the castles interiors, we were further enchanted by it’s rarified scent, the light that poured in it’s stately windows, and the perfectly placed antique furniture. The portraiture punctuated the interior space perfectly, as did the paintings, tapestries, and other objects of art placed thoughtfully about.
As a lover of all things Egyptian, how wonderful it was to discover the Museum in the lower level of the castle. I could have spent the entire day here, and at some future date, fully intend to.
Thanks to all who keep Highclere Castle a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and especially to The 8th Earl and Countess Carnarvon for their generous hospitality. Don’t fail to visit the gift shop at Highclere Castle. The pieces I purchased there are a daily delight, and reminders of a day full of the wonder and splendor life brings to those who visit the lovely town of Newbury, and Highclere Castle.
Do you know we are not a World Heritage Site but I wonder sometimes if we could see if it we would qualify a little … I think it is the sense of layers of history here, the fact that we can walk through time in space
Sir Winston’s Grand-Daughter, Celia Sandys is a friend. I always love when she talks about the times she had with Grand Father, she is keeping his spirit alive. She helped care for him when she was younger, a truly remarkable man.
I know her sister quite well – great stories!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
It is an inspired decision of yours to choose the character of Sir Winston Churchill to ‘save the day’ in September.
Quite appropriately for Highclere, one of Churchill’s famous speeches contains the sentence:
“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.”
Best wishes for every success and a most enjoyable time.
I like that quote – I had quite forgotten it!
CAN’T WAIT!!!!!!! Costumes and carefree fun awaits. Like that 60’s song, “See You In September”
Fun times at Highclere! I enjoyed reading about how you and your staff provide gaiety and historical and nostalgic entertainment on weekends. I am also a Winston Churchill fan. A great leader is not perfect, it’s his or her humanity that is respected. I hope to take Viking’s Churchill’s Britain tour one day. Please write an entry of his visit to Highclere. Highclere has been honored by so many visits of famous and/or respected people!
I just booked a cruise on Viking Mars, of which you are godmother, for 2024. So many connections to Highclere since we are going to Egypt with Viking in November! Wishing you a safe and fun summer.
Thank you so much
I was privileged to meet Celia Sandys once. It was my greatest thrill to shake her hand and thank her. Her grandfather saved the world. I sometimes wonder how the world was so fortunate that his life was lived at the exact right time. His speeches will live as long as the English language exists. He has been and will be my hero as long as I live.
I’m so excited to look forward to attending this fun weekend with my daughter!
We will dress for a part of some kind and so look forward to meeting you and seeing your beautiful Home.
Good well I have just finished first script draft
Hello Lady Carnarvon and Team
Greetings from The Lake District.
My sister and I came to the Magic of the Movies last year. We had the most wonderful time. I may even have been the one who said ‘so happy’ because I was being wonderfully happy all around Highclere!
We enjoyed the lovely Afternoon Tea picnic box and drank your champagne, danced along with the Gatsby Boys and Girls and the wonderful Dance Band, (the singer was terrific). We toured your brilliant Home.
So much, so interesting, SO HAPPY!
Lots of your guests had taken so much care with their costumes, it was fascinating and it all added to the feeling of being part of that era.
Your little production of The Unexpected Guest was delightful, such fun. It did give an interesting insight into what happens when filming at Highclere occurs.
Good Luck with your plans for this years’ event. With Mr. Churchill on your Team as well it is bound to be a spectacular success.
Very Best wishes
Thank you so much – it is sometimes quite hard to explain in words what fun it is – and fun, laughter, smiles going round on a carousel, being with people lift us up
I so enjoy your writings but this stirred emotions and memories of delight for me. As an eight year old American girl living in England, I had much to learn. I recall a bitter cold November eve when my mother told me to get in the car and we drove to Harrods School, just a few miles from where we lived outside London. We stood outside a building, with ten others, waiting to see an important man. That man, Winston Churchill, came out of his meeting, walked over to me, took my hand, and said, “and how are you, young lady.” I didn’t understand his impact on history at the time, but learning about him helped me learn so much about my British roots. Thanks for such a fun and thought provoking account!
Dear Lady Carnavon,
I absolutely adore your blog!
As an avid fan of not only Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle and all things “UK” related, I am delighted to share that my dear friend and I are attending the Magic at the Movies festivities on September 11. We are visiting from Lake Tahoe, California & I can’t think of a better way to spend the day. It is always a somber day in the United States as we collectively reflect on the significance and sorrow of the day. My hope is that we will create lovely memories to carry into the future and have reason to smile.
Thank you for sharing your home and continually creating positive and happy posts for all of us to enjoy.
I look forward to seeing you!
Churchill was an inspiring war timePrime Minister.
Reading his speeches I wondered if I would be brave enough to fight for my country if the enemy landed here.I think I would have been because he has woken something inside of me I didn’t know I had.
Looking forward to visiting Highclere this summer.
Read up on Winston’s own account in the Great Escapes book and other writings how he escaped during the Boer war in the late 1890s in South Africa from a POW camp mostly by rail. Very few men have the courage to boldly stand up against evil like he did in WWI and WWII. Admittedly, he did make some strategic errors concerning the battle of Gallopoli and other situations. In 1965 shortly before his death, he warned the world of the Iron Curtain descending upon Europe. Fascinating leader you country had. We need so desperately more like him.
Couldn’t agree more!
I loved reading about this special weekend. After a delay of two years due to the coronavirus, we were able to visit Highclere Castle on Wednesday, July 20th, and had a wonderful time! We explored the gardens, walked out to the Greek columns, toured the castle, and read all of the captions on the exhibit of Lord Carnarvon’s Egyptian discoveries. Afterward we enjoyed High Tea with lovely sandwiches and cakes. We had a very special day—thank you for sharing your beautiful castle!
I am so pleased that you enjoyed your day with us
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for this Monday’s blog. Cute picture of you and the Gatsby Guys and Girls.
I was drawn to the photograph showing the period costumes. Find the clothing from that time period looking so comfortable, yet eloquent, and “put together”.
Enjoyed reading the brief history on Sir Winston Churchill. He was in the right place at the right time. At this moment, the whole world desperately needs more leaders such as him.
Until next week, keep preparing that script.
P.S. Hope you had a Happy Christmas in July! Hard to believe there are only five months left before the holiday season and the new year.
Bravo, wish I could attend! And Churchill was a pivotal and courageous hero during WWII. We need heros like him now that’s for sure!
Now that we have moved near Newbury, we’ll finally be able to attend the event! A nice gift for our wedding anniversary (just 5 years!) I’m very busy preparing our costumes. I’ll be Lady Mary, albeit much smaller than the original and French too! Our children, who are conveniently 3, will be George, Sibby and Marigold. I wish I could find an old pram to complete the general look of our family! Can’t wait to be there. I just hope it won’t rain…