The latest series that turned everyone into big porcelain tea cups is the massively popular “Downton Abbey.” Not only does it have a great story, amazing actors, out-of-this-world costumes and a much needed fix of British aristocratic posh that we all desperately need, it has one of the greatest sets ever.
And the best thing about the set, it’s truly authentic in everything but its name. Although it is a private estate, it’s is a highly demanded travel tour destination. The name of this majestic architectural gem is Highclere castle and it truly has a dramatic history.
Lord Porchester was stationed in India in March 1923 when he received a telegram from Egypt, saying that his father, the 5th Earl of Carnavon, was dangerously ill.
Porchey arrived with his young and glamorous Anglo-American wife Catherine, to whom he had been married for less than a year, at the Continental Hotel Cairo, where his mother had already arrived to be at his father’s side. That very same evening Porchey had dinner with his sister Evelyn and his father’s colleague Howard Carter.
Evelyn had been at their father’s side when he and the 5th Earl unsealed Tutankhamen’s tomb, six weeks before that. Now, the 5th Earl of Carnavon, also the first man to enter the tomb, was dangerously ill. He died the very same night.
His death became a newspaper headline almost as great as the discovery of the tomb. “The curse of Tutankhamen” was actually blood poisoning, contracted from a mosquito bite that the 5th Earl had nicked while shaving which festered in the Egyptian heat.
The death of his father made Porchester the 6th Earl of Carnavon and his wife the Countess and mistress of Highclere castle.
Almina, Porchester’s mother, had been running the estate for 27 years and she was the best woman for the job – she had a powerful personality and unlimited energy for getting things done.
Catherine, on the other hand, was not anything like her mother-in-law, but she had Evelyn by her side.
Porchester had other problems, one of them being debt, and he was told that he will have to sell the house which he adored. The only person who could help him was his mother, who was preparing to leave, so she walked among the castle walls putting stickers with “AC” on her belongings, like art which had been given to her by her father and some furniture.
Her late husband had left his valuable Egyptian collection and all of his racehorses to her, and this made Porchester feel really, really sad. Almina married again, 8 months after her husband’s death, while Catherine and Porchey had a baby boy in 1924, and nine months later, they were expecting again. Porchester’s debt now needed to be paid, and he was faced with a difficult decision – what to sell.