lord carnarvon


4,000 Houses for 4,000 Followers: No 20:

Highclere Castle, Hampshire, England. 

Rebuilt 1839-42 by Sir Charles Barry, with a park by Capability Brown. 

Was the home of Lord Carnarvon, friend and sponsor of Howard Carter, and is the main filming location of Downton Abbey. 

November 26, 1922: Archaeologists Enter King Tutankhamun’s Tomb

On this day in 1922, British archaeologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered King Tutankhamun’s tomb. They were the first humans to enter the tomb in more than 3,000 years. King Tutankhamun’s sealed burial chambers were found intact and included a gold coffin containing the mummy of the teenage king.

The excavation process of the four-room tomb took several years and uncovered an incredible collection of thousands of objects, which shed light on the culture and history of ancient Egypt.

Explore King Tut’s magnificent tomb with Secrets of Pharaohs’ interactive tour.

Photo: Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images


Presently, details of the room emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues and gold – everywhere the glint of gold. For the moment – an eternity it must have seemed to the others standing by – I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand in suspense any longer, inquired anxiously “Can you see anything?”, it was all I could do to get out the words “Yes, wonderful things”.

The Diary of Howard Carter - November 26th, 1922

Lord Carnarvon reading.

Lord Carnarvon was more than a silent financial partner in the discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun. Were it not for him, Howard Carter would not only have lacked the financing and the concession to dig in the Valley of the Kings, he would have also lacked the political clout for what was, in the early 1900s, a very publicly visible pursuit.

September 11th 2001: The Day The Queen Lost Her Best Friend

It was a quiet afternoon at Balmoral on that fateful day of September 11, 2001, but like everyone around the world, the Queen and the Royal Family were shocked by the news of the terrible events in the United States, when terrorists killed nearly 3000 people in attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and in the planes that crashed into the Pentagon and into a field in Pennsylvania.

A few days later at a service of remembrance, our then ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, read out a heartfelt message from the Queen. “These are dark and harrowing times for families and friends of those who are missing or who suffered in the attack,” she wrote. She ended her message: “Nothing that can be said can begin to take away the anguish and the pain of these moments. Grief is the price we pay for love.”

Those were curiously personal words from the Queen whose speeches are so often couched in diplomatic language and subject to government approval.

What lay behind them was the fact that the Queen had just lost her best friend, Lord Carnarvon, who died suddenly on the day the Twin Towers fell. Henry George Reginald Molyneux Herbert, 7th Earl of Carnarvon, had been her racing manager and one of her closest friends since their childhood.

Always known as ‘Porchie’, from his previous title of Lord Porchester before he inherited the earldom in 1987, he was said to be one of the few people who could contact the Queen at almost any time to discuss her beloved horses. Their close friendship became the subject of scurrilous gossip which was studiously ignored by both the Royal Family and the Carnarvons, whose ancestral home is Highclere Castle, the setting for the television series Downton Abbey.

‘Porchie’ was the grandson of the 5th Earl, who discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb with Howard Carter in 1922. He was the son of an American mother, Anne Wendell, and he also married an American, Jean Wallop. Their three children  became friends of the next royal generation.

Their daughter Carolyn was a one-time girlfriend of Prince Andrew and one of Princess Diana’s circle. Carolyn married John Warren, a former stable boy who worked with Lord Carnarvon at his stud farm. After the Earl died, John succeeded his father-in-law as the Queen’s racing manager. Continuing the family connections even further, John and Carolyn’s daughter, Susanna, is now part of the social circle of Princes William and Harry.

In September 2001, isolated in her lonely position as monarch, the Queen could not publicly express her sorrow at the loss of someone whose friendship she had known for over 60 years, but the words ‘grief is the price we pay for love’ must also have held for her a special and private meaning.

Ten albums of photographs, mostly of objects found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, probably assembled by Harry Burton. Harry Burton worked [as an egyptologist and archaeological photographer] for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Egyptian Expedition. He was loaned by the museum to Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon to record the findings of the British excavation team at the tomb of Tutankhamun. (+)


Presently, details of the room emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues and gold – everywhere the glint of gold. For the moment – an eternity it must have seemed to the others standing by – I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand in suspense any longer, inquired anxiously “Can you see anything?”, it was all I could do to get out the words “Yes, wonderful things”.

The Diary of Howard Carter - November 26th, 1922


OMG. I cannot believe this! It seems the Downton Abbey House, Highclere House has a real life Egyptian prince in it’s history. AND he supposedly slept with the countess resulting in an heir that is NOT the rightful heir under the law. The story line for Downton Abbey obviously borrowed from the castle’s history but more and more discoveries have been made and the current heir may be replaced! Here are pics of the Egyptian Prince and the Countess Almina. The more research I do on her the more interesting it gets. It seems HER parentage is unclear as well and she may have been the illigitimate daughter of a Rothchild (? or was THAT all just a ploy to cover his homosexuality?) and it was HIS money that funded her extravagant lifestyle. Her husband was THE Lord Carnarvon that discovered King Tut’s tomb and treasures. There is a bio of her written by the current Countess Carnarvon and another by a historian William Cross. He accuses her bio of being sanitized and amied at keeping her and her husband as the heirs. he even has posted scathing reviews of her bio on Amazon and from the paris review: He accuses Lady Carnarvon of writing a “hugely diluted and sanitized” version of Almina’s life and sees her hagiography as part of a broader conspiracy to consolidate power among the landed class. “Britain is still absolutely under the control of the aristocracy,” he says. “That, in 2011, isn’t right.” AMAZING STUFF! Much more lurid than the show. Truth IS stranger than fiction!



             Highclere Castle, largest mansion in Hampshire, 19th C.

The next time you’re in London, if you’re planning a side trip to DOWNTON ABBEY or rather Highclere Castle where Lord Julian Fellowes’ wildly-popular BBC series is filmed, be sure to check their website (www.highclerecastle.co.uk) as the Castle is not open year-round. 

In September 2012, I was fortunate enough to be among the final guests allowed at Highclere before it closed to the public to permit filming on the more than 1,000 acre estate. 

It has been in the Earl of Carnarvon’s family since the 17th C.  The present earl, his wife and three children, seemingly hard-working, cash-strapped aristocrats, live in a modest cottage on the property.

 For the summer of 2013, you can buy tickets now for July 14th through Sept. 12th.   But book early and in advance on the website; if you just show up, you probably won’t get in.


You must choose between morning admission (10:30AM to 1PM) or afternoon (1PM to 3:30) for the Castle. The grounds open at 10AM.   Admission to the Castle and Gardens is about $17.60 for an adult, $9.60 for children, or a family rate of $48; students, seniors and the disabled, about $15.20. 

Skip the Egyptian Collection; it’s all reproductions.  Better to head to Cairo or the British Museum.  FYI—Why is there an Egyptian Collection at Highclere?  Because the 5th Earl, George Herbert Carnarvon, put up the cash to search for and excavate Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings.  

In 1922, he and Howard Carter opened the tomb and shortly afterward, Carnarvon died from a severe mosquito bite infected by a razor cut.  This led to the story of the “Mummy’s Curse”, even though Carter lived safely for another 16 years.

Enough backstory.  You have a lot of choices for getting to Highclere. Renting a car is expensive and you have to manage driving on the left.  Directions are on the website.

Or, for about $120, you can book a “mini-luxury-coach” bus tour from London and watch Downton Abbey re-runs instead of the Southern England countryside.  It takes you through the Oxfordshire village that stands in as the village in the series, then on to Highclere Castle. 

If you can forego the village, forget the bus tour.  You really don’t need a tour guide because included in the admission price, inside Highclere Castle, there are docents in every room to answer questions and share anecdotes. 

For about half the cost of the bus tour, my friend Suzie and I found a more enjoyable way of “doing Downton”.  We bought afternoon admission tickets to Highclere at www.highclerecastle.co.uk (about $15.20 each); the tickets are emailed and you print them out.

By choosing afternoon admission, this allowed us to travel by train at “off peak” hours; it’s less expensive. We bought two “OFF PEAK DAY RETURN” Brit Rail tickets from London (Paddington Station) to Newbury via Reading for approximately $34.40 each. 

Newbury is an easy-breezy 50-minute train ride from London.  And Paddington Station is rather a tourist attraction by itself;you can buy just about anything there.


You get off the train in Newbury and outside the station is a taxi stand (There’s no bus to Highclere Park).  However, it is much smarter to pre-book a taxi.  The fare for the five-mile ride to Highclere is a whopping $32 each way, but we just grabbed two other Downton fans and shared the cab both ways, costing us $16 each for the round trip. 

I suggest pre-booking with “65 Special Taxis” at 01635 33200 or calling Mr. R.S. James directly at mobile# 07970 650000.  Be sure to book your return ride as well.

We were dropped off about 200 yards from Highclere Castle.  It looks better on film than it does when you are standing in front of it, but it’s still a glorious piece of English history and not to be missed. 


East side of Highclere.  From the Peysner/Lloyd Astoft article:  “Eleven bays (windows) arranged in an ingenious rhythm …smaller turrets framing the middle five bays, themselves set in a one-three-one pattern.”


After wandering the Capability Brown landscape and taking pictures of the Elizabethian-style castle, Suzie and I joined the afternoon tour at 1PM.  Note to self:  You are not allowed to take photographs inside Highclere Castle. 

Visitors follow a set route past the marble pillars in the entrance hall and through the ground floor State Rooms.  Here are some things to notice:

The Saloon:  Gothic arches and leather wall-coverings

The State Dining Room:  the impossible-to-miss Van Dyck equestrian portrait of King Charles I.

The Double Library:  the glorious vaulted ceiling and the 5,560 books

The Music Room:  stunning ceiling artwork and Italian embroideries.  Look out the window to see the two follies (buildings constructed primarily for decoration), whimsically named Jackdaw’s Castle and Heaven’s Gate. 

The Drawing Room:  green French silk wall-coverings

The Smoking Room:  the 17th C. Dutch paintings

Visitors take the Red Staircase to the first floor and Gallery.  There are eleven bedrooms, a selection of which can be seen on the tour.  The remaining 40 or 50 bedrooms on the next floors are in disrepair and not open to the public. 

Featured on the tour are the Stanhope bedroom, decorated in red; the Mercia bedroom with its four-poster bed; and the Arundel bedroom and dressing rooms that were used as an operating theater and recovery rooms during WWI.  Lady Almina Carnarvon turned the castle into a hospital, just as the Crawleys did in the series.

Then visitors get to retrace the steps of Downton’s favorite bride, Lady Mary, as they parade down the Thomas Allom grand Oak Staircase that fills the Italianate tower designed by Victorian architect Sir Charles Barry, who also did the Houses of Parliament. 

If you’re looking for the Downton’s servants’ quarters or kitchen, you won’t find them at Highclere.  The “downstairs” is shot on a stage at Ealing Studios in West London.  Sorry, no Carson.


                             Highclere, from behind


Following the tour, Suzie and I had lunch in the Highclere tearooms, where the food was unremarkable but convenient.   Near the tearooms is the gift shop in case you’re dying for a Downton dish towel (it makes the best souvenir ).



                     Highclere Castle, north side, entrance to mansion

We took more photographs outside Highclere’s front door and noticed that the family motto was carved above it and all the ground floor windows:  Ung Je Serviray, “One will I serve”. 



Maybe next trip I’ll look for the Carnarvon family crest.  It is of a wyvern (a legendary winged creature with a dragon’s head, reptilian body, two legs and a barbed tail.  FYI—they breathe fire or have a venomous bite) with its wings elevated holding a severed right hand in its mouth.   And maybe I’ll find out what that means. 



                         Highclere Castle, front door knocker

The taxi driver was waiting for us in the car park at the pre-arranged time.  Leaving the fairytale film location behind, Suzie and I made it to the train station to catch our off-peak four o’clock train back to London.



                             Highclere Castle, another rear view

Call me a romantic, but my fantasy would be to have access to the entire three-storey castle, meet the ghosts. Or call me a pragmatist, I’d like to see first-hand the staggering $19, 200,000 worth of repairs that need to be done, and that estimate was made four years ago.  Seeping water has caused stonework to crumble, ceilings have collapsed, and the stone turrets are decaying.

Saving the historic stately home could be a great volunteer project.  If the Earl had the proper liability insurance, it sure would be swell if he could offer Downton fans a chance to “camp” in those forty or fifty dilapidated bedrooms in exchange for scraping some mold off walls.  Give students credit for restoration; in France, people pay for the privilege of restoring castles.

Highclere Castle does do bar mitzvahs, corporate events and weddings. For a site fee of a mere $24,000 you can rent the castle, hold your wedding reception in the library and ceremony in the Saloon.  Better book now.

**All the prices quoted in the above article are calculated on the basis of  one English pound being equivalent to 1.60 US dollars.  Check current currency exchange rates.

Highclere Park


West Berkshire

RG20 9RN United Kingdom

+44-1635-253210   (www.highclerecastle.co.uk)













On this date in 1922, Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon [of “curse of the pharaohs" fame and also, as it were, of Downton Abbey fame] were able to catch the first glimpse anyone in thousands of years had had of the inside of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings.  What did they see?  According to Carter’s rapturous whisperings, “Wonderful things!”  For a tongue-in-cheek look at the discovery of KV62, read David Macaulay’s brilliant Motel of the Mysteries.  And go visit Egypt and see it for yourself!  [The canopic jars in the bottom stamp are probably this stamp enthusiast/Egyptologist’s favorite Tut piece.  Forget the gold, give me mummified organs any day.]

Stamp details:
Stamp on top:
Issued in: 1972
From: London, England
SG #901

Middle stamp:
Issued on: January 22, 2004
From: Cairo, Egypt
MC #1662

Stamp on bottom:
Issued on: January 22, 2004
From: Cairo, Egypt
MC #1657

The next several months were spent cataloging the contents of the antechamber under the ‘often stressful’ oversight of Pierre Lacau, director general of the Department of Antiquities of Egypt. On 16 February 1923, Carter opened the sealed doorway, and found that it did indeed lead to a burial chamber, and he got his first glimpse of the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun. All of these discoveries were eagerly covered by the world’s press, but most of their representatives were kept in their hotels; only H. V. Morton was allowed on the scene, and his vivid descriptions helped to cement Carter’s reputation with the British public.

Carter’s own notes and photographic evidence, indicate that he, Lord Carnarvon and Lady Evelyn Herbert entered the burial chamber shortly after the tomb’s discovery and before the official opening.