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It seems a world apart

It seems a world apart as you drive through the gates and into the park at Highclere. The road leads you down and winds around as you glance toward the south, knowing that the castle is somewhere near. Eventually, you reach the Lodge gates and the final graveled approach. Arriving at an oblique angle undoubtedly emphasizes the splendor and majesty of the weathered golden stone and the immensity of the castle. The tall, dark walnut iron-studded front doors stand centrally under a portico surmounted by the family coat of arms. Stepping inside, you are welcomed into the vaulted front hall. Wandering through the familiar State Rooms of Highclere Castle, portraits of the family lead you through time and history. In reality they are, of course, generally relatives of the Carnarvon family, which has lived at Highclere since the mid-17th century; but, thanks to their presence as a background on the set of Downton Abbey, they are also, in a peculiar way, relatives of the Grantham family. Many of the works of art at Highclere could well be in a museum rather than a home and have been collected over the centuries by the family. The 2nd and 3rd Earls of Carnarvon were inveterate travelers, fascinated by the worlds of Roman and Greek classical antiquity. They returned home to Highclere with the 17th-century leather wall hangings from Cordoba in Spain now found in the Saloon, along with paintings from Venice, statues from Rome, embroideries from Italy, tapestries from France and Belgium and, above all, tales of their travels and a greater knowledge of the world. In turn, their experiences led to improvements to their home and to better-informed discussions in Parliament. In particular, the 4th Earl of Carnarvon spoke of the importance of seeing the pageantry of other countries rather than just reading the black-and-white lines on a page in a book. Notwithstanding this comment, Highclere’s Library is one of the most impressive and comfortable rooms in the castle. Some of the books date back to the 16th century and most have been read, with pencil marks in the margins testifying to the reader’s interest and scholarship. The Library is cataloged and one entire section is about travel, complete with diaries and engravings, revealing a world which we now take for granted. Perhaps the most famous traveler of the family was the 5th Earl of Carnarvon. In 1922 he stood in the middle of the first global media event: the discovery of the tomb of the boy pharaoh, Tutankhamen. The 5th Earl was the archetypal Clockwise, from above: The drawing room at Highclere Castle; a photograph of the excavation site in Egypt 22 VIKING.COM EXPLORE MORE 2020

CULTURE Edwardian explorer, sailing the world in his yacht, the Aphrodite. He crossed the Atlantic, sailed the Mediterranean and even ventured to the Indian Ocean. However, in later years, following a number of near fatal car crashes, he was advised to avoid the damp British winter months and so began a passion and love for Egypt, its land, its people and its ancient history which lasted for the remainder of his life. In 1906 he applied for a concession to excavate and in 1909 was introduced to Howard Carter, immediately offering him a job. From there they developed a lifelong friendship and Carnarvon even built Carter a house, “Castle Carter,” near the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt. Lord Carnarvon surrounded himself with the best scholars and ABOVE ALL, HIGHCLERE IS A MUCH-LOVED FAMILY HOME AS WELL AS AN ICONIC HISTORIC HOUSE research assistants, publishing his work and attracting scholarly contributions from a group of respected Egyptologists. The story of the discovery of the “Boy King’s” tomb is well known. It was one of triumph, treasure and then of personal tragedy. The 5th Earl died in Cairo shortly after the discovery, which has led to theories about the curse of the pharaohs. Thus today, Highclere not only welcomes visitors to the castle and gardens but also to the Egyptian exhibition located, rather atmospherically, in the cellars below the castle. After the death of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, the majority of his collection of Egyptian antiquities was sold to pay death duties and is now owned by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. A small part, however, remains at Highclere. The exhibition takes you on a journey to explore the worldfamous story and includes recreations of the tomb as well as original artifacts. Above all, Highclere is a much-loved family home as well as an iconic historic house. It can testify to so many different stories and has welcomed visitors from royalty to statesmen alongside figures from the world of music, literature and, of course, film. Clockwise, from top left: Lady Carnarvon and Karine Hagen with their Labradors; the elegant Library at Highclere Castle HIGHCLERE BOOKS Each time I begin to write a new book, the one phrase which is always in my mind, and which I think sums up so much about Highclere, is “a sense of place.” From the beautiful setting of the parkland, to the sense of order imposed by 1,300 years of history, through the works of art as well as the architecture of the actual building, this is what encapsulates the unique nature of Highclere’s history. My first foray into authorship, Lady Almina, looked at the First World War and the extraordinary couple who lived here—the 5th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon —whilst its sequel, Lady Catherine, continued the story up to 1945. My next book, At Home at Highclere, allowed me to share beautiful photographs, accounts of historic weekends and our favorite castle recipes. Now my latest book, Christmas at Highclere, sees us all back home from our journeys, sharing traditions, recipes and stories through the centuries, honoring old memories, and building new ones. EXPLORE MORE 2020 VIKING.COM 23