Interlude is once again on the cutting edge of what is currently the TV “buzz”. Travel with us as we discover the wonderful world of the rich and famous. If you are a fan of this marvelous PBS series you will be surprised by how much fact Julian Fellowes included when writing his award winning drama. It suffices to say that often the facts are even more extraordinary than the fiction… The real Downton Abbey tells the story of the beautiful American girl who lived at Highclere Castle, the setting for “Downton Abbey”. Glamorous and wealthy, Lady Carnarvon became the toast of London society and married the son of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, Lord Porchester, or ‘Porchey’, as he was known. She was a mere 19 when she had to learn how to organize and host the lavish banquets and weekend house parties that Porchy so loved. She found herself suddenly in charge of the more than eighty staff working at Highclere Castle. During this time she persuaded her husband to improve the living and working conditions of the Castle.
There are a mere 11 bedrooms on the first floor, some of which can now be seen by you, the visitors, and 40-50 on the next floors which are no longer used and cannot be viewed. These have been gradually refurbished by the 8th Countess over the past 5 years, using prints and drawings from the archives recording some of the visitors and history here. The stunning Stanhope bedroom is decorated in rich red, recalling its decoration for the visit of the Prince of Wales in December 1895. The Dressing Room next door has just been redecorated. Mercia bedroom is noted for the charming four-poster bed decorated with 18th century silks and matching furniture.
The demands of running such a large household were greater than Lady Carnarvon had expected. She also discovered that her new husband gradually revealed himself to be a scandalous rogue, squandering their money and pursuing silent movie stars across London. All this glamour and heartache are the makings of our beloved “Downton Abbey”.
Fellowes draws from the rich material from the archives at Highclere, including beautiful period photographs, as he deftly draws us into to the thrilling and alluring world of the real Downton Abbey and its colorful and often scandalous inhabitants.
Real life changed in August 1914 when the First World War broke out and the real Lady of the Abbey rolled up her sleeves, turned Highclere Castle into a hospital and began to admit patients coming back from the trenches. The stories of the men whose lives and limbs she saved are moving and fascinating and provide an excellent reading companion to the fictional portrayal of the convalescent home in Downton Abbey. The Arundel bedroom and its dressing room were used as an Operating Theatre and Recovery Room respectively during the First World War, when Almina, the 5th Countess) turned the Castle into a military hospital, heading the nursing staff herself.
Lady Carnarvon returned the Castle back into a family home soon after the war ended.
“Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey” is a beautifully illustrated book, with many previously unpublished early photographs, sketches and drawings, many of which were unearthed from the Archives of Highclere Castle, where they had lain undisturbed for almost a century. It is a unique book which could only have been created from inside the Castle and a great read that will amaze those who follow the series.
Today, the current (8th) Earl and Countess of Carnarvon live partly in the Castle and partly nearby but remain closely involved in the Castle’s day to day life and future.
Please review and complete itinerary as we take you on an interlude just bursting with tradition and history, Jolly Ole England is a wonderful adventure just waiting for you and as always. we have it all mapped out for your comfort and complete enjoyment.
With a very limited supply of tickets available for public visits to Highclere Castle, this is a very special vacation- sign-up NOW so you won’t be disappointed!
Eadie, Interlude Blog Team
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