An insight into the ‘real Downton Abbey’ was revealed today with an entertaining talk by the eighth Countess of Carnarvon, Lady Fiona Carnarvon, about the family seat, Highclere castle, which is also the location for the hit TV series. Lady Fiona also spoke of the real-life stories that have inspired the show, which she recounts in her latest book ‘Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey’. The event, organized by British Council in association with the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, was followed by a book-signing session.
‘Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey’ is a sequel to the acclaimed “Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey”, both published by Hodder and Stoughton. The book tells of the beautiful American heiress who became the countess following her marriage to the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who famously discovered the Tomb of the Egyptian Boy Pharaoh, Tutankhamun, in 1922 with his archaeological colleague, Howard Carter.
Lady Carnarvon regaled the audience with this and other amazing stories about Highclere Castle, widely considered one of the most beautiful Victorian castles.
The castle stands within 1000 acres of grassland and has been with the Carnarvon family since 1679. A great deal of history has been recorded within its walls.
Highclere castle has also played a significant part in aiding soldiers during the two World Wars, first as a hospital in Lady Almina’s time and then as an American airbase for several hundred soldiers while Lady Catherine was Countess.
Recently, Highclere Castle has become more recognisable due to the popularity of the ITV television show ‘Downton Abbey’, starring Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville and a host of well-known names from the British film and television. The show is written by Academy Award-winner Julian Fellowes and follows the lives of the Crawely family and the servants who work for them.
Lady Carnarvon was a fount of information about Highclere castle’s involvement in the show and the historical basis behind the various events in the Crawely family’s lives.
The talk was held as part of a series of literary events that the LitFest organises through the year, in addition to the Festival itself.
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Tel: +971 (04) 353 4002 (Ext – 207)
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Ronita Mohan, Communication Co-ordinator
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Notes to editors
About Countess of Carnarvon
Lady Fiona Carnarvon is the wife of George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon. Today, she manages affairs at Highclere Castle, home of the worldwide television drama Downton Abbey,including overseeing its grounds and gardens and many special events such as the Egyptian Exhibition in the cellars of the Castle.)
About the British Council
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.
We work in more than 100 countries and our 7000 staff – including 2000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the Arts and delivering education and society programmes.
For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org
About the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is the Middle East’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word, bringing people of all ages and backgrounds together with authors from across the world to promote education, debate and above all else, love of reading and writing.
The Festival creates a wonderful opportunity for UAE nationals, residents and visitors to meet world famous authors, attend literary debates, listen to readings, participate in workshops and experience the exciting fringe and children’s events. With simultaneous translation between Arabic and English for all sessions, the Festival is a meeting of minds where ideas are shared and friendships are formed – not least among the authors themselves.
The Festival has become an eagerly anticipated annual event and in 2013 welcomed more than 120 writers, thinkers and speakers from 30 countries. More than 30,000 visitors attended the Festival which had over 200 one-off sessions and unique events to be experienced and enjoyed in a programme designed for wide appeal, with something to suit every taste.
The 2014 Festival will be held March 4-8, 2014 at The Intercontinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and in partnership with Emirates airline and the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the emirate’s dedicated Authority for culture, arts, and heritage.
The LitFest also hosts a regular series of literary events during the winter months (October-April) at its home – Dar Al Adaab (House of Literature) in Al Fahidi Historic Area under the banner The Dar Al Adaab Open Door Series.
For all information and updates about the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature visit the website: www.emirateslitfest.com.
About Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle is one of England’s most beautiful and most popular Victorian Castles set amidst 1,000 acres of spectacular parkland. The Carnarvon families have lived at Highclere since 1679, and the current Castle stands on the site of an earlier house, which in turn was built on the foundations of the medieval palace owned by the Bishops of Winchester for some 800 years. The present day Castle was designed in 1842 by Sir Charles Barry, the architect also responsible for building the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.
The Castle was the seat, 100 years ago, of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who famously discovered the Tomb of the Egyptian Boy Pharaoh, Tutankhamun, in 1922 with his archaeological colleague, Howard Carter. Today, the 8th Earl and Countess have opened a new Egyptian Exhibition which includes some rare antiquities from the 5th Earl’s earlier excavations. The exhibition runs throughout the cellars of the Castle and this November. Highclere Castle celebrates 90 years since the greatest archaeological discovery of our time.
ITV’s award winning period drama Downton Abbey which is on its fourth season is filmed at Highclere Castle, with over 9 million viewers in the UK and now shown in over 120 countries around the world. Dame Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville lead the all-star cast in the series created by Oscar winning writer Lord Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) follows the lives of the Edwardian Crawely family and the servants who work for them.
As well as being open to the public as a tourist attraction, Highclere Castle is also available as a venue, providing the stunning setting to many weddings, corporate events, private dining and celebrations. Several special events and charity functions also run throughout the year at the Castle, from the annual Battle Proms in the summer to a traditional Christmas fare in December.
For more information, please visit www.highclerecastle.co.ukread all the news posts