Thursday, February 21, 2013

The real Downton Abbey

Diehard Downton Abbey devotees know that the series is shot in the breathtaking historical environs of Highclere Castle, longtime residence of the uber aristocracy. The two charming and all-too-brief glimpses of its luxurious interiors below are provided by the current Lady Carnarvon (who wrote the bestselling book on Almina, her racy predecessor). I couldn't help but be transfixed by the enormous equestrian portrait in the dining room. I guessed Charles I ... and was right (by Van Dyck no less). Ah, the stately homes of England!

For a mere £18.00, you may have a look 'round and gawk all you like, and even have tea—but don't expect to see the spaces downstairs inhabited by Mrs Patmore, Carson, Daisy et al., because the kitchen areas were renovated long ago. You will have a glimpse, however, of some of the Egyptian art and artifacts—including jewelry, coins, pottery, and a coffin of a noblewoman from 3,500 years ago—collected by Lord Carnarvon, the co-discoverer along with Howard Carter of King Tut's tomb. After the Earl's death in 1923, his widow had to sell the collection to the Metropolitan Museum to pay the death duties. Carter commented that "a few unimportant items" remained at Highclere, and so they were packed away until being re-discovered by the family in 1987. Deemed not so unimportant after all, they are now exhibited in the cellars, along with items originally lent to The British Museum by the Carnarvons.
Bronze statue of an ibis, Ptolemaic Period. The Ibis was sacred to the birth of the god Thoth, the god of the moon and patron deity of scribes and writing.
Have a yen to explore ancient Egyptian art and culture? Try Egyptian Art: The Walters Art Museum Egypt: 4000 Years of Art; or Cleopatra of Egypt: From History to Myth
The classes mingle with ease as these favorite Downton cast members lark about while in New York City to promote the show's third season. All of them will be present and accounted for, thankfully, in Season 4.
Impersonations? How impertinent!! 
This enterprising actor cycles through a score of Downton characters in one take, capturing their voices and mannerisms brilliantly. Maybe he can sub when one of them takes sick leave.
The music room at Highclere. The Canarvons have lived there since the early 17th century. Plenty of time to decorate with priceless treasures, including Napoleon's desk.


  1. The photo of the cast in NYC is just TOO good!

  2. I did a search on Highclere Castle, apparently if it had an asking price it would be over 72 million pounds, WHOA!!!!

  3. And the asking price would be dwarfed by the upkeep! Lady Carnarvon said there were 200 to 300 rooms--well, I guess it would be easy to get lost before you could finish a count.
    Seeing the artifacts held back from Egypt by Lord Carnarvon persuades me to oppose "returnism" too. Taken to its extreme, we would have to give back Manhattan to the Indians!
    Fascinating post, once again!

    1. To raise needed funds, the expedition sold part of the collection to the Metropolitan Museum for $145,000.
      The museum has agreed to return part of the collection to Egypt, but it would be a great shame if the only place we could see these artifacts were in Cairo.
      There is also the question of incentive for private persons to explore for objects underwater, or otherwise lost. Governments usually cannot afford to look themselves, but if every discovery had to be handed over, no one else would, either.

    2. Has anyone interpreted the hieroglyphs on the side of the ibis? I am going unnecessarily nuts trying to decipher them!
      I feel I am causing someone a bit of extra trouble, having to approve each comment. With the Twitter feed and the Forum, someone is being seriously overworked.
      I will try to condense my remarks, but with my scatterbrains, I can't guarantee results.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. The Baron admittedly does not watch Downtown Alley; and yet I do enjoy the Jolly Old. Need I remind readers of my recent sojourn there, from the Colonies no less? A highlight was (again) yelling from windows at the Tower of London, pleading to be rescued. And "Skyfall?" Phenomenal. Another tour de force from Judi Dench as "M" ...
    Speaking of cultural icons, heard some very poignant memories on XM Sirius, last week. Comedic legend Lily Tomlin revealed that her longtime friend, Ernestine, dreamed of becoming a ballerina growing up, (and long before joining the phone company); then one morning at breakfast, Ernestine's mom dropped a six-pack on her instep. Still heart-breaking years later, apparently.

    Excuse me. Hold a moment. My daughter just advised me that I was actually listening to a comedy channel and that was a recorded bit Ms. Tomlin was doing. It's all good -- I'm still motivated to bring out my well-worn VHS copy of the vastly underrated "Moment by Moment" for another cherished viewing....hmmm... I wonder whatever happened to Lily's co-star in that (who[m] she carried)...

    1. P.S. JP any chance might I get a reading on the "who" vs. "whom," just above...
      quite the conundrum.

    2. I think "whom" is cool. Moment by Moment ... I see that Mystery Science Theater 2000 tried to get the rights to parody it, and that it only made $10,000?? What was Jane Wagner thinking?? Even I and my parter, who adore both Jane and Lily, can't figure this one out. Oh well, i guess everyone's entitled to their bombs!