January 21, 2014
Eighth Countess of Highclere Castle to Visit WilliamsburgGuests can join the countess for afternoon tea at 4 p.m. Feb. 9 in the Colony Room of the Williamsburg Lodge and for an interview-style conversation led by historian Cary Carson at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 10 in the Hennage Auditorium.
Cost of the tea is $50, including tax and gratuity, and includes a sampling of pastries, scones and tea sandwiches accompanied by Lady Fiona’s discussion of the history of Highclere Castle, where her husband’s family has resided for more than 300 years.
The countess has written a second book about the castle made famous as the setting for PBS’ acclaimed television program “Downton Abbey” and will sign copies of “Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey” following the tea. Cost of the interview/conversation at the Hennage is $20. Books will be available for sale at both events.
The subject of the book, Lady Catherine, was an American heiress who moved to England in the 1920s and at the age of 19 married the Earl of Porchester and began to organize the lavish events of the estate through World War II, when the estate was transformed into an American airbase. This is the second book about Highclere Castle by Lady Fiona. Her first, “Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey,” covers the life of the 19-year-old illegitimate daughter of banking tycoon Alfred de Rothschild, who married into the Carnarvon family in 1894, bringing her enormous fortune with her. It was her own funds that allowed her husband, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, to make numerous expeditions to Egypt, where he discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922.
Highclere Castle is the setting for “Downton Abbey,” now in its fourth season on PBS and broadcast locally Sunday evenings at 9 p.m. on WHRO 15. The period drama follows the fictitious lives of Lord and Lady Grantham, their three daughters and their extended family, as well as the lives of the staff of butlers, valets, ladies maids, cooks, chauffeurs and housekeepers who care for the aristocratic family. The plot includes many of the real-life challenges faced by the Carnarvon family, including the financial challenges facing large English estates at the turn of the 20th century, war, a wealthy American heiress marrying the earl, and the influence of cultural and technological changes in English life.
More information and tickets are available at www.colonialwilliamsburg.com/downton or by calling 855-296-6627. Space is limited for both events. The Williamsburg Lodge is located at 310 S. England St. in Williamsburg, and the Hennage Auditorium is located in the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, 325 W. Francis St., also in Williamsburg.