A group of 22 Society members and friends enjoyed an enlightening visit to Highclere the home of Lord Carnarvon who funded and worked on the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb 101 years ago.
When we reached the 2nd room we were delighted to find Lady Fiona Carnarvon looking for Sherifa El Khairy, who is the Egyptian Ambassador’s PA, who she greeted warmly. Lady Carnarvon then kindly gave us her insight and the families custodianship of the Castle.
It was interesting to have the insight on how some items had to be moved for the filming of Downton Abbey. Fiona pointed out the silk wallpaper in some rooms and how important they believe it is to replace like for like. It was such a privilege. Fiona left with “See you by the Nile”. We toured the rest of the castle, chatting to helpful guides, then down to the entrance of the Tutankhamun Exhibition in the basement. Lady Fiona Carnarvon was waiting for us. She spoke about the 5th Earl, his health issues, his enthusiasm for Egypt, his dedication to finding the lost Pharoah, the cost, the people he gathered together and their professionalism. It was very important to the Earl to keep as much of the collection together as possible. After his death his widow contributed a further £36,000 for the discoveries to be protected and cared for, which the Egyptian Government then refunded, establishing their title to the items excavated. After his sudden death, the family was hit with death duties and most of his private collection was sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Egypt collection which is in the basement has been mainly reinforced with some quite brilliant replicas. The Countess told us that it was opened officially by the then Egyptian Ambassador and she had had built a fake wall for the Ambassador and the 8th Earl to knock down as though they were breaking into the tomb., There was one amazing photograph, almost filling a wall, taken by the 5th Earl (and his cameras were on display) which was unique. With a smile, she left us for a Zoom Meeting with New York. What an amazing woman.
Most of us returned to the Carnarvon Arms for a group lunch which was a very jolly affair.
Congratulations to our Secretary Noel Rands on organising a superb visit.