Thanks to Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle went from one more aging great house in the United Kingdom to the most recognizable manor house in the world. Now in the “post-Downton” era, the house is in regular use and the funds from the PBS/ITV series have more than paid for renovations and protected the castle for generations to come.
Country Life UK says that the current Lord and Lady Carnarvon will be forever grateful for the attention (and funds) brought into their lives by Julian Fellowes and Downton Abbey. Before they were approached to be the house and location in the series, Highclere was struggling and had repair bills over $12 million. There were masonry and structural problems which were mounting, but the popular international series and its exposure cleared up those problems and more.
Lord and Lady Carnarvon call their experience with the series as being a “magic carpet ride,” and the fee paid by the production company allowed them to take care of past projects and do some proactive renovations.
Now that Lord Crawley and family have left town (hopefully coming back for a movie, fingers crossed) the house is open for tours and is available for rentals for weddings, fundraisers, and other events.
Lady Carnarvon recently published a book called At Home at Highclere: Entertaining at the Real Downton Abbey that shows the rooms of Highclere dressed at their best for parties and more. The house hosts Cabaret & Cocktails evenings in the castle saloon which provide entertainment from singers to comedy. Highclere Castle also lists upcoming events on their website where the public can buy tickets.
But the real Highclere Castle also could play a role in another popular series on Netflix, The Crown. The former Lord Carnarvon, Queen Elizabeth’s childhood friend “Porchie,” plays a role in the series, and Queen Elizabeth has shared that she spent time at Highclere as a child.
On The Crown, Queen Elizabeth tells Prince Philip not to be jealous of her friendship with Porchie because he is “part of the furniture.”
“I have nothing to hide from you. Nothing. Porchie is a friend, and yes, there are those who would have preferred me to marry him. Indeed, marriage with him might have been easier, might have even worked better than ours.”
Queen Elizabeth has publicly stated that she loved to watch Downton Abbey simply to see Highclere.
“She loves watching Downton Abbey and pointing out things they have got wrong, partly because she is familiar with Highclere Castle, where it is filmed.”
Porchie died at Highclere in 2001 on the same day the planes hit the twin towers in New York, but he played a role in her life until then, so Highclere might be a character in the upcoming seasons of the series approaching its third season.