See how life was – and is – lived in Highclere Castle. It may be more famous now than any time in its 1,300-year history as the setting of “Downton Abbey,” but England’s Highclere Castle has its own stories to tell. In its heyday, Highclere was the social epicenter of Edwardian England. See how all the inhabitants of Highclere lived, from the aristocrats who enjoyed a life of luxury to the army of servants toiling “below stairs.” Also find out how the current inhabitants, Lord and Lady Carnarvon, spend their $1 million in annual upkeep funds and what life in a fairytale castle is like today.
This DVD features subtitles in English (SDH).
Since the launch of Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle has become just as famous as Lord and Lady Grantham. With the participation of current owners George and Fiona Herbert, a.k.a. Lord and Lady Carnarvon, this PBS special presents a virtual tour, though some information also appears in Secrets of the Manor House. Nonetheless, a fuller picture emerges. For the Herberts, the loss of a little privacy has been worthwhile, since their involvement with the phenomenally successful series helps to pay for the castle's upkeep, which includes 20 servants and $1 million a year in expenditures, an understandable sum in light of all the crystal chandeliers, historic clocks, and silk wall coverings (they also employ gamekeepers and deer stalkers to maintain the animal population). If the couple allows the Downton crew free reign, they reserve the smoking room for personal use, though it resembles the rest of the house, with the exception of a few ancient artifacts. The long-abandoned maids' quarters in the towers, however, look like something from out of Charlotte Brontë's brooding Jane Eyre with their dusty floors and peeling paint. The program also examines the Fifth Earl's connection to the excavation of King Tut's tomb and the vast grounds--lawn maintenance appears to make up a goodly portion of the annual budget. Though it would've been nice to feature commentary from Julian Fellowes, who created Downton with Highclere in mind, butler Colin Edwards explains the difference between his duties and those of Jim Carter's indomitable Carson. --Kathleen C. Fennessy