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From Downton Abbey to Tutankhamun

In a special talk, outside the monthly programme of the HAHG, members and others welcomed Lady Carnarvon, of Highclere Castle (‘Downton Abbey’), to the Chantry House in Henley on Friday 16th September. Her talk was about the ‘Earl and the Pharaoh’, the title of her new book, and based on the family’s papers at Highclere. The Earl was the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, best known for his involvement in the discovery and excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun – the Pharaoh.


The Earl was born into a family with money and connections. His early interests were mainly in horse racing, golf and motoring. However, as a result of the last, he suffered life-changing injuries from a severe car accident in Germany when driving back from a visit to Constantinople. He went to Egypt to convalesce from this, where he developed an interest in Egyptology. He met the French professor of antiquities Gaston Maspero, who recommended to him Howard Carter for the excavation of tombs near Luxor.

Archaeologist Theodore Davis had resigned the concession to excavate in the Valley of the Kings, believing there was nothing more to be found; Lord Carnarvon thought otherwise and was given the concession in his place in 1914. In 1922, excavating beneath some ancient workers’ huts, Carter found an unimpressive-looking staircase, leading to a sealed door. As we now know, behind this door lay the magnificent tomb of Tutankhamun.

Lady Carnarvon’s book on the subject will be published on 27th October, and will be available at the Bell Bookshop together with her earlier books.