Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Speaking of Downton Abbey. . .

+David Hinckley wrote an excellent Daily News article about Highclere, the estate where Downton Abbey is filmed. 
As Downton junkies knowHighclere is  the ancestral home of the Carnarvons, The Fifth Earl of Carnarvon bankrolled the Howard carter expedition that unearthed the King Tut tomb. The Earl subsequently died in Cairo of a malady brought on by a mosquito bite,  a startling death that inspired headline writers around the world to announce the curse of King Tut’s tomb.

It was my good fortune to interview the sixth Earl of Carnarvon for Saga magazine. It seems a goodly portion of disinterred items from the ancient pyramid were making the grand tour of North American museums. The Tut Tour was highlighted by a PBS special about the swag. Speaking of scooping up resources from the ground, the exhibition and the television documentary and, in fact, the immediate press availability of Lord Carnarvon, all were underwritten by Exxon.

The earl was charming and sunny. He confided his well honed anecdotes in a thoughtful and intimate manner. Did he believe that there was such a thing as a King Tut curse? He would not say for certain one way or another; but he would point out that the moment his father died in the Egyptian hospital, the family dog, resting by the fire in the ancestral estate, howled and fell over dead. There were two particularly emotional moments in the interview —1) he railed against the Egyptian government's "confiscation" of King Tut artifacts that he felt rightfully belonged to his father; (2) he gloried in the way he passed so much of his wealth onto his children and then lived long enough to avoid the heavy taxation that otherwise would occur.

I don't know why; but I asked the Earl if he had a profession.

"Yes," he replied. "I'm a peer of the realm, and a farmer."

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