Part Fourteen: Highclere Castle, continued
Highclere Castle, continued
The Countess bids us farewell, and the Earl escorts us out the front entrance into the afternoon sunshine. We make our way across the lawn so that Seren can get a photo with the castle as a backdrop. We approach the location of the lawn party scene that concludes Downton’s first season. The Earl points out the new cedars he has planted to replace the gigantic ones that were lost in a storm about fifteen years before, leaving great grey stumps. “They were centuries old,” the Earl says sadly.
The photo op over, we make our way to the car and say our farewells. As I shake hands with Lord Carnarvon, I realize I have a deepened respect for what he and Lady Carnarvon have achieved. Despite fallen trees, leaky roofs and tottering follies, and in the face of lucrative offers, they have succeeded in honoring their heritage, preserving their legacy, and carrying on their family’s tradition of service to their nation. It strikes me that these are worthy goals for all families, great or not, and that, in achieving them, families are ennobled by their effort if not by their birth.
The Earl returns to the house. Seren, who has driven her own car, takes her leave, eager to get back home to her young daughter, Summer. She wishes us luck on the next stage of our trip -- a ten-day detour to Scotland, the land of Ginny’s ancestors. We get in the silver BMW and Nick drives us slowly down the narrow drive past the sheep and pheasants. A few minutes later, we are speeding down the A34 back to Oxford.
Postscript: The story of our sojourn in Scotland does not belong in this account, except to mention that during our stay there we got to see the first two episodes of Downton Abbey’s second season. I won’t spoil it for American viewers, who have to wait until January 2012 to see them, but I will mention that when we saw a scene filmed in Highclere’s library, we turned to one another and said in unison, “We sat on that sofa!”
Greg Sieminski, Earlysville, VA
October 10, 2011