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Monday, February 10, 2014

Tea at Downton Abbey

Hi Everyone,

Okay, so I didn't actually have tea at Downton Abbey, but I did have tea in Colonial Williamsburg, at the Williamsburg Lodge and also in attendance was Lady Carnarvon, mistress of Highclere Castle--know to all fans as Downton Abbey.  If you didn't know, she has written two books about previous Ladies who lived there and many fascinating stories, some of which she shared with us.

My ticket and one of the books.
For instance, did you know that Lady Carnarvon's husband's great grandfather was the Lord Carnarvon who financed Howard Carter in his quest to discover and reveal King Tut's tomb?  In fact, it was Lord Carvarvon who got bit by a mosquito and died--creating the whole "Curse" story.  That particular Lord's wife turned Highclere Castle into a hospital during WWI--inspiring that story line in Downton Abbey.   Just like Cora, she was an American heiress that the Lord married for her money.  Their son married an American wife, as well, and he was one of Prince Edward's friends who tried to talk him out of his relationship with Wallis Simpson (to no avail.)

This is my friend, Christy and me.  I'm on the right in red.

This was our table setting when we arrived.
We enjoyed tea before she spoke, however.  We arrived and were served Earl Gray tea.  We also had a glass of water and a glass of sherry.  Two scones were waiting for us, along with Devonshire cream and strawberry jam. 
I had decided early on that I would wear a dress.  Christy thought she would wear dressy pants, but a few days before, she told me she was wearing a dress, too.  Most women were in dresses.  I saw at least 10-12 ladies wearing hats.  There were quite a few ladies wearing pants, though, so we wouldn't have felt out of place if we had worn them.  I even saw a woman in pants and riding boots!  There were also quite a few men there--many more than I thought--and they were all wearing suits.  All in all, there were probably 200-300 people there.  We were in a large ballroom seated at round tables that held 10-12.  We also felt rather "young" for the crowd.  I would say that the average attendee was a married (or otherwise) couple in their late 60s-early 70s.  There were others, though, including a whole table of women friends nearby. 
We began eating scones and drinking tea and making conversation.  One of the waiters came to refill my tea and poured some all over my arm.  He didn't even notice!  Luckily, it wasn't very hot, or it could have ended the day's fun right then.  They cleared away those plates and brought sandwiches.

One was carrot ginger, one was Virginia ham, and one was smoked salmon.  Neither of us (or the lady next to me) was willing to bite into one in fear that it would be the salmon.  (Despite 4 years living in Alaska, I still don't like salmon at all.)  I guessed it would be the one with brown bread,  and that was right.  The other two were very good. 

While we were eating, there was a loop of music--including music from Downton Abbey--playing and two large screens were showing a slideshow of Downton Abbey pictures.  I took a picture, but it didn't come out.

Finally, as desserts were being passed around (nothing too extraordinary) the host introduced Lady Carnarvon and she began her presentation.  It was one of those that could have gone on forever--all the stories and anecdotes with charming old photographs--but before we knew it, she was concluding.  There was a brief period of Q&A.  Most questions were what you would expect: "What is it like when the film crew are there?" and "What is the subject of your next book?" (answer--food and entertainment) but why does there always have to be That One Person.  The Person Who Always Gets The Microphone and asks a totally inappropriate question?  (And subsequently feeds the stereotype of the rude American)  This person asked if Lady Carnarvon had know Princess Diana and if she thought Diana got a bad treatment from the Royal family.  (It wasn't as if it had already been mentioned that her husband's Godmother was Queen Elizabeth, for goodness sakes)  Lady C. was very gracious in her response that her husband had known Diana and that Diana was an extraordinary woman, and that her legacy remains with us in the form of her sons. 

Here is Lady Carnarvon at the podium.  Interestingly, she didn't wear a hat, and she was wearing pants!
We could then stand in line to get books autographed.  In the lobby, you could purchase books, either already autographed, or not.  We had ordered ours from Amazon, and were hoping to get them signed.  However, with so many people, I didn't know if it would be worth standing in a long line, but it ended up that she was doing the autographing right near us.  We were probably the 5th and sixth people in line.
Here she is signing one of my books.
Here Christy is getting her books signed.  She took a picture of me, and texted it to me, but I haven't got it saved in my computer yet. 
I got home in plenty of time to get my husband's supper and then to watch last night's episode of Downton, but I actually watched the Olympics instead, and watched Downton this morning.
Have a great day!



  1. Wow...what a fun event! I've been to a couple of "teas," but none as formal as that. I would have loved to hear all the history and stories she had to tell.

  2. What fun! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  3. Interesting post - thank you for taking us along with you and Christy.

  4. Lucky you. I'm hoping to get down to Highclere Castle at some point this year. Fingers crossed.
    It looks like you had a lovely day. xx

  5. I watched the special about Highclere Castle on PBS and Lady Carnarvon seems to be very down to earth. I'm glad you were able to attend. It makes me want to go to the English Tearoom that is near my house!

  6. Great coverage of the event, thanks for sharing.

  7. Sounds like a great time! Would you believe that I haven't watched even ONE episode of Downtown Abbey? It isn't because I wouldn't be interested, I just never had the time and now I would have a lot of catching up to do. Many of my friends watch and I'm sure they would all be envious of your afternoon.

    Glad you were able to go and had safe travels.

  8. What great fun------all except the tea spill on your arm. Lucky it wasn't hot. Will have to check out Lady's book. Which one did you purchase? Love, love Downton Abby although I did like last seasons clothes better.

  9. Thanks for sharing such a fun and interesting event. You made me smile about the one person and the microphone. It's always true!

  10. JoAnne, are you aware of the giveaway at the Minick and Simpson blog? It's right up your alley! Btw, I LOVE reading your blog!

  11. Interesting post - thank you for taking us along with you and Christy.Top Ten Web Hosting Reviews

  12. Thanks for an account of the days events... I almost felt like I was there sitting next to you! (And I would have embarrassed you by asking for coffee instead of tea...). I'm sure it was a day you will remember for many years!
    I have seen Lady Carnavon's books on Amazon... I think it's time to download at least one of them on my Kindle!
    I received my DA season 4 DVD about two weeks ago, and naturally I had to watch the remaining episodes! I won't give anything away... just to say, I'm already looking forward to season 5!

  13. What a lovely and memorable way to spend an afternoon! Thanks for taking us along!