Famous today as the setting for the PBS television series Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle in Berkshire has a rich and fascinating history that extends far beyond its television fame.
Home of the Herbert family (later the Earls of Carnarvon) since 1672 , the English Renaissance Revival house seen today was created in the early 19th century by architect Charles Barry. Highclere is noted as the home of the 5th Earl, who financed the 1922 expedition that discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamun (the Earl’s sudden death, after discovering the tomb, led to the legend of “the Curse of the Mummy”). The 5th Earl’s wife, Lady Almina, the illegitimate daughter of Alfred de Rothschild, also brought great prominence to Highclere. Through the generosity of her natural father (one of the richest men in late 19th-century England), she was a pioneer in the establishment of military hospitals and set standards of care that are still followed today.
Architectural historian Curt DiCamillo will explore Highclere Castle, linking it to other historic houses, and explaining how the fictional Downton plotline unexpectedly echoes aspects of Highclere’s history.
*Downton Abbey and Downton are registered trademarks of Carnival Film & Television Ltd.
About the Speaker
Mr. DiCamillo is an American architectural historian and a recognized authority on the British country house. He has written and lectured extensively on the subject in the United States and abroad and has taught classes on British culture and art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Mr. DiCamillo regularly leads scholarly tours that focus on the architectural and artistic heritage of Britain and its influence around the world. Since 1999 he has maintained an award-winning database on the web: The DiCamillo Companion to British & Irish Country Houses (DiCamilloCompanion.com). The database seeks to document every English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish country house ever built, standing or demolished, together with a history of the families who lived in the houses, the architects who designed them, and the history of the houses’ collections and gardens.
In recognition of his work, Mr. Dicamillo has been presented to the late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and The Prince of Wales. He is a member of The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain and is an alumnus of both the Royal Collection Studies program and The Attingham Summer School for the Study of Historic Houses and Collections. In addition, he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, is a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society, a member of the Collections Committee for the Great House at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, and a member of the Advisory Board of Samuel T. Freeman & Co. of Philadelphia.
Before going into private practice, Curt served for eight years (2004-2012) as Executive Director of the National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA, based in Boston, where he was responsible for raising more than $6 million for the Trust (he currently holds the position of Executive Director Emeritus). Previously he worked for 13 years for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A native of the Philadelphia area, Curt grew up in central Florida with his sister, the award-winning children’s book author Kate DiCamillo.