Want to know how it all turned out for the Crawleys over the course of the 20th century? Well, look to Highclere Castle, which the franchise has used as its Downton, and which is currently taking applications for Airbnb guests. Damn, those stately homes really are expensive to run, huh?
The Guardian reported:
For the price of £150, the couple will join the earl and countess for evening cocktails in the saloon followed by a traditional dinner in the state dining room, waited on by the castle’s own butler.
After dinner, coffee will be served in the library before the guests retire to one of the principal bedrooms with an en-suite bathroom and views over 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of rolling parkland.
Make sure you take a sweater or perhaps a formal puffer coat, because I’d bet that place is an absolute nightmare to heat. Also, be prepared to quote Lady Mary chapter and verse: “This listing will be very popular, so to book you must have a verified Airbnb profile, positive reviews, and be passionate about Downton Abbey,” the listing specifies.
While this is a one-time deal to promote the Downton Abbey movie, the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon do a lot of very posh hustling on behalf of their house, which is not easy to maintain. Lady Carnarvon told the Guardian in 2015: “For all these great houses, you have to invest in them. And there has been a deficit since the 1930s. Perhaps in the past an estate and house defined and supported the family and their lifestyle, but today it is quite the reverse: the challenge is how Geordie and I seek to support and look after Highclere. Downton Abbey has helped immensely:
When the Downton Abbey producers first approached Highclere in 2009, the family faced a near £12m repair bill, with urgent work priced at £1.8m. But by 2012 the Downton effect had begun to take the pressure off. Lord Carnarvon said then: “It was just after the banking crisis and it was gloom in all directions. We had been doing corporate functions, but it all became pretty sparse after that. Then Downton came along and it became a major tourist attraction.”
They’ve also leased out cottages on the estate, and they do weddings, of course.
So, basically, they could have spun this show out for another 30 seasons before the plot ultimately caught up with the existence of the show itself, with nostalgic prestige television saving the family’s frequently financially singed bacon, thereby forming a snake eating its own narrative tail. Julian Fellowes, to be clear—don’t you dare.