A chance to live like the Crawleys

Fans get to sleep at the Highclere House, the real-life Victorian castle used as the location for Downton Abbey.

Reuters August 17, 2014

LONDON: Fans of the British costume drama Downton Abbey have spent a collective 40,750 pounds ($68,000) for a chance to sleep at the castle, take a butlering lesson on setting the table and have their portrait painted.

Auction house Christie’s two-week online sale of 12 items and “experiences” gave fans a chance to live like the Crawleys, the fictional family at the centre of the show, at Highclere House, the real-life Victorian castle used as the location for the drama series. The online auction will allow people the chance to bid for the opportunity to dine like the show’s characters and spend the night at the Berkshire country house where the drama is filmed.

The sale, which launched on Friday, aims to raise money for Armed Forces charities and coincides with the commemoration of the centenary of the start of the First World War, reported the Daily Mail.

The Emmy — and Golden Globe-winning drama focuses on the family and their servants in the early 20th century.

“Every lot found a buyer. With Downton Abbey’s great popularity, interest in the auction was geographically diverse,” said Elizabeth Van Bergen, a Christie’s spokeswoman.

Yet securing a lot at the auction required the kind of wealth the Crawleys possess.

The top lot attracted a bid of 16,000 pounds for an overnight stay in rooms used during the filming of the first season as the guests of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, whose family seat is at the 175-year-old Highclere Castle.

The auction includes a dinner for eight in the dining room at Highclere Castle, and an overnight stay for six people in Lady Sybil’s, Lady Edith’s, and Lady Cora’s quarters.

The starting bid for dinner is £5,000 while the overnight stay  — which offers three couples the chance to enjoy cocktails and three-course dinner and a traditional English breakfast in the state dining room with the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon before bedding down in the quarters used in the period drama  — is expected to go for upwards of £10,000.

The charity auction, which began on August 1 and wrapped up on Thursday, raised money for armed forces charities to support veterans and victims of war, Christie’s said.

Located in the rolling green countryside of Hampshire, England, Highclere is one of the few great country estates still occupied by its owners.

Most of its peers were sold or fell into disrepair as industrialisation shook up British class traditions  — which is reflected in Downton Abbey’s storylines.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2014.

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