Still riding the Egyptian high (and still one more book for Egypt to come) and I think I will do for the rest of my life.
“This is a book about a man whose life and death became front page need throughout the world between the autumn of 1922 and the spring of 1923 when, with his colleague Howard Carter, he discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun and then, shortly afterwards, died.”
Another non-fiction adventure for you all now. I’m hoping you’ve all read my review of Howard Carter’s Diaries , or at least vaguely know information surrounding the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb because this book is a behind the scenes of Lord Carnarvon’s life, his trials and tribulations and his fascination with ancient Egypt that led him to this point with Howard Carter in 1922.
So how did the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and occupier of Highclere Castle (yes Downton Abbey fans, you heard that right but this is not your time so pipe down); come to be a part of the greatest treasure hunt the world has ever seen?
“Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved”Winnie The Pooh
Lord Carnarvon was a noted antiquities dealer and amateur Egyptologist and he financed the expedition and the whole excavation undertaken by Howard Carter. With this privilege came the opportunity to help where possible and he became one of the first people (apart from Carter) to see inside the sacred place which remained untouched for thousands of years.
The book was published last year, 2022, 100 years since that famed discovery, his descendant, Lady Fiona Carnarvon , his descendant, has paid homage to him in this post-humous biography. From his early years as a child at Highclere to the early 1900s where his life was like an episode of Downton Abbey with early tragedies and love affairs, the highs of being wealthy and the lows of being in debt.
“The Earl and the Pharaoh each found peace within the secluded majesty of ancient landscapes.”
But throughout everything, the highs and the lows, there was always one consistent in his life – adventure. He travelled to Egypt initially for his health found this beautiful land with all its history and treasures too romantic to leave for too long and soon found himself calling Egypt his second home.
“I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.”
It is therefore disheartening to learn that he died before he could really take in the fruits of his labours and be truly honoured for all he did. Lord Carnarvon died on 5th April 1923 of an infected mosquito bite he opened whilst shaving. Obviously this was massively hyped up to the first death of ‘King Tuts Curse’. His death meant that he never saw the gold coffins of King Tut, he didn’t see the famed death mask or the mummy of the boy king himself. He didn’t see the canopic jars. For the man who gave so much, he missed out on the biggest prize of all but died knowing he had helped find a rare treasure in the Valley of the Kings – an unopened tomb.
“When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little, but not for long
And now with your had bowed low
Remember the love that once we shared
Miss me, but let me go.
For this is a journey we all must take
And each must go alone.
It’s all a part of the master plan
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know.
Laugh at all the things we used to do
Miss me, but let me go.”Christina Rossetti
In all honesty, this book should have been incredible. Providing such an insight into the life of such an extraordinary man by someone who has had the stories passed down to her should have been super interesting. But actually up until he met Howard Carter, the book was a bit dull. There were odd bits of excitement in the chapters but found the first part of the book a struggle.
“…each man was forgotten and at times written out of history. Tutankhamun would have been heralded in his lifetime…unlike many other pharaohs, he was completely buried and passed by in history, simply a name on a list and a few partially obscured referenced on broken statues…Lord Carnarvon found fame, which he did not seek, and died, somewhat sensationally, at his moment of triumph in the middle of what could be called the first global media event.”
Nonetheless, it’s informative and provides another insight into the story of King Tut but from a different perspective, from a different key person.
“…a story that opens like Aladdin’s cave and ends like the Greek Myth of Nemesis and cannot fail to capture the imagination of all men and women.”
The final book in my ancient Egypt book log is the rise and fall of ancient Egypt. However, I am also travelling to Athens this week so I need to switch my mythology caps from Ancient Egyptian to Ancient Greek!
Until next time,