Highclere Castle & the Curse of Tutankhamun’s Tomb

The coat of arms for the Carnarvon family.

The Earl of Carnarvon is a title that has been created three times in British history. The current holder is George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon. The position of the Earl of Carnarvon has resided at Highclere Castle since 1679.

After the castle was remodelled by the architect Charles Barry between 1838 to 1878, the castle in the early 20th century epitomised the confidence and glamour of the Edwardian period. Visitor books record the house parties full of politicians, technological innovators, Egyptologists, aviators and soldiers.

During the First World War, Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon, transformed the Castle into a hospital, and patients began to arrive from Flanders in September 1914. She became an adept nurse and a skilled healer and hundreds of letters from patients and their families bear testament to her untiring work and spirit of generosity.

After WW1, the Castle returned to a private home and in 1922 the 5th Earl of Carnarvon an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist sponsored the excavation of nobles’ tombs in Deir el-Bahari (Thebes) in 1907. In 1922, the 5th Earl accompanied archaeologist Howard Carter during the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, which became the first global world media event.

The 5th Earl of Carnarvon.

Some of those who were present during the opening of the tomb or visited it in the first few days mysteriously died from accidents or diseases in the following years, with people believing the tomb was cursed. One of those was the Earl, who was present at the tomb’s opening on 29th November 1922, but died 4 months and 7 days later on 5th April 1923 after a mosquito bite became infected.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, suggested that Lord Carnarvon’s death had been caused by “elementals” created by Tutankhamun’s priests to guard the royal tomb, and this further fueled the media interest.

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