Chapter One : 1879 : THE LOST BOY
Lordy had hidden himself away in a cubbyhole, as scared as a chased rabbit. The den was one of several hideaways in the grounds he would retreat to alone. But the search party of unrelenting hunters, drawn from the Estate tenants at Eggesford House, [i] were hell bent on finding him before the afternoon’s darkness fell. The closeness of the trackers made him shiver: these rough necks were capable of givin’ a fella a clout. He was further unnerved on hearing mention of them bringing out his uncle’s fiendish pack of foxhounds, to help in the search. As the pursuers approached the spot where he’d dug in, Lordy heard the cheeky blighters refer to him as “the brat”, and call his family’s pet name of “ Porchey”. Then the mob bellowed, at least more reverentially, his formal rank of “Your Lordship” and “ M’ Lord”. The boy was indeed an English lord, with the courtesy title of Viscount Porchester, the son of an Earl, hence his nickname of “ Porchey”. He was the heir to the Herbert family name, titles and estates, notably of Highclere Castle, Hampshire. Despite suffering cold, being damp and feeling that he was running up a temperature, he was determined to stay hidden.. On that freezing January day in 1879, the scrawny twelve-year-old was contemplating suicide: he could not give himself up, that would be weak-willed. Even as a fierce snowstorm blew through the Devonshire countryside, he proved his mettle in refusing to obey instructions to come inside. [ii] Instead, he stayed outdoors nursing “ a maudlin mood”, a phrase often applied to his state of mind by Lady Winfred. his “clever-clogs. [older].. sister”[iii] who was aged fourteen. [iv] Lordy’s first name was actually George; one of a long, convoluted string of baptismal names of George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert. Following the New Year holidays, he was due to return to his preparatory school. Life on the milder climes of the South Coast at Brighton, Sussex. was better for his breathing. He had diseased lungs, but being a boarder was also ghastly because he was frequently ill and home sick. Besides which he was not a scholar nor possessed any real natural gift for learning, and next term his uncompromising Papa, would expect him to go up a remove. [v] The talk was of him following the Herbert family’s long tradition of the Carnarvon heirs, including his father and grandfather and going to Eton College, a prospect that daunted him even more than death itself. It was thinking about his father’s ever increasing expectations that caused Lordy to feel miserable. Now there was an added cause. The reason for the latest rush of wretchedness was of the matrimonial kind. His absent parent, Henry Herbert, had taken a new wife: in fact he was on his honeymoon, at Pixton Park, Dulverton, another family residence in the West Country of England. [vi] Henry Herbert, the Fourth Lord Carnarvon was a man of substance, a noble lord, a peer of the realm, and an established Tory politician, who’d served in the Cabinets of two of Queen Victoria’s Prime Ministers [vii]. Taking a new wife followed barely four years of being the grieving widower. As Henry was an Earl within the ranks of the British aristocracy, his wife, Lordy’s stepmother, was transformed overnight from being “Miss Howard of Greystoke Castle, Cumbria” into Elisabeth, Fourth Countess of Carnarvon, of Highclere Castle, Hampshire. Lordy own mother, Lady Evelyn Stanhope (as she was named before becoming a Herbert), had died four years before, when he was not quite nine years old. Evelyn’s entire life and subsequent death had been the supreme sacrifice, like many women of her ilk; she’d been the womb to facilitate the continuation of the Carnarvon’s ancestral line. Now entering Lordy’s life was a new womb, a juvenile stepmother, and aged only twenty-two. His father, at forty-seven years, was easily more than twice Miss Howard’s age, besides which they were all incestuously blood-related, as the bride and groom were first cousins. [viii]
NB To All Readers
The 90th anniversary of the discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun is about to take place later this year ( 2012). That milestone seems to have been lost off the world’s radar. Yet the list of books is long about the daring enterprise by Lord Carnarvon, the project’s patron, the egotist who spent his wife, Lady Almina’s money, on several years of excavations in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. Things reached their zenith for Carnarvon and his archaeologist friend, Howard Carter, on 4 November 1922, when their army of diggers uncovered a stone staircase leading down to a lost treasure. The rest is a well-known fable, with Carnarvon not living long enough to see the end game. Less well known is Carnarvon’s epithet of “ Lordy” or The Lord - the half-mockish name(s) given to him by the natives of the desert. “Lordy!” is the title of the latest title to issue in the Carnarvon Series. The name Lordy! has been adopted throughout this forthcoming retrospective by William Cross, FSA Scot, on the early life of George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, the Fifth Earl of Carnarvon
[i] Eggesford House, Devonshire, one time seat of the Earls of Portsmouth.
[ii] Based on an entry in the Fourth Earl’s diaries for 9 January 1879 in the British Library Reference Add 60913
[iii] Based on a comment made by Almina, 5th Countess to her godson Tony Leadbetter.
[iv] Lady Winifred Anne Henrietta Christiana Herbert ( 1864-1933). Lordy’s elder sister. Lady Dorothy Nevill described her as “ a woman of great literary gifts and quite exceptional cleverness…” [ See The Reminiscences of Lady Dorothy Nevill : edited by her son, Ralph Nevill. ]
[v] Remove = a division in an English public school.
[vi] Elizabeth Kitty Acland inherited the Pixton and Tetton estates in Somerset on the death of her brother, Sir John Dyke Acland, 8th Baronet, in 1785. In 1796 she married Henry Herbert, Lord Porchester, who in 1811 succeeded his father as the 2nd Earl of Carnarvon. Pixton is still occupied today by a member of the Herbert family.
[vii] Henry, 4th Earl of Lord Carnarvon ( 1831-1890) was Colonial secretary twice, in 1866 ( when Lord Derby was Prime Minister ) and in 1874 ( when Benjamin Disraeli was Prime Minister ).
[viii] Elisabeth Catherine Howard’s father, Henry Howard of Greystoke Castle( 1802-1875) was a brother of Henrietta Anna Howard, 3rd Countess of Carnarvon, ( 1804-1876) the mother of the Fourth Earl of Carnarvon.