If you’ve ever gazed down at your sad desk salad and dreamed about what it would be like to live like royalty instead of common folk, well — you’d better get to saving those pennies. Just about 10 billion of them, in fact. Let’s fantasize about this together, shall we? In honor of the Downton Abbey DVD and Blu-ray release, we wanted to get a sense of what the Downton life is really like and what it costs so we traveled to the English countryside to find out.
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First and foremost, you’ll need a castle to live the Downton life. You might find something like Highclere Castle suitable — that’s the real estate that plays a starring role in the show and movie. It sprawls over 5,000 lush acres in the English countryside and is currently inhabited by the Countess of Carnarvon, her husband Geordie, eighth Earl of Carnarvon, and their son.
According to Which? mortgage experts say Highclere is valued at about 72 million British pounds, — or about $95 million dollars. And that was back in 2017, so it’s fair to say it’s been appreciating.
SheKnows chatted with Lady Carnarvon inside the castle’s jaw-dropping atrium and she told us the estate’s staff can range to about 150 during a given season. Never mind the property is also home to eight dogs, horses, chickens, rabbits, sheep — and everybody, human and animal, has to be fed!
The jeweler Bentley & Skinner supplied three tiaras for the Downton Abbey movie: a Victorian diamond foliate tiara worn by the Dowager Countess (played by Maggie Smith), a late Victorian diamond tiara worn by Lady Edith (played by Laura Carmichael), and an Edwardian diamond tiara worn by Lady Cora (played by Elizabeth McGovern).
An Edwardian diamond tiara currently on offer from Bentley & Skinner (circa 1905) runs over $250,000.
It has five triangular sections of openwork scrolling tendril design, each topped with an old-cut diamond. The central section has a diamond weight of 1.47 carats, and near the top is an old-mine cut diamond weighing 3.9 carats. Nearly 300 additional diamonds have an estimated total weight of an additional 20 carats. It’s all mounted in platinum and yellow gold and can be detached in pieces to wear as brooches or a necklace. Current selling price: 195,000 British pounds, or about $255,000.
If you’re going to live the Downton life, you’re not exactly going to be hanging out around the castle in sweats. No, you’d need a royal wardrobe — and you’d pay beaucoup pounds for it.
Downton costume designer Anna Robbins told SheKnows at the Four Seasons Hampshire — not far from Highclere castle — just what went into the costuming. Specifically, consider some of her favorite pieces to design: the opulent ballgowns.
“I don’t even think I could do the math to figure it out,” Robbins explained when asked to help pinpoint the cost to create such a gown if we were in the market to commission one. “It took weeks to bead a four-inch strip around the bottom and to restore certain sections — it would take a team of people weeks” to create an entire gown. And SheKnows confirmed it would cost in five-figure range to do so.
The Recreational Activities
If you’re going to live like a royal, you’re going to need to adopt some very posh hobbies. So, instead of spinning and yoga, you’ll probably want to try your hand at such aristocratic outdoor activities as falconry or clay pigeon shooting.
The Four Seasons Hampshire offers such activities. SheKnows was able to participate without investing in, you know, our own falcon. But our guide to the activity explained that owning such birds has been a historic status symbol — along the lines of what it might mean to buy a Bugatti today — and the cost could range into the six figures. Yes, six figures for an untrainable bird of prey. So toss in another $100,000 for that line item alone.
The Total Cost
If you’ve been following along at home, you know that our rough equation adds up quickly to about $100 million per year (and that’s just after the first line item). So it might be relegated squarely to our continued fantasies — but it’s certainly fun to dream!
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