While this may not be the exact Downton Abbey spin-off/sequel that you were thinking of, a just-commissioned series from ITV will have a Highclere Castle connection. It may not be even close to ‘Downton’ but it does have curses, mummies and period mysteries so it does have possibilities. The ‘as-yet-to-be-named’ 4-part drama will tell the epic story of Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of one of Ancient Egypt’s forgotten pharaohs, the boy-king Tutankhamun.
As the story unfolds in 1905, Carter, an eminent British archaeologist in his early 20’s, is vigorously leading an archeological expedition. Amidst the chaos scattered across Egypt’s Valley of the Kings’ floor, Carter’s grim determination to find lost antiquities is only too apparent. He has an easy manner with the Egyptian men who work alongside him, but when tempers fray Carter is hotheaded and puts the dig and his career in jeopardy.
With his license to dig revoked by Cairo’s Antiquities Service, Carter spent years ostracized, disheveled and living rough and resorting to selling previously discovered archaeological relics to buy food. A chance meeting with British aristocrat/amateur archaeologist, the very dashing, suave and eccentric Lord Carnarvon, who had married into the wealthy Rothschild family. As Lord Carnarvon lived in Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey is filmed, both Lord Carnarvon and Carter planned their excavation season in Egypt from Highclere Castle. Working together for approximately 16 years, Carter and Carnarvon begin the most unlikely friendship, in spite of their differences of background and character.
Privileged and fast living, Carnarvon kept the faith with Carter and continued to back him when no one else would. After years of searching for the tomb, Carter and Carnarvon decided during one weekend stay at Highclere, the two men agreed that they would have one more excavation season in Egypt during the upcoming Autumn and Winter. successfully discover the last resting place of the boy-king in 1921 against all odds and at great personal expense.
Written by screenwriter Guy Burt (Jekyll and Hyde, The Bletchley Circle, The Borgias), filming of the 4-part drama will take place in South Africa during the winter of 2015 and early part of 2016.
Here, the current residents of Highclere Castle, George Herbert, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and Fiona Herbert, the 8th Countess of Carnarvon, tell the story of George Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, Howard Carter and the discovery in November 1922 of the legendary tomb of King Tutankhamun.