Downton Abbey is filmed at Highclere Castle, an estate that is actually much bigger in real life, says Lady Carnarvon, whose family built the castle in 1842. It’s celebrating a very important Canadian connection today.

Downton Abbey is filmed at Highclere Castle, an estate that is actually much bigger in real life, says Lady Carnarvon, whose family built the castle in 1842. It’s celebrating a very important Canadian connection today.
Photo Credit: Gill Griffin/flickr

Downton Abbey: where Canada’s Constitution was created

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Highclere Castle’s role in the creation of Canada

It is arguably one of the most famous locations in Britain and perhaps best-known estates in the world. Thanks to the popularity of the TV series, Downton Abbey, Britain’s Highclere Castle, the focal point of the series, has become world famous.

Today a Canadian flag flies over the huge estate which has been owned by the Carnarvon family for generations.  It’s to celebrate the role the castle played in the creation of Canada.

It might be a little hard to see, but for the first time a Canadian flag flies atop *Downtown Abbey*. Highclere Castle is celebrating it’s role as the meeting place where discussions about the British North American Act and the creation of Canada were held.
It might be a little hard to see, but for the first time a Canadian flag flies atop *Downtown Abbey*. Highclere Castle is celebrating it’s role as the meeting place where discussions about the British North American Act and the creation of Canada were held. © Thomas Daigle- CBC-twitter

In the mid-1800’s the Fourth Earl of Carnarvon was the British Secretary of State for the colonies. In December 1866, then leader of the colony, Canadian politician, Sir John A Macdonald seeking nationhood for Canada arrived in England with two colleagues.

The Earl was eager to ensure that the colony wouldn’t be absorbed into the U.S.

The Canadians were invited to stay at the castle where Macdonald and the Earl worked toward the creation of the British North America Act.

(L) Sir John A Macdonald, *Father of Confederation* and first Canadian Prime Minister and (R) the Fourth Earl of Carnarvon. Together the men worked to create Canada’s Constitution at Highclere Castle
(L) Sir John A Macdonald, *Father of Confederation* and first Canadian Prime Minister and (R) the Fourth Earl of Carnarvon. Together the men worked to create Canada’s Constitution at Highclere Castle © ladycarnarvon.com

The document which led to the creation of Canada as an independent nation was discussed, debated, and drawn up at Highclere and the two men became good friends.

A diary entry from Sir John A describes the castle as “ a swell place”.

Canadian High Commissionner JaniceCharette and the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon planting a maple tree at Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) to highlight its shared history with Canada
Canadian High Commissionner JaniceCharette and the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon planting a maple tree at Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) to highlight its shared history with Canada © Thomas Daigle,

The current Lady Carnarvon said her research showed that Canada’s future Prime Minister, who is known to enjoy his drink, enjoyed his stays and the refreshment, even to the point where the Earl had to instruct the butler not to rush to keep refilling Macdonald’s glass.

 The Carnarvons open their home to the public about 90 days a year and give tours of the castle. Lady Fiona Carnarvon, eight Countess of Carnarvon, runs the business and has discovered interesting history about the mansion’s role in the creation of Canada.
The Carnarvons open their home to the public about 90 days a year and give tours of the castle. Lady Fiona Carnarvon, eighth Countess of Carnarvon, runs the business and has discovered interesting history about the mansion’s role in the creation of Canada. © Vivian Luk/CBC

The  reason the Canadian flag is flying over the estate today, is due to a ceremony held there with the Canadian High Commissioner who planted a Canadian maple tree on the estate to mark Highclere’s role in the creation of the Canadian Constitution.

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