George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon : biography
George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, DL (26 June 1866 – 5 April 1923), styled Lord Porchester until 1890, was an English aristocrat best known as the financial backer of the search for and the excavation of Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
Background and education
Styled Lord Porchester from birth, he was born at the family seat, Highclere Castle, in Hampshire, the only son of Henry Herbert, 4th Earl of Carnarvon, a distinguished Tory statesman, by his first wife Lady Evelyn Stanhope, daughter of George Stanhope, 6th Earl of Chesterfield. Aubrey Herbert was his half-brother. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, succeeding his father in the earldom in 1890.
Exceedingly wealthy, Carnarvon was at first best known as an owner of racehorses and a reckless driver of early automobiles, suffering in 1901 a serious motoring accident near Bad Schwalbach in Germany which left him significantly disabled. In 1902, he established Highclere Stud to breed thoroughbred racehorses. In 1905, he was appointed one of the Stewards at the new Newbury Racecourse. His family has maintained the connection ever since. His grandson, the 7th Earl, was racing manager to Queen Elizabeth II from 1969, and one of Her Majesty's closest friends.
In popular culture
Carnarvon has been portrayed in popular culture in film, video game and television productions:
- Harry Andrews in the 1980 Columbia Pictures Television production The Curse of King Tut's Tomb.
- Julian Curry in the 1998 IMAX documentary Mysteries of Egypt.
- Julian Wadham in the 2005 BBC docudrama Egypt.
- Evelyn Carnahan from the film "The Mummy" is an homage to Lord Carnarvon's daughter, Lady Evelyn.
- Lord Carnarvon, quest leader for the Archaeologist role in the classic text-based video game Nethack.
Other popular culture information:
- His home serves as the location of the ITV/PBS series Downton Abbey - the downstair scenes are filmed on a set in London because the location's downstair areas are home to his Egyptian artifacts.
On 25 March 1923 Carnarvon suffered a severe mosquito bite infected by a razor cut. On 5 April, he died in the Continental-Savoy Hotel in Cairo. This led to the story of the "Curse of Tutankhamun", the "Mummy's Curse". His death is most probably explained by blood poisoning (progressing to pneumonia) after accidentally shaving a mosquito bite infected with erysipelas. Carnarvon's tomb, appropriately for an archaeologist, is located within an ancient hill fort overlooking his family seat at Beacon Hill, Burghclere, Hampshire. Carnarvon was survived by his wife Almina, who re-married, and their two children.
Lady and Lord Carnarvon at the races in June 1921. Lord Carnarvon married Almina Victoria Maria Alexandra Wombwell,Barnard Burke, 1914, p.387 daughter of millionaire banker Alfred de Rothschild, at St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, on 26 June 1895. They had two children:
- Henry George Herbert, 6th Earl of Carnarvon (1898–1987), who married Anne Catherine Tredick Wendell and had issue.
- Lady Evelyn Leonora Almina Herbert (15 August 1901 – 1980), who married Sir Brograve Beauchamp, 2nd Baronet and had issue.Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003).
Some of Carnarvon's modern relatives (George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon and his family), who still live in England, own Highclere Castle, which was the film location of the famous television series, Downton Abbey.
Lord Carnarvon was an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist, undertaking in 1907 to sponsor the excavation of nobles' tombs in Deir el-Bahri (Thebes). Howard Carter joined him as his assistant in the excavations. It is now established that it was Gaston Maspero, then Director of the Antiquities Department, who proposed Carter to Lord Carnarvon.A letter of Maspero dated 14 October 1907, contained in his archives in the library of the Institut de France says: You have been kind enough to say to me that you could find a man who knows Egyptology to survey my works. Have you thought to anybody? I will leave the question of payment in your hands but I think I would prefer a compatriot (Manuscripts 4009, folios 292-293). On 16 January 1909, Carter writes to Maspero: Just a word to tell you that Lord Carnarvon has accepted my conditions. He will be there (in Egypt) from 12 February to 20 March. I have to thank you again... (Manuscripts 4009, folio 527) - from Elisabeth David. He received in 1914 the concession to dig in the Valley of the Kings, in replacement of Theodore Davis who had resigned. In 1922, he and Howard Carter together opened the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings, exposing treasures unsurpassed in the history of archaeology.
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