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Lord Carnavon, George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnavon & King Tut's Tomb

George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnavon was a relative of my cousin, Sir Henry Trotter's, 11th Baron of Mortonhall, wife, Dame Eva Gifford.

Lord Carnavon was born on June 26, 1866 at Highclere Castle, Hampshire, the only son and heir to Henry Herbert, 4th Earl of Carnavon and Lady Evelyn Stanhope. His maternal grandfather was George Stanhope, 6th Earl of Chesterfield.

In 1885, at age 19 he inherited the Bretby Hall estate from his maternal grandmother, Anne Elizabeth, Dowager Countess of Chesterfield. 5 years later in 1890 he inherited the title of Earl of Carnavon upon the death of his father.

Wealthy beyond imagine, Lord Carnavon was initially known for being an owner of race horses as well as a reckless driver of a new invention, the automobile. In 1901 Lord Carnavon suffered a severe auto accident which left him significantly disabled, while driving in Germany. He established the Highclere Stud to breed thoroughbred race horses in 1902. In 1905 Lord Carnavon was appointed as one of the stewards at the new Newbury Racecourse. His descendants have maintained a connection to Newbury ever since and Lord Carnavon's grandson, the 7th Earl, was racing manager to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II from 1969 and is reportedly one of Her Majesty's closest friends.

However successful Lord Carnavon was with breeding horses, he will always be remembered throughout history as being a co-discoverer of King Tutankhamun's tomb. Lord Carnavon was, along with his other pursuits, an avid amateur archeologist.

 

After his car accident in 1901, Lord Carnavon started spending more time in the mild climate of Egypt for health reasons starting in 1903. He found life in Egypt dull and started collecting artifacts as a hobby. Shortly after, Lord Carnavon became deeply interested in Egyptology and thus began a new pursuit.

 

Since Lord Carnavon was not a professionally trained archeologist, he failed at his initial attempt of excavating a site in Sheik Abd el-Qurna. As a side note, it was commented that Lord Carnavon and his wife, Lady Carnavon, would oversee the workers excavating the site while inside a "cage", protected by nets to prevent mosquito bites (Lady Carnavon was observed to dress more for a garden party than an archeological dig!).

 

Undaunted by his failed first foray into a dig, Lord Carnavon decided that he would hire a professional archeologist who would know where to dig to be successful. This is how Lord Carnavon met Howard Carter.

 

In 1907, with Lord Carnavon's money and Howard Carter's expertise, the two began to excavate various sites, eventually ended up in the Valley Of the Kings. In 1915, interrupted by WWI, all digging stopped while both men conducted diplomatic missions. After the War, excavation work resumed but by 1921, no siginifcant discoveries had been made and Carnavon was discouraged.

 

In 1922 Lord Carnavon summond Carter to his estate and told Carter that he was cutting all future funding. Somehow Carter managed to pursuade Carnavon to finance one more dig and on February 17th, 1913, Lord Carnavon and Howard Carter together opened the tomb of the boy-king Tutankhamun and history was made.

The tomb of King Tut and the wealth of treasures found inside became a global sensation almost overnight, making both men household names. Lord Carnavon however, did not live long enough to enjoy his new found celebrity as he died two months later.

 

Some say Lord Carnavon was the first in a series of victims of "the mummy's curse" or "Tutankhamun's curse". In reality Lord Carnavon, having been severely bitten on his face by a mosquito, then cut that bite while shaving, causing an infection. Most likely he died from blood poisioning, but the "mummy's curse" was widely believed to be the cause of his death.

Do you believe in the curse of Tutankhamun?