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George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon

George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon (June 26, 1866 – April 5, 1923) was an English aristocrat best known as the financier of the excavation of the Egyptian New Kingdom Pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings.

File:George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert00.jpg
Lady and Lord Carnarvon at the races in June 1921



Born at the family home, Highclere Castle, in Hampshire on June 26, 1866, George Herbert was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge,[1] succeeding to the Carnarvon title in 1890. On June 26, 1895 Carnarvon married Almina Victoria Maria Alexandra Wombwell, daughter of Marie Boyer, the wife of Frederick Charles Wombwell, but her real father was believed to be Alfred de Rothschild, the unmarried member of the prominent Rothschild banking family of England who made Lady Carnarvon his heiress.

Exceedingly wealthy, Lord Carnarvon was at first best known as an owner of racehorses and as a reckless driver of early automobiles, suffering - in 1901 - a serious motoring accident in Germany which left him significantly disabled.

In 1902, the 5th Earl 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, Henry George Reginald Molyneux Herbert, 7th Earl of Carnarvon, was Racing Manager to Queen Elizabeth II from 1969, and one of Her Majesty's closest friends.

Interest in Egyptology and death

The 5th Earl was an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist, undertaking in 1907 to sponsor the excavation of nobles tombs in Deir el-Bahari (Thebes). Howard Carter joined him as his assistant in the excavations in 1909. It is now established that it is Maspero, then Director of the Antiquities Department, who proposed Carter to Lord Carnavon.[2] Lord Carnarvon received in 1914 the concession to dig in the Valley of the Kings, in replacement of Theodore Davies who had resigned. It was in 1922 that they together opened the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings, exposing treasures unsurpassed in the history of archaeology. Several months later, on April 5, 1923, Carnarvon died in the Continental-Savoy Hotel in Cairo.[3] 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. His colleague and employee, Howard Carter, the man most responsible for revealing the tomb of the young king, lived safely for another sixteen years.

Carnarvon's tomb, appropriately for an archaeologist, is located within an ancient hill fort overlooking his family seat at Beacon Hill, Burghclere, Hampshire[4]

In popular culture

Carnarvon has been portrayed in popular culture in film, video game and television productions;[5]

  • 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


  1. Herbert, George Edward Stanhope Molyneux, Lord Porchester in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  2. A letter of Gaston Maspero dated October 14, 1907, contained in the archives of Maspero 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 January 16th, 1909, Carter writes this to Maspero:Just a word to tell you that Lord Carnarvon has accepted my conditions. He will be there (in Egypt) from February 12 to March 20. I have to thank you again... (Manuscripts 4009, folio 527) - from Elisabeth David.
  3. "Carnarvon Is Dead Of An Insect's Bite At Pharaoh's Tomb. Blood Poisoning and Ensuing Pneumonia Conquer Tut-ankh-Amen Discoverer in Egypt.". New York Times. April 5, 1923. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20C11F7355416738DDDAC0894DC405B838EF1D3. Retrieved 2008-08-12. "The Earl of Carnarvon died peacefully at 2 o'clock this morning. He was conscious almost to the end." 
  4. Carnarvon's Tomb
  5. "Carnarvon (Character)". IMDb.com. http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0034197/. Retrieved May 8, 2008. 

External links

Further reading

  • with Howard Carter, Five Years' Explorations at Thebes - A Record of Work Done 1907-1911, ed. Paul Kegan, 2004 (ISBN 0-7103-0835-3).
  • Fiona Carnarvon, Egypt at Highclere - The discovery of Tutankhamun, Highclere Enterprises LPP, 2009.
  • Fiona Carnarvon, Carnarvon & Carter - the story of the two Englishman who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, Highclere Enterprises LPP, 2007.
  • Elisabeth David, Gaston Maspero 1846-1916, Pygmalion/Gérard Watelet, 1999 (ISBN 2-85704-565-4).


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