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Inheriting a life's work - and a few Egyptian antiquities!

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Anne Diamond | 18:33 UK time, Tuesday, 22 June 2010

It's bad enough being "married" to your own career. But what's it like when your life is taken over by someone else's? A really interesting subject, I thought, for today's phone-in, one which has always fascinated me because so many women have to face it in their lives. It's when you marry HIS job. In other words, when your partner's job affects your life fundamentally - plunging you into a whole sea of responsibilities, duties, perks and stresses.

Sandra and Michael HowardI was reading the memoirs of Sandra Howard, the glamorous wife of former MP, Opposition leader and Minister, Michael Howard. She said she was relieved when her husband retired from Westminster, because she could at last be her own person again, instead of the Minister's wife. And I thought - I bet lots of people end up being married to their husband's career. I always think of Margo in "The Good Life" who was very much married to her husband's career, because she was always having to throw dinner parties at the drop of a hat for his boring colleagues and their wives.

So, in our phone-in, I found myself talking to Fiona, Lady Carnarvon of Highclere, near Newbury. When she married Jordy, she was a businesswoman with a career of her own, and never thought for a minute about what might be in store for them as a couple.

Life changed because, when her father-in-law died, her husband became the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and she became Fiona, Lady Carnarvon. And her life was transformed. Suddenly they inherited Highclere, a huge country estate and a massive responsibility, and the trappings of a long family history.

Lord and Lady Carnarvon at HighclereNowadays, they both run Highclere very much as a business - but it has taken both of their business brains to make it work. And, of course, it's a job from which they can never retire!

I met Fiona and Jordy at Highclere recently, and had a peep into their lives. Highclere is a thriving and busy farming estate but it is also a wedding location, a film set and has a really clever Egyptian museum in the basement. The 4th Earl of Carnarvon, of course, was the man who funded Howard Carter's Tutankhamun dig, so the family has a treasure trove of ancient artefacts.

"That's the best part of my job!" enthused Fiona. "I've just immersed myself in Egyptian history and it's been an absolute privilege! But I never thought for one minute that my life would turn out this way." Watch who you marry!


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