The English nobility of the early 20th-century Downton Abbey had plenty of hired help to keep up appearances. A century later, however, the estate must operate like a modern business, the countess of Highclere Castle told CNBC on Wednesday.
"We exist today because we end up working quite hard," said Lady Fiona Carnarvon on "Squawk on the Street." "And like any other business, it's a diversification."
Running an English estate comes more easily when you descend from the Carnarvon that discovered King Tutankhamun's tomb. The countess said a "tremendous sale" at Christie's in 1926 left the family better positioned to handle the upkeep of Highclere, which is the Carnarvon family seat and the setting for the Masterpiece series on PBS, "Downton Abbey."