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Fans bid to sleep and dine at 'Downton Abbey' for charity

LONDON (Reuters) - Fans of the British costume drama "Downton Abbey" have spent a collective 40,750 pounds ($68,000) for a chance to sleep at the castle, take a butlering lesson on setting the table and have their portrait painted.

Auction house Christie's two-week online sale of 12 items and "experiences" gave fans a chance to live like the Crawleys, the fictional family at the center of the show, at Highclere House, the real-life Victorian castle used as the location for the drama series.

The Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning drama focuses on the family and their servants in the early 20th century.

"Every lot found a buyer. With 'Downton Abbey's' great popularity, interest in the auction was geographically diverse," said Elizabeth Van Bergen, a Christie's spokeswoman.

Yet securing a lot at the auction required the kind of wealth the Crawleys possess.

The top lot attracted a bid of 16,000 pounds for an overnight stay in rooms used during the filming of the first season as the guests of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, whose family seat is at the 175-year-old Highclere Castle.

The visit includes cocktails, a three-course dinner and a traditional English breakfast in the state dining room, Van Bergen said.

The charity auction, which began on Aug. 1 and wrapped up on Thursday, raised money for armed forces charities to support veterans and victims of war, Christie's said.

Located in the rolling green countryside of Hampshire, England, Highclere is one of the few great country estates still occupied by its owners.

Most of its peers were sold or fell into disrepair as industrialization shook up British class traditions - which is reflected in "Downton Abbey" storylines.

Season 5 premieres in Britain in the autumn on ITV and in the United States in January on PBS.

(Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Michael Roddy and Alison Williams)

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