Highclere Castle, the gorgeous 5,000-acre estate that serves as the main setting for the popular BBC series "Downton Abbey," is opening its doors for a rare evening stay. Like the fictional aristocracy it hosts on television, however, only those with deep pockets need inquire: Christie's is placing a starting bid of nearly $17,000 for the one-night sleepover for six guests. 

"Fans of the show will recognize the rooms as the living quarters of Lady Sybil, Lady Edith and Lady Cora," the listing states. "The stay also includes cocktails, a three-course dinner, and a traditional English breakfast in the state dining room."

A bedroom in Highclere Castle

The overnight experience is one of a dozen that the auction house is offering as part of the "Heroes at the Highclere" event, a charity campaign that benefits numerous armed forces charities. In addition to sleeping like royalty, fans of the series can also bid on a gourmet dinner for eight at Highclere (starting bid of $8,400), a private lesson on setting the table with the Highclere butler (starting bid of $3,300), cooking lessons, a replica of the library rug, and even your own painted portrait. 

As depicted in "Downton," Highclere Castle was turned into a military hospital during World War I by the fifth Countess of Carnarvon, opening its doors to countless wounded soldiers. Last weekend, the estate marked the centennial of WWI with a charity event featuring performances from the Military Wives choir, fly-overs by vintage British warplanes, and a replica wartime hospital. In an interview with the UK Telegraph, the eighth Countess of Carnarvon credited "Downton Abbey" for changing people's impressions of the British upper class. 

"I think 'Downton' has engaged people in the idea that not all the upstairs were bad and not all the downstairs were good," she said. "Normally the aristocracy are portrayed as the bad people and the downstairs as the good or the oppressed.

"So what's been fantastic is to see that nobody's perfect or imperfect, it's a bit of a mixture. I think it's awakened an interest in the history of the time."

To view the auction, which concludes Aug. 14, jump here

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Charity auction offers fans an evening in 'Downton Abbey'
Highclere Castle, the setting for the hit BBC series, is opening its doors for an overnight stay to benefit armed forces charities.