Vive Le Castle

A middle-class interloper spends an evening hobnobbing with billionaire philanthropists and B-list royalty at a benefit for an opulent European palace.

In the spring of 2011, my wife and I were invited to attend a fundraiser for a well-known European castle. We hadn’t donated any money to the group ourselves—we didn’t even know that castles had fundraisers. But a well to do colleague had given some money—a lot of money, really—and he was unable to attend this very intimate dinner for the big donors. So he sent us in his place. The benefit was attended by only about 25 people, among them various aristocrats, patrons of the arts, billionaires and us: a middle class couple from suburban New Jersey. It was, for lack of a better term, bananas.

Michael Schreiber

Matthew Petrillo, who edited this piece, is a Philly-raised, NYC-based multimedia and radio journalist. He contributes to Free Speech Radio News, among other outlets.

Michael Schreiber is the Editor-in-Chief of He produces and develops television shows, and has worked on documentaries for Frontline, HBO, ABC News and others.

Noah Rosenberg, who interviewed and recorded Michael Schreiber for this piece, is Narratively’s founder, CEO and editor-in-chief. He is a regular contributor to The New York Times, and his writing, photography and documentary film work has also been published by The Wall Street Journal, GQ and New York magazine, among other outlets.

Larry Buchanan is a freelance illustrator, designer and journalist who lives in Brooklyn. He’s done work for ESPN, The Onion, ADWEEK and others.